History of Theatre Studies – Swiss/Austrian Networks and Contexts

This project proposes to investigate the history of German-language theatre studies in Switzerland and Austria from a decentralised perspective. By viewing the topic from the margins, we will be able to look at constellations and contexts that have not yet been taken into account. 

While taking into account hitherto knowledge about the history of the discipline in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, this project will for the first-ever time focus its research focus on: 1. those protagonists who have so far been overlooked, suppressed and forgotten by the history of the discipline; 2. marginalised non-university initiatives; and 3. the academic and education policy networks that have so far gone completely unnoticed. The transnational approach of this project brings two neighbouring countries into focus (Switzerland and Austria) and for the first time in the discourse on the history of the discipline. These countries were among the first German-speaking countries to harbour exiles in the early 1930s, they engaged with National Socialism in different ways, and after 1945 positioned themselves as neutral states within the power constellations of the Cold War. Against this historical background, we shall examine the significance of theatre and theatre research for Switzerland and Austria during the "long" 20th century with respect to their agendas in culture and identity politics. 

Theatre studies, here understood in broad terms as theatre research, will be examined from its early phase onwards, beginning after 1848. This project will examine the backgrounds of those protagonists who have so far been neglected by the history of the discipline, focusing for the first time on issues of migration, exile and gender theory. This is a desideratum resulting from how theatre studies was established under National Socialism, and from the lack of a specialised history of theatre studies in Switzerland. We shall face up to the fact that theatre studies was promoted as being ideologically highly relevant in the Nazi era, and shall therefore pose questions regarding the exclusion mechanisms that were employed for reasons of anti-Semitism, misogyny and anti-democracy when the discipline was established and spread across the German-speaking world after 1945. Due to the complexity and heterogeneity of the research issues that have hitherto remained untouched, this project will pursue an innovative approach employing a mix of methods comprising comparative source analysis, historical contextualisation and digital humanities. It will combine research perspectives from theatre studies, transnational history, memory studies, gender studies and cultural studies with the methodological and theoretical foundations, analyses and procedures of the digital humanities. To this end, a digital research platform will be made available to the community in order to stimulate and ensure a permanent, reflexive approach to the history of the discipline. This platform will serve to make parallel historical constellations visible that can be mapped on the basis of those theatre researchers and their epistemes that were either included or excluded in their time. The project will be situated in the following fields: in the history of scholarship, and in research into transnational exile, the Holocaust and gender studies.