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Counter Narrative Potency of Amateur Performance: An Aesthetic Strategy (2021-)

Omid Mashhadi Abdolrahman, Research Area 2: "Travelling Matters"
Associated Research Project

Omid Mashhadi Abdolrahman's PhD project aims to scrutinise amateurism in performance as a political force and an aesthetic strategy, and to investigate its capacity to counter hegemonic cultural grand narratives. Using both historical and contemporary case studies from Iran and Germany, it focuses on how amateur performance can serve as resistance and point of opposition in the face of commoditised culture and institutionalised sociocultural rationalities, consequently constituting communities of alterity, both aesthetically and politically. A further focal point of the project concerns the question of how amateur performance responds to the general question of identity, both communal and individual (from the standpoint of its temporal constitution).

This project firstly posits that amateur performance follows peculiar medial principles and produces its own material culture, introducing specific aesthetic and semantic patterns. In this context, the project analyses the reciprocal relationship between the concept of counternarrative and the mediality of amateur performance, examining the mechanism through which the intertwining of the triad of fictionality, materiality and temporality is reconfigured in the amateur sphere. Against this backdrop, the second hypothesis focuses on the tactical dimension of amateur performance and investigates its inherent capacity to serve as a performative counternarrative to manipulated collective memory. The third hypothesis contends that amateur performance contributes to the performative constitution of social identities. This gives rise to some key questions: how could amateur narratives, as creative acts, serve social competition as well as the formation or reclamation of social distinctiveness and identity, especially that of minority communities? How can amateur performances enact and embody the narratives of subcultures? How do amateur performing ensembles operate as communities of practice, emerging against established criteria of inclusion and exclusion, and implying a form of co-existence that questions and subverts the binaries of own vs. foreign, homeland vs. the rest of the world?

The project takes a transnational and trans-temporal approach and relies on participant observation as well as on discourse analysis within the framework of the 'grounded theory' methodology. The aim is to establish a dialectical relationship and aesthetic discourse between past achievements of amateur performance and contemporary notions and manifestations of amateur practices in performing literary realms. Further, the developmental trajectory of the amateur field in one nation will be reconciled with that of another to illuminate the divergences and convergences of two histories and cultures, namely in relation to the manifestations of socio-political and aesthetic orientations in their narrative designs as well as to the creative strategies applied in confronting norms of inclusion and exclusion.