Bethany Whiteside & Ben Fletcher‑Watson


The genesis of the Scottish Journal of Performance sprang from a wish amongst doctoral students based at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the University of St Andrews to create an academic platform for Scotland’s and Scottish performance research—a space dedicated to exploring, disseminating and showcasing issues and debate. In creating a new journal, scholars may respond to the appearance of new perspectives, or seek to carve out space for critical reflection within existing fields. The Scottish Journal of Performance has been founded with both aims at its core—we provide a platform for researchers to respond to the prodigious changes across Scottish arts and culture prior to and since devolution 15 years ago, while also rooting ourselves firmly within the traditions of some of the oldest academic institutions in the United Kingdom (a country, at the time of writing, which comprises several nations).

Our criteria for submission are deliberately diverse: authors may be Scotland-based and focusing on Scotland or Scotland-based and looking beyond our borders, or they may be reflecting from elsewhere on aspects of Scottish culture. We welcome scholars who can expand our definitions of what Scotland means, moving beyond parochialism to a more nuanced understanding. Outsiders looking in are as important as insiders looking out, and scrutiny of Scottish issues by those who live and work within them is complemented by wider perspectives. As editors we operate from the principle that Scotland is a performative cultural powerhouse, and this should be explored and reflected upon on an academic platform. The traditional legacy of Scotland’s culture is heavily rooted in its literary and musical traditions; however, during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Scotland has emerged as a leader in performance-based pioneering artistry and creativity, driven by numerous festivals, a diverse network of theatres and concert halls, a powerful grassroots movement and a range of higher and tertiary arts education establishments.

This first issue has emerged from an open call for papers, rather than an invitation to explore a common theme. Contributors from around the UK have submitted papers from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, using diverse perspectives and methodologies, and exploring a truly heterogeneous body of work. Yet an original and striking sense of ‘Scottishness’ resonates strongly throughout the finished journal, from a contemporary exploration of the digital dérive linking Glasgow to Paris and London via the World Wide Web to an examination of professional equality in the Scottish dance sector.

In Representational tactics: approaching two Scottish performances of mental illness through the work of Michel de Certeau, Christopher Dingwall-Jones addresses contemporary psychiatric discourse in Scotland through the prism of performance, both live and recorded. Productions by the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) and Theatre NEMO are contrasted to highlight the contingencies, schemes and appropriations which accompany any public discussion of mental health issues. Dingwall-Jones grounds his argument in Michel de Certeau’s theories of ‘strategies’ and ‘tactics’. The works of NTS and Theatre NEMO are thus framed within an arena where psychiatrists, patients, scholars, performers and audiences enact multiple complex inter-relationships. These networks are used to problematise the simplification of rhetorics around mental illness, presenting it as always partial, always contingent.

David Overend, in World Wide Wandering: e-drifting in Paris and London, explores the ‘e-drift’ as a form of Situationism for the twenty-first century. Nicolas Bourriaud and, again, de Certeau provide a subversive jumping-off point for a new form of urban wandering, where iPhones, Google Maps and Rightmove are used to trouble the politics of contemporary urban living. Overend’s playful and provocative paper questions old perceptions of the local versus the global, and finds a transgressive power in the harnessing of technology.

In Re-reading Mary Wigman’s Hexentanz II (1926): the influence of the non-Western ‘Other’ on movement practice in early modern German dance, Lito Tsitsou and Lucy Weir argue that Wigman’s dance work is a seminal example of the social and aesthetic conditions of the early twentieth century. Utilising Edward Said’s notion of the Orientalist ‘Other’, the authors interrogate the link between the primitive and terrifying nature of Wigman’s choreography and the construction of a new style and technique of early modern dance that ultimately became known as ‘German’.

Holly Patrick and Caroline Bowditch have produced an exciting addition to recent discussion of equality within the arts in Scotland, in Developing professional equality: an analysis of a social movement in the Scottish dance industry. Via an autoethnographic approach, the authors argue that Scotland may be considered a ‘hotspot’ for disabled dancers due to the existence of advocacy both within and outwith the dance scene and the lack of a national disability arts organisation. In particular, this latter factor is highlighted as a key element in ‘mainstreaming’ the issue of disability in the arts, and raises valuable questions as to the future of professional and vocational disabled dancers in Scotland and further afield.

We are also pleased to include the complete abstracts from the recent symposium, The making of performance: stories of performing physicalities, held at the University of Glasgow on 22nd June 2013: Anna Birch examines the role of the body as an archival artefact; Simon Murray reflects on the upsurge in physical theatres as cultural production; Bethany Whiteside takes a Bourdieusian perspective to interrogate ‘Scottishness’ in Highland Dancing practice; Lito Tsitsou and Lucy Weir provide an early version of their article that appears in this issue, a re-reading of Mary Wigman’s ‘Witch Dance’ as simultaneously German and Orientalist; Ramsay Burt draws on Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and post-colonial studies to examine the effects of institutional power on Black British Dance; and Romany Dear and Dominic Paterson respond to a shared experience of a recent dance workshop by Yvonne Rainer. We hope to engage further with Scottish conferences in forthcoming issues.

Finally, the Scottish Journal of Performance provides an opportunity for scholars to respond to the latest publications on performance in all its forms. This issue contains reviews of recent texts from publishers including Ashgate, Palgrave Macmillan and Intellect: Elaine Moohan reviews Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting from the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era by Karen McAuley; Joshua Dickson reviews Hamish MacCunn (1868–1916): A Musical Life by Jennifer L. Oates; Anna Birch reviews Theatre and Performance in Small Nations, edited by Steve Blandford; and Marc Silberschatz reviews Robin Nelson’s Practice as Research in the Arts: Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances.

The papers within our inaugural edition offer a deep engagement with and challenge to current scholarship on performance. Emerging researchers rub shoulders with established academics to interrogate the accepted ideas of Scottish culture across many artforms, and perhaps begin to provide valuable new perspectives.

We would like to thank the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the University of St Andrews, the whole editorial team, peer reviewers, funders, advisory board and, most of all, our authors.

Bethany Whiteside and Ben Fletcher‑Watson
Co-editors, Scottish Journal of Performance