Workshop: The Chelsea Manning Project
From the Dreyfus Affair to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, many of the most important ideological and political debates of the past 150 years played out in public trials and hearings. Courtrooms became a heavily contested site of public performance, ranging from the minutely staged socialist realism of the Moscow Show Trials to the carnivalesque outbursts of the Chicago Conspiracy Trial. With the War on Terror, indefinite detention, and the radical secrecy of the Obama Administration we are seeing a change in the character of political trials in the United States; they have ceased to be public events, even their transcripts are classified. This workshop will ask how performance philosophy might address the absences—the lack of public performance—occasioned by the War on Terror.
The Chelsea Manning Project will be divided into two parts: starting with a performance workshop and ending with a seminar-style discussion. During the first half of the workshop, we will divide into smaller groups (depending on the number of participants) and each group will create a staged reading of short segments of the unofficial transcripts leaked from the trial of Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning). For the second half of the workshop, we will reconvene for a group discussion. The central questions of this discussion may include:
- What sort of staging might we envision for these transcripts? Mimetic? Theatrical? Anti-Theatrical? Live or mediatized?
- How might Chelsea Manning’s public declaration of gender identity the day after her sentencing become part of a performance of these transcripts?
- Is the performance of hidden trials in itself an ethical move or imperative? Or do the specific techniques of staging give the performance its ethical value? Or are there other forms of philosophical inquiry and/or political mobilization better suited to engage these trials than theatrical performance?
Selected readings on theatrical modes of trials as well as transcripts from the Chelsea Manning trial will be made available in advance of the workshop.
Minou Arjomand is an Assistant Professor at Boston University, having completed her PhD at Columbia University. She is currently working on a book, Theatre on Trial: Staging Justice in the Postwar Period, about theatrical adaptations of postwar trials in East and West Germany and the United States. She is translator and co-editor with Ramona Mosse for The Routledge Introduction to Theatre and Performance Studies by Erika Fischer-Lichte (2013).
Duration: 40 min