Monsieur Jean-François Côté


Co-investigator - Université du Québec à Montréal

My research interests are presently focussed on First Nations theatrical practices, with a slight bent on dramaturgy. I am now in the third (and – alas ! – last) year of a sshrc individual standard grant, which bears the title : Performativité culturelle dans les Amériques : théâtre, droit, rhétorique, so as is apparent, theatre here links with law and rhetoric. It is indeed my contention in this research that we can envision the relations between what is happening on the theatrical stage and what is happening on the larger cultural and political stages. As I understand it, the renewal of the First Nations theatrical expression that spread in the last decades finds echoes in the other spheres of social life that law (i.e. the judicial process, such as trials and court decisions, but also the legislative domain) and rhetoric (i.e. the political struggles, protests, and arguments) represent. For me, this is a way of understanding theatre in its larger significance – something that probably comes from my background as sociologist, specializing in sociology of culture with an hermeneutic twist. This being said, theatre then stands as a very special locus of experimentation for theatricality (understood as the larger social world), so my interest for First Nations theatre meets the interest that I nurtured in the last decade or so for avant-garde theatrical practices (mainly figures like Artaud, Brecht, and last but certainly not least, Gertrude Stein); there I found some profound lessons about the contemporary transformations of symbolic categories (such as skenedrama and persona) that seem to point towards a more general coincidence with deep structural changes in our society. Even though (and perhaps because) theatre has – arguably – become marginalized in a society always more and more organized by media and digital environments, the theatrical stage and experimentations have been able to provide some crucial developments for understanding the present evolution of the social world, where the individual body, common action and general anonymity all become at stake in the postmodern polis.

My interest for the hemispheric dimension those phenomena also links with earlier research that I conducted on continental integration (that is, what is happening with the larger societal structures through NAFTA, MERCOSUR and UNASUR), and also with contemprary travel literature in the North and South Americas (starting with Kerouac and Guevara), which point toward a ‘‘rediscovery’’ of the Americas, in a postcolonial perspective (which includes the contributions of authors such as Walter Mignolo, Enrique Dussel and Néstor Garcia Canclini). Here, I am interested in the transnational and transcultural processes that seem to be at the very core of the contemporary redefinition of the Americas.

That’s pretty much where I stand right now, expecting that the consortium, in its association with the Hemispheric Institute, will bring further possibilities for deepening those interests and discovering new ones. I look forward to meeting and working with colleagues on those fascinating topics.