Giving a local habitation to the dead

Twitchin, Mischa. 2021. 'Giving a local habitation to the dead'. In: Colloque International de Lomé: Sépultures, deuils et incarnations. Université de Lomé, Togo 1 – 3 February 2021. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

A principal concern of all human cultures is the attempt to reconcile the interruption of individual existence caused by death with the continuing life of society. Reintegrating the dead within the community of the living means giving symbolic presence to those who would otherwise be socially missing, as if transforming the “nature” of death into the second nature of “culture”. Not the least of such representational practices is theatre (or performance), as conceived of beyond being simply the interpretation of a dramatic canon. In European traditions, the critique of “theatre” by means of theatre has largely divided into the two streams of ritual and art practices. In this presentation, I will explore relations between these within a broad anthropological understanding (or in terms of what Mieke Bal [2002] advocates as “cultural analysis”); for instance, by addressing the aporia of appeals to the “life-like” in the practices of animation (or “incarnation”) engaged with by artists in terms of “the theatre of death” (Twitchin, 2016). Conceptualising theatre in terms of death, I propose, offers a double analogy: where theatre is to the uncanny as mimesis is to the dead, so the dead are to the uncanny as theatre is to mimesis. The “local habitation” of my title may refer to a mask and a gestural repertoire; or to a sepulchre and a handful of dust – as these are all aspects of the commemoration of the dead in Antigone, for example. Fundamentally, this conception expands the sense of the mnema, as a site for recognising the transition between the living and dead within cultural memory.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


2 February 2021Completed

Event Location:

Université de Lomé, Togo

Date range:

1 – 3 February 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

03 Feb 2021 09:49

Last Modified:

03 Feb 2021 09:49


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