I am an Associate Professor in Human Geography and the Geohumanities at Swansea University. My research focuses on the intersections between geography and the performing arts (especially theatre and dance) – though like most geographers working in a creative field, my interests extend into other domains, including the visual and literary arts. Geographers are often magpies, and I am no exception! Once upon a time, I used to work in theatre in the U.S. (stage manager, director, assistant producer), but nowadays I tend to write about practitioners, rather than being one.
I am one of the Reviews Editors for the journal cultural geographies and the Research Secretary of the Association of South East Asian Studies UK. In 2017 I was awarded the Dillwyn Medal by the Learned Society of Wales for Outstanding Research in the Creative Arts and Humanities. I was also selected for the Welsh Crucible, a research and personal development programme for the ‘future research leaders of Wales’. I sit on the board of Papertrail Theatre Company in Cardiff and have recently assisted Bridget Keehan in creating a soundscape entitled ‘Our Place’ through a Leverhulme Trust Artist-in-Residence grant. This opened to the public in May 2018.
My current research focuses on dance in contemporary Cambodia, particularly regarding the legacies of war and genocide. I am researching the first Cambodian dance tour to the West after the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975-1979) and Vietnamese occupation (1979-1989) which was in 1990 to various locations in the UK and the ROI. This research is being funded through a British Academy-Leverhulme Trust small grant. I was also recently awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (which I will begin after maternity leave in February 2020) to conduct more research and complete a monograph on dance in post-conflict Cambodia. I recently completed an interdisciplinary project funded by the Welsh Crucible around the re-construction of marine environments through different literary and scientific sources, and am collaborating with Dr Steph Januchowski-Hartley and her FIRE lab in Biosciences at Swansea University on community environmental knowledges and poetry as an ‘art-sci method’. My institutional webpage (i.e. the short version) is here.
I specialise in researching British East Asian, Asian American and South East Asian theatres – but at present am especially concerned with the relationship between theatre/dance, war and geopolitics. In previous research I documented how refugee Lao Americans created theatre that dealt with the consequences of an often forgotten/denied episode of the Vietnam War – the ‘Secret War’ against Laos. More recently, I have been developing this work in relation to the Cambodian civil war and the resulting Khmer Rouge genocide. Here, my research is concerned with how national identities are recovered, reworked and embodied in performance, how war and traumatic events can be represented on stage – particularly in ways that attend to their affective ambiguity, and the politics surrounding this process. This is especially important in contexts where the neoliberal state is open to transnational forces that promote creative experimentation, resulting in performances that potentially conflict with the agendas and ideologies of authoritarian regimes. I am also beginning to investigate how we might view artists as geopolitical agents – from Cold War defectors, to working as cultural intermediaries that facilitate inter-state and inter-ideological relations.
I am also interested in exploring the transnational mobility of artists, the geographies that their mobilities create, and the effect of that movement on the development of creative practice and identity. This stems from the realisation that when artists are discriminated against they have to travel to create opportunities, but in the process, their creative practices complicate locales of affiliation and belonging. The transnational forms of theatre that result also challenge the idea that what might be conventionally (if problematically) called ‘ethnic minority theatre’ is parochial and speaks only to concerns around inclusion at the national level. My work here has particularly explored the movement of practitioners and performances between British East Asian, Asian American, and South East Asian (primarily Singaporean) theatre worlds and forms the focus of my monograph: Performing Asian Transnationalisms: theatre, identity and the geographies of performance. Underpinning this research is a concern with the politics of diversity in British and American theatre, particularly for East and South East Asian minorities. I have written extensively about the performance of yellowface and the representation of racial-ethnic minorities on stage, and recently co-edited an anthology of British East Asian plays with Aurora Metro.
My work is therefore underpinned by concern with performance and politics, with how the arts are embedded in relations and networks of power, and the ways in which practitioners both challenge and are complicit in such fields.
If you have any questions or would like a copy of any of my papers, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, if you’re wondering, ‘Why is that white girl interested in Asia?’ …. well, that is, as Grayson Perry puts it, a ‘tender cargo.’