Goodman analyzes cultural products, producers, and performances as sites where individuals -- in this case, the Algerian theatre troupe “Istijmam Culturelle” with whom she has conducted research since 2008 -- creatively engage with the wider forces of colonialism, modernity, cosmopolitanism, and neoliberalism. She approaches their performance texts in historical context, directing our attention to the social processes that go into making a performance rather than simply to its finished product. From this perspective, a text is not static but emergent, born in dialogue with previous texts while simultaneously anticipating new audiences and horizons.
For their tour of “Apples,” an Algerian play originally grounded in the Algeria of the early 1990s and originally intended, by its playwright Abdelkader Alloula, as “a theater of social critique” oriented to his own society rather than the world stage, Goodman and the theater troupe rose to the challenge of transforming the play into a malleable vehicle of multicultural meaning. This transformative work began in rehearsal in Algeria and continued throughout subsequent travel in the US.
In five moving chapters, Goodman manages to communicate, with touches of wry humor, the often unvoiced tensions of global cultural encounters as these unfold during workshops, talkbacks, and seminars. She interrogates the idea of cultural exchange, and skillfully balances the group’s experience of being “othered” and of making their experiences legible to American audiences. Her analysis illuminates the frictions of global travel, including the power imbalances that characterize the barriers to entering the US as well as the uneven horizons of expectation regarding access to visiting another country. Her work also recognizes the grueling, physical nature of the troupe’s experimental performance style.
The website Goodman has created to accompany the book helps bring readers into the fullness of this cultural encounter. The website can certainly stand alone, but when consulted alongside the written text adds a wonderful experiential component to the book that brings the troupe’s performances alive. Dr. Goodman thanks Indiana University for resources and financial support, her international partners for their support and stories, and a New Frontiers grant for the technology needed to capture the media in the book and website.