Race, Gender, and Nation in Contemporary Australian Theatre
Helen Gilbert
The Australian stage explored for its complex negotiations of race, gender, and post-colonialism


  • Winner of the 1998 Walter Macrae Russell Award for Outstanding Scholarship on an Australian Subject

Sightlines: Race, Gender, and Nation in Contemporary Australian Theatre asserts the centrality of theater to the ongoing negotiations of the Australian context. By exploring ways in which ideas about race, gender, and nation are expressed in concrete theatrical contexts, the performative qualities of theatrical representation are revealed as compelling, important sites of critique.

Helen Gilbert discusses an exciting variety of plays, drawing examples from marginalized groups as well as from the theatrical mainstream. While fully engaged with the discourses of contemporary critical thought, Sightlines remains focused on the material stuff of the theater, grounding its discussion in the visual elements of costume, movement, and scenography. And although focused specifically on performance, the author's insistent interest in historical and political contexts also speaks to the broader concerns of cultural studies.

The book's recurrent concern with representations of Aboriginality, particularly in the works of nonindigenous playwrights, draws attention to racial politics as a perennial motif in postcolonial nations. Its illumination of the relationships between patriarchy and imperialism is supported by an extensive discussion of plays by and about women. This nomadic approach marks Sightlines as a groundbreaking study of recent Australian theater, a provocative application of postcolonial theory to the embodied qualities of theatrical representation.

Helen Gilbert is Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies, University of Queensland, and co-author, with Joanne Tompkins, of Post-Colonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics.

Praise / Awards

  • "An impressive and ground-breaking study that provides a coherent postcolonial approach to Australian drama."
    —Bill Ashcroft, University of New South Wales
  • "Elegantly written, and always beautifully lucid in its argument. . . . this is a very original work, particularly in its marriage of performance theory and postcolonial analysis."
    —Deidre Coleman, University of Sydney
  • ". . . original and extremely perceptive. . . ."
    —Alan Filewood, University of Guelph, Ontario, Australasian Drama Studies
  • ". . . excellent and thought-provoking. . . ."
    —Elizabeth Webby, Australian Literary Studies, Volume 19, No. 1, 1999
  • "From the perspective of Australian theatre studies, this book is . . . essential reading."
    —Rachel Fensham, Monash University, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Volume XIV, No. 1 (1999)
  • "Gilbert's book is a groundbreaking work, surveying culturally diverse playwrights who have made responses to imperialism as the historical force moulding Australian society and demonstrating how theatre can play a role in the process of decolonization. Gilbert's ability to link the practices of post-colonial theory and performance make Sightlines an invaluable text for both theatre practitioners and theorists."
    —Lilicherie McGregor, New Theatre Quarterly
  • "Sightlines is an important contribution both to theatre studies and post-colonial criticism. . . . It is to the credit of the University of Michigan Press that they have recognised that a study of contemporary Australian theatre practice is of more than local interest. . . . It is. . . a good indication of the excellent work done in Australia, and the richness both of Australian performance culture and its intellectual and critical contexts."
    —Katherine Newey, Theatre Journal, May 1999

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 288pp.
  • 1 drawing, 21 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1998
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06677-3

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  • $33.95 U.S.