Sa’dallah Wannous
Volume 2

Edward Ziter’s Political Performance in Syria: From the Six-Day War to the Syrian Uprising

Edward Ziter's Political Performance in Syria:
From the Six-Day War to the Syrian Uprising
A Book Review
by Safi Mahmoud Mahfouz
 Political Performance in Syria:
 From the Six-Day War  to the Syrian Uprising
 by Edward Ziter.
 Studies in International Performance.
 New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
 Arab StagesVolume 1, Number 2 (Spring 2015)
 ©2015 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Edward Ziter’s latest book Political Performance in Syria, the first comprehensive study of its kind in English, provides a thorough survey of the history of Syrian political theatre from the six-day war in 1967 to the current Syrian Uprising. A recipient of a Fulbright grant and a fellowship from the Humanities Institute at New York University, Ziter’s publication of this remarkable book is another sign of the author’s academic excellence following his highly admired book The Orient on the Victorian Stage (2013). Ziter is an associate professor of theatre history and chair of the department of drama at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Political Performance in Syria is a sprawling work that historicizes Syrian political theatre striving for decades, under censorship and conditional and temporary release from state repression, to instill in the audiences the concepts of civil society and democratic citizenry, and to contest the state’s grand narratives and the existing oppressive regime with the hope of building a civil political system for a future Syria. The book sophisticatedly highlights the historical connection between drastic political reform in authoritarian governments and political performance. Syrian political theatre reflects the people’s aspirations for political reform and an immediate break with the country’s dictatorial regime. Unfortunately, though the author claims that most of the plays discussed are politically anti-regime and that some of the plays written by pro-regime playwrights are discussed as well, this seems not the case. The author’s experiential, cultural perspectives and political views might have influenced his selection of the plays and subsequently his conclusions. This suppression of conflicting evidence seems to have been done on the part of the author to make his argument credible. The author’s approach is judgmental as he describes his personal experiences and interviews with oppositional theatre practitioners thus excluding pro-regime artists from such direct contact.

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