Performing Human Rights: Applied Cultural Practices for Conflict Prevention
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of East London
Unit of AssessmentMusic, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Summary of the impact
Research at UEL has contributed to international practices of conflict
prevention through applied
performance practice-as-research. Initially based on the use of culture in
post-genocide Rwanda, it
has been extended since 2008 to applied performance practices in
Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan and
Tajikistan. The research has had wide-ranging impacts, including on
international practices of
conflict prevention; public awareness and understanding of conflict
issues; public access to and
participation in political processes in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan; the
design and delivery of school
curricula and new extra-curricula opportunities for young people
(especially in Kyrgyzstan); the
inspiration, creation and support of new forms of artistic and social
expression (particularly in
performance art); and the integration of participatory practices as a
teaching and learning method
in the UK and abroad. The research has also delivered local economic
benefits and improvements
in the welfare and quality of life of individuals involved in projects in
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The impacts described here arise from research conducted within the
University of East London's
Institute for Performing Arts Development (IPAD) by Dr Ananda Breed
(Senior Lecturer at UEL
since 2007). Since joining UEL, Breed has worked both nationally and
internationally as an applied
performance practitioner and researcher, contributing to several important
projects exploring the
relationships between theatre/performance, conflict and artistic exchange.
These have included
her role as an artist facilitator in the 2007-2008 intercultural theatre
project Contacting the World,
for which she developed exchange activities and intercultural practices
with youth theatre
companies in Palestine, India, Nepal, Turkey and Germany.
Her principal research focus, however, is the relationship of underlying
collective or `public
transcripts' and personal (or `hidden') transcripts to the socio-political
contexts of conflict. In
exploring this, she works with local communities to identify how cultural
forms can be adapted for
dialogic purposes and to stage possible solutions to conflict issues.
Breed's development and
application of these participatory methodologies to address conflict,
trauma and reconstruction
have been particularly informed by her work in post-genocide Rwanda. She
has adapted and
contextualised participatory practices including playback theatre, image
and forum theatre, conflict
resolution practices, and cultural forms to engage stakeholders through
theatre workshops with
grassroots associations, symposia with government officials and workshops
with theatre artists. In
line with the ethos and pedagogy of the IPAD, these approaches respond
particularly to the
national and international socio-political contexts surrounding
performances and performatives.
Breed's published research exists in a symbiotic relationship with her
practical work; whilst the
latter often forms the basis for the former, publications likewise inform
conducted between 2008 and 2010 exploring the use of the arts in
post-genocide Rwanda yielded
several notable publications [1-6]. Founded on interviews, workshops and
involving theatre companies and grassroots associations, this work has
Breed's subsequent methodological application of participatory techniques
in Kyrgyzstan, which in
2010 experienced violence stemming from ethnic, religious and geographic
tensions. As in
Rwanda, ethnicity in Kyrgyzstan has historically been traced to social
status and access and these
issues are salient for conflict prevention strategies.
The impacts described below arise particularly from intercultural theatre
work and conflict
resolution practices developed through and applied in three related
project. The first of these,
Promoting Tolerance and Dialogue through Interactive Theatre
(Indonesia), began in 2008 as a
pilot project funded by the British Embassy and IREX Europe, an
development organisation. This developed into a second project
(2010-2014), Youth Theatre for
Peace (YTP) in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, funded by USAID. Both
projects were contracted
through IREX in collaboration with local partners including the Centre for
Civic Education Indonesia
(CCEI) and Kyrgyzstan's Foundation for Tolerance International (FTI). The
third project, Interaction
of Young People: across ethnic lines and public discourse on youth's
role in building peace and
strengthening tolerance (2012-2013), was contracted by UNICEF to
improve the interaction of
youth in the Osh and Jalalabad regions of Kyrgyzstan. Breed was the lead
designer and consultant for all three. In that role she oversaw the
facilitation and development of
training materials and curricula for youth camps, sustainability workshops
and the training of
trainers in participatory practices and workshop design, and provided
guidance and expert support
to identify target communities and to resource people. In total, the
projects involved four seven-day
`training of trainers' programmes, seven 12-week intensive youth camps,
and three seven-day
sustainability workshops involving more than 500 adults and young people.
were hired to facilitate YTP work in Tajikistan using the curriculum
designed by Breed. For YTP,
which particularly contributed to Breed's development of the distinctive
and innovative participatory
methodologies outlined above, she worked in consultation with trainers and
artists to adapt local
games and performance traditions into applied practices. The traditional
cultural forms adapted as
part of this novel methodology included Kyrgyz folktales, manas
(oral history epics), music, games,
and theatre traditions. Partners included a professional theatre troupe,
Sakhna, from Bishkek
(Kyrgyzstan), 12 of whose actors supported Breed's delivery of the `training
of trainers' initiative
before going on themselves to lead youth workshops.
The research has contributed new knowledge about how embodied local
discourses may inform or
counter hegemonic or national constructions of post-conflict identity
formation. It responds to wider
international debates concerning participatory practices for conflict
prevention. Breed developed
this specific approach through her work considering the use of `speech
acts' in Rwanda for
incrimination in the participatory gacaca courts [3, 4, 6].
References to the research
 Breed, A. (2013) Performing the Nation: Genocide, Justice and
Reconciliation. Chicago: Seagull
Press. Available on request.
 Breed, A. (2013) `Resistant Acts in Post-Genocide Rwanda'. Kritika
Kultura, 21/22, pp. 397-416.
Submitted to REF2.
 Breed, A. (2013) `Juridical Performatives: Public versus Hidden
Transcripts' in Performative
Trans-Actions: Innovation, Creativity & Enterprise in African
Theatre. (ed.) Igweonu, K. Cambridge:
Cambridge Scholar Publishers. Available on request.
 Breed, A. (2012) `Discordant Narratives in Rwanda's Gacaca Courts' in
Rwanda Fast Forward.
(ed.) Noack, P. Hampshire: Palgrave. pp. 29-44. Submitted to REF2.
 Breed, A. (2011) `Memorialization and the Rwandan Genocide: The Use
of Theater' in Cultures
and Globalization Series (eds) Isar, Y. and Anheier, H. LA: Sage
Publications. pp. 245-251.
Available on request.
 Breed, A. (2009) `Participation for Liberation or Incrimination' in The
Applied Theatre Reader
(eds.) Prentki, T. and Preston, S. London: Routledge. pp. 148-154.
Submitted to REF2.
Details of the impact
The research outlined above has contributed to international practices of
through applied performance practice-as-research, and delivered cultural
and artistic benefits
through its creation, inspiration and support for these new forms of
artistic and social expression
[a]. It has also enhanced and improved public awareness and
understanding of conflict issues and
contributed to widening public access to and participation in political
processes, especially in
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Cultural, artistic and social benefits in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan:
Through her integration of
local Kyrgyz cultural forms into applied performance practice-as-research
and her training of
Kyrgyz theatre artists, Breed has introduced applied performance as a new
form of artistic
expression in Kyrgyzstan. This has allowed local communities to connect
with their cultural and
artistic heritage through participatory practices that also negotiate
contemporary conflict issues.
As part of projects described above, Breed directly trained some 144
youth and adults; many
more were trained by consultants using Breed's curricula. Participants
went on to form 27
drama clubs in Kyrgyzstan, which have since engaged thousands of
through public performances and training. As a result, Youth Theatre
for Peace (YTP)
beneficiaries in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan total more than 47,000 people,
who have engaged
directly or indirectly with Breed's work through drama clubs and public
Following her training of trainers and subsequent youth workshops for YTP
in 2009, Breed
facilitated a sustainability workshop in 2010 and 2012 for adult trainers
and young people who
had been promoted to the role of youth facilitators. As a direct result of
this training and of the
YTP programme more broadly, school drama clubs were established in
Kyrgyzstan and two
adult trainers were elected to paid positions with their village councils.
In those roles, `they
became prominent figures in their communities, raised issues and
challenges that they had in
their communities, and people voted for them because they could see that
they were actively
trying to solve these issues' [c].
Funding obtained in 2012 through USAID Kyrgyzstan was used in 2012-2013
to extend the YTP
project from the Chui and Batken oblasts to the Northern mountain oblasts
of Naryn and Talas,
where a further 60 trainers were instructed by Breed in participatory
practices and workshop
design. Her training of 10 former trainers as `master' trainers for new
participants has extended
the reach of Breed's distinctive methodology — and of the cultural and
artistic benefits arising
from it — throughout the country. The provision by the Kyrgyz Ministry of
Education of salaried
posts for teachers to continue theatre outreach work begun as part of YTP
has not only ensured
the sustainability of the benefits to programme participants in
Kyrgyzstan, but also delivered a
small but significant economic benefit via the creation of these new jobs.
A number of trainers and educators have initiated community projects
participatory performance methodology.Thus teachers trained by Breed have
methodology to create sustainable networks and partnerships allowing
community dialogue about, and responses to, conflict issues. One has
participatory theatre performances in collaboration with the prosecutor's
office to address justice
issues, stage scenarios related to new laws, and address issues related to
building tolerance in
Tokmak [d]. Another has worked with the Kyzkol Village Council to
address issues related to
the social inclusion of orphans through theatre practices and has
campaigns through a conference of 250 social pedagogues (March 2013),
leading to financial
support for orphans and acknowledgement of legal agreements from local
methodology has also directly influenced Foundation Tolerance
International's (FTI) institutional
practices, informing the integration of participatory approaches into FTI
conflict analysis and
prevention projects covering six oblasts and all four FTI offices [c].
In addition to training described above as part of the IREX YTP project,
Breed trained an
additional 30 adult trainers and 30 youth trainers for the UNICEF
Interaction of Young People
(IYP) project, which involved 15 schools in the Osh and Jalalabad regions
of Kyrgyzstan. Drama
clubs subsequently developed from the initial training expanded to include
251 youth members,
and performances developed from theatre tours related to local conflict
issues have benefitted
an estimated 6,000 community members [e].
Raising public awareness of and changing attitudes to conflict:
The YTP project has had
demonstrable impacts on the adults and youths involved directly in it in
both Kyrgyzstan and
Tajikistan. An independent 2011 evaluation analysis of the YTP programme
involved an overall sampling frame of 144 project participants and, more
widely, of 15,000
people in 93 communities. The evaluation showed marked and positive
behavioural changes among both youth and adult program participants
towards people of other
ethnicities, religions and nationalities compared to a matched control
group. 12 focus group
discussions were conducted to assess the programme's effects on community
`audience' of the performances organised by participants), who weren't
involved directly in the
programme training events. The evaluation found that in Kyrgyzstan:
- Nearly 98% of program participants reported confidence in their
ability to positively
influence conflict situations in their community, compared with 31% of
- Respondents in every focus group expressed their belief that the
could positively affect community cohesion in relation to conflict.
- 94% of youth participants reported a perceived increase in personal
agency in conflict
- 90% of youth participants reported a perception that they could speak
more openly and
in a more balanced way about conflict issues; 91% of those were assessed
by their local
adult mentors as being actually able to do so.
- 85% of youth participants reported increased empathy for `other'
conceptualised as understanding the situation, feelings, motives, and
ideas of people of
other ethnicities, religions, or national origin.)
- 88% of youth participants reported more positive interactions with
those from other
ethnic or religious backgrounds [f].
The benefits to programme participants of this enhanced awareness and
conflict issues — and of the ensuing changes in attitude — are further
evidenced by some of the
successes they have enjoyed since the programme. Young participants have
among their peers and in their schools, and to hold positions of
responsibility among, and
garner the respect of, adult community members. For example, in 2011 one
became the first female in her school's history to hold the title of
school President [g].
Improving understanding of and increasing participation in political
work has contributed to widening public access to and participation in
political processes in both
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, where the new drama clubs and theatre tours
have engaged (in total)
more than 53,000 community members between 2010 and 2013 through the
staging of conflict
issues in partnership with local government officials [b, e].
Several of the performances were
devised during youth workshops facilitated by Breed in collaboration with
local artists and
partner organisations. Applied performance is new to this region, and
individuals claimed that its
techniques provided the additional benefit of extending the ethos and
practice of participatory
approaches to the classroom environment. Performance topics included human
concerning domestic violence, bride kidnapping, water and land disputes,
and girls' education.
The participatory techniques allowed audiences to actively engage with the
performances and to express their thoughts and feelings on conflict and
solutions to the staged conflict scenarios. Those myriad proposed
solutions did, in fact, inform
policy-makers' discussion and debate both informally, through the theatre
themselves, and formally, through meetings conducted with government
officials before and
after performances [b].
Impacts on education and training: Breed's participatory
performance workshops have
appeared in course syllabi for theatre and performance studies programmes
at the School of
Theatre and Dance UC Santa Barbara (USA) and Dartmouth College of Arts
(UK). Since 2010,
Breed has also provided consultancy to the British Museum (BM) to
facilitate its The Tree of Life
Talking Objects project (March-April 2009) and to train staff,
partners and museum personnel in
the use of participatory techniques to enrich user-based approaches to
objects (June 2011). The
Museum's dissemination of participatory approaches via its Talking
Objects project and peripheral
public engagement activities has enhanced public awareness of the utility
of such approaches.
These activities included the Museums and Participation: Unlocking the
Potential of Things
conference (20 March 2012), at which Breed facilitated an experiential
workshop with BM youth
panel members, demonstrating the Talking Objects methodology to
over 300 participants [h].
Sources to corroborate the impact
[a] Many of the broad benefits of the research are described in an
ArtTengri documentary about
the impact of Breed's methodology in Kyrgyzstan. Available on request.
[b] The impacts of the YTP project, including the number of drama clubs
set up and total figure of
47,000 participants in or beneficiaries of the project, are corroborated
in a written testimonial from
former IREX senior programme officer. Available on request.
[c] Written testimonial: Director of Foundation Tolerance International.
Available on request.
[d] Written testimonials from teachers trained by Breed as part of YTP.
Available on request.
[e] Written testimonial: Youth and Development Officer, UNICEF.
Corroborates figure of 6,000
wider participants in or beneficiaries of the project (additional to
47,000). Available on request.
[f] For results of the 2011 YTP Final Evaluation Report: bit.ly/1bfKRgr
especially p. 4.
[g] For examples of individual YTP programme success stories: http://bit.ly/18TrQA1
[h] Testimonial letter from former Talking Objects project
director corroborating the impacts of
Breed's work with the British Museum on its on education and training.
Available on request.