Disrupting Colonial Narratives through Storytelling and Theatre 

Notes: Disrupting Colonial Narratives through Storytelling and Theatre 

Session – Part 1

  • Introductions 
  • Collective Breath 
  • Community Agreements
  • Storytelling Game 

The consequences of colonization continue to reverberate even today. Let’s explore this complex issue together. 

  1. What does colonization mean to you? 
    • Historical Context:
      1. Colonization refers to the process by which one country establishes control over another territory, often exploiting its resources and imposing its culture.
      2. The impact of colonization is profound and multifaceted, affecting various aspects of societies.
      3. Clip: What is colonization?
  2. Effects of Colonization:
  3. Decolonization : Constructive dialogue between administering powers (those claiming sovereignty) and territories is essential.

*What is your language of disruption? 

  • Dance
  • Music
  • Indigenous language
  • Storytelling
  • Other ways of thinking and being

Part 2 – Storytelling possesses immense potential to challenge and dismantle both colonization and white supremacy.

“Our radical imagination is a tool for decolonization, for reclaiming our right to shape our lived reality.”

Adrienne Maree Brown, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good

 Let’s explore how:

  1. **Disrupting White Supremacy:
    • Awareness and Reflection: Storytelling allows us to examine our biases, assumptions, and privilege. By sharing narratives that highlight the harmful impact of white supremacy, we encourage critical self-reflection and collective awareness.
    • Humanizing Others: Stories humanize people who have been marginalized or oppressed. When we hear personal accounts of resilience, struggle, and triumph, it becomes harder to dehumanize others based on race or ethnicity.
    • Counter-Narratives: Storytelling provides a platform for counter-narratives. These narratives challenge dominant narratives perpetuated by white supremacy. By amplifying voices that have been silenced, we disrupt the status quo.
    • Empathy and Connection: Well-crafted stories evoke empathy. When we empathize with characters who face discrimination, we become more committed to dismantling oppressive systems.
  2. **Addressing Colonization:
    • Historical Context: Stories can illuminate the historical context of colonization. By sharing narratives of colonization’s impact on indigenous communities, we foster understanding and empathy.
    • Unpacking Power Dynamics: Stories reveal power imbalances inherent in colonization. Whether through literature, oral traditions, or visual arts, storytelling sheds light on the exploitation, cultural erasure, and violence perpetuated during colonization.
    • Decolonizing Narratives: Indigenous storytellers reclaim their narratives, challenging colonial perspectives. These narratives celebrate resilience, cultural heritage, and sovereignty. They disrupt the dominant narrative that often portrays indigenous peoples as passive victims.
    • Education and Healing: Storytelling educates future generations about the complexities of colonization. It also contributes to healing by acknowledging historical trauma and promoting reconciliation.

Part 3 – Storytelling is a potent tool for transformation. By sharing diverse stories, we contribute to a more just and equitable world, dismantling oppressive structures one narrative at a time

Example Clip: The Fear of Decolonization | Miranda Gonzalez | TEDxWrigleyville Artist talks about decolonization of the arts 

*What have your experiences been?

Why storytelling? Storytelling has a profound impact on our brains, shaping our experiences and connections. 

  1. Neural Coupling: When we hear or read a story, our brain neurons fire in patterns similar to the speaker’s or author’s. This phenomenon, known as neural coupling or mirroring, occurs across various brain areas. It creates a shared contextual model of the situation, allowing us to immerse ourselves in the narrative. So, when you’re engrossed in a well-told story, your brain syncs up with the storyteller’s.
  2. Dopamine Release: Well-structured stories trigger anticipation and emotional engagement. As we anticipate the story’s resolution, our brains release dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This surge of dopamine enhances memory retention, making us remember emotionally charged events or narratives more accurately. 
  3. Empathy and Oxytocin: Connecting with characters in a story releases oxytocin, often called the “bonding” or “love” hormone. Oxytocin fosters empathy, deepening our relationships and understanding of others – it’s a powerful tool for building social bonds and enhancing our mental well-being.
  4. Improved Memory: Engaging narratives help us retain information better. When facts are woven into a story, they become more memorable. Our brains latch onto details within the context of a compelling tale, reinforcing memory pathways.

When we are sharing an experience, teaching a lesson, or simply enjoying a good story, remember that our brain is actively participating, firing neurons, and weaving connections. Storytelling isn’t just art – it’s a fundamental aspect of human cognition and communication.

  1. Theatre of the Oppressed:
    • Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed”: Brazilian theater practitioner Augusto Boal developed this form of theater to empower marginalized communities. It encourages dialogue, participation, and collective problem-solving.
    • Forum Theatre: In Boal’s approach, oppressed individuals act out their struggles in interactive performances. Spectators become “spect-actors,” intervening in scenes, suggesting solutions, and reshaping outcomes. This process fosters empowerment and collective agency.
    • Role Reversal: Theatre allows actors to step into the shoes of oppressors or victims. By embodying different perspectives, empathy grows, and audiences question power dynamics.
    • Subverting Dominant Narratives: Theater disrupts oppressive norms by presenting alternative stories. It challenges audiences to rethink their assumptions and confront uncomfortable truths.
    • Community Building: Participatory theater builds solidarity. It creates safe spaces for dialogue, healing, and envisioning a more just society. Storytelling and theater dismantle oppression by giving voice to the silenced, fostering empathy, and inviting collective action.
  • History – Developed by Brazilian theater practitioner Augusto Boal, this form of participatory theater empowers marginalized communities. It encourages dialogue, participation, and collective problem-solving.
  • In Forum Theatre, oppressed individuals act out their struggles in interactive performances. Spectators become “spect-actors,” intervening in scenes, suggesting solutions, and reshaping outcomes. This process fosters empowerment and collective agency.
  1. Monologues and Personal Narratives:
    • “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler: A powerful collection of monologues that celebrate and address issues related to women’s bodies, sexuality, and empowerment.
    • “My Name Is Rachel Corrie”: Based on the diaries and emails of Rachel Corrie, an American activist who was killed while protesting in Gaza. The play sheds light on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  2. Documentary Theatre:
    • “The Laramie Project”: Created by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, this play explores the aftermath of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student in Laramie, Wyoming.
    • “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” by Anna Deavere Smith: A one-woman show that weaves together interviews with people involved in the 1992 Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict.
  3. Community-Based Theatre:
    • El Teatro Campesino: Founded by Luis Valdez, this theater group focuses on the struggles of farmworkers and social justice issues. They perform in fields, union halls, and community spaces.
    • “The Exonerated”: A play based on interviews with wrongfully convicted death row inmates. It highlights flaws in the criminal justice system.
  4. Interactive and Immersive Theatre:
    • “Tamara” by Grounded Theatre: An interactive play about domestic violence, where the audience actively participates in shaping the story.
  5. Storytelling through Spoken Word and Poetry:
    • Slam Poetry: Events where poets perform their work, often addressing social justice, identity, and personal experiences.
    • “The Moth”: A platform for true, personal stories told live without notes. It celebrates the art of storytelling.

A few examples that demonstrate how storytelling and theater can challenge oppressive norms, create empathy, and inspire change. They remind us of the power of art to transform society. 

Closing:  dance/chat/speak

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