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Screening and Roundtable organized by Alvaro Lopez and Shekoufeh Behbehani | 29 November and 3 December 2021 | Speakers: Saman Arastoo (online), Bahar Azadi (online), Sruti Bala, Domitilla Olivieri, Nisrine Chaer, Dino Suhonic.

Event details of Autopsy: Gender and Sexuality On Stage
Start date 29 November 2021
End date 3 December 2021
Credits: Avaye Divanegan

Performer and director Saman Arastoo founded the theater group, Avaye Divanegan, The Song of the Crazed in 1983. His theater and experimental films, marked by their sharp social and political criticism, especially concerning non-normative gender and sexuality, are shaped by both his personal and professional experiences as a trans man in Iran. Arastoo’s work can be perceived as critical precisely towards the nexus of performance and violence that is embedded within Iranian society. The group’s performances are indeed inspired by Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht, and Jerzy Grotowski, especially with respect to features such as the lack of the fourth wall, improvisation, and the minimal use of props. Yet, in spite of these overlapping characteristics, the group creates a theatre form of its own. Moving between these traditions enables Arastoo to create a theatrical practice that is particular to the politics of non-normative gender and sexuality in Iranian society. In Arastoo’s theater, violence underlies both the continuity and the disruption of the performance. Embedded in this dual and contradictory role of violence is a critique of Iranian socio-political policing of gender and sexuality.

How does that approach relate to the experimental theater of the West? What implications does the use of violence have and what responses does his theater elicit from audiences in Iran and elsewhere? Do we as the audience reproduce the violence we are exposed to, actively participate in it, ignore it, or react to it in a non-violent way? What strategies can one have in the face of the omnipresent violence in everyday life and in theater?

This two-day event aims to provide an opportunity to critically engage with his practice as a trans Iranian actor and director and reflect on the complex relation between performance, violence, gender, and sexuality in both Iran and the Netherlands.

First Day: Screening of Autopsy (2019) + Q&A

This is an update on the first part of the two-day event Autopsy: Gender and Sexuality On Stage. Given unavoidable last-minute changes related to uncertainty on pandemic regulations, we need to move today’s event to an online format (screening/Q&A - Monday, November 29, 18:00-20:00). Those participants registered for in-person attendance will have to join the event online. 

Below we share the Zoom link for today’s event. 

Please, bear in mind that the second part of this event (roundtable discussion of December 3, 16:30-18:30) will still take place in person at Belle van Zuylenzaal, UB (UvA). 

We apologize for the last-minute changes, and we look forward to seeing you all (on screen). 

Autopsy: Gender and Sexuality On Stage (Screening and Q&A)

Time: Nov 29, 2021 06:00 PM Amsterdam

Join Zoom Meeting
https://uva-live.zoom.us/j/82557940146
Meeting ID: 825 5794 0146

29 November 2021, 18.00-20.00

Open to public. [Due to covid regulations, a limited number of people can attend the event in person. Hence, there will be a livestream of the screening and Q&A on zoom for those registered online.] 

Arastoo’s latest play, Autopsy (2019) is a script-less one long play, mostly featuring amateur queer actors, who have participated in Arastou’s ‘self-cognition’ workshops. Autopsy revolves around stories of couples in queer relationships, including the director, Arastoo himself and his partner, Nadia Bavand, an actor and member of Avaye Divanegan.

The screening is followed by a Q&A:

Speakers: Saman Arastoo (online), Dr. Bahar Azadi (online), Shekoufeh Behbehani

Moderator: Alvaro Lopez Navarro

Interpreter: Donya Ahmadi

Second Day: Round Table Discussion

3 December 2021, 16.30-18.30, Belle van Zuylenzaal, UB

Open to scholars, researchers, and RMA students

While the film screening and the Q&A aims to engage a broad audience, the roundtable discussion aims to specifically engage interested students, researchers, and academics and create a space for reflection and knowledge exchange on trans and queer activism through theatre and dramatherapy in the context of Iran and the Netherlands.

Speakers: Dr. Sruti Bala, Dr. Domitilla Olivieri, Nisrine Chaer, Dino Suhonic

Moderators: Alvaro Lopez Navarro and Shekoufeh Behbehani

RMA students can obtain up to 2ECT for participating in the two day event (1 ECT for attending both sessions and submitting three questions to the organizers related to the screening/topics addressed before the round table discussion; 1 ECT for submitting a 3000 word essay on the topics mobilized in the two-day event).

To register, please send an email to the organizers:

Shekoufeh Behbehani (S.M.M.A.A.Behbehani@uva.nl)

Alvaro Lopez Navarro (A.A.Lopeznavarro@uva.nl)

Dr. Sruti Bala is Associate Professor at the Dept. of Theatre Studies of Studies of the University of Amsterdam, where she currently co-ordinates the MA Theatre Studies programme. She is affiliated to the  Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis and is a member of the ASCA advisory board. Sruti's research interests are at the intersections of performance and politics, which has taken shape in specific research projects on nonviolent protest, participatory art, artistic activism, feminist and postcolonial/decolonial literary and cultural theories and translation. She co-ordinates a five-year NWO-funded research project in co-operation with the University of Curaçao on the cultural practices of citizenship in the Dutch Caribbean. See project website here.

Dr. Domitilla (Domi) Olivieri is an anthropologist, activist, researcher, and teacher in the field of gender studies, media and society. I am active in academic, artistic, and other political spaces and have been involved for many years in feminist, queer, anti-racist, anti-capitalist militant activism. I work as assistant professor at the department of Media and Culture Studies at Utrecht University. My research and didactics are in the field of feminist, queer, postcolonial and decolonial theory, documentary film, visual anthropology, media, and cultural studies. Committed to bridging the distance between academic and non-academic communities, I collaborate with festivals, community projects, NGOs, arts and activist groups. Example conversations with artistic practices include publication such as: “On Resisting Paradise” in the exhibition catalogue Barbara Hammer: Evidentiary Bodies, and “Shattered images and desiring matter. A dialogue between Hito Steyerl and Domitilla Olivieri” in Carnal Aesthetics: Transgressive Imagery and Feminist Politics.

Nisrine Chaer is an activist-academic who lives in Lebanon and the Netherlands. His research interests lie at the intersection of queer anthropology, migration, transgender studies, Middle East and cultural studies. He graduated from the Gender & Ethnicity Master’s at Utrecht University where he wrote his thesis on queer activism in Beirut. In 2017, he co-founded Sehaq Queer Refugees Group, a refugee-led grassroots leftist organization in Amsterdam that works on creating safer spaces for queer & trans refugees, centering Middle Eastern & North African experiences and politics. Currently, he is working on a PhD project at Utrecht University about geographies of home with a focus on MENA queer & trans migration in the Netherlands and in Lebanon.

Dino Suhonic holds an MSc, Sociology. In his MA thesis, he focused on the question of homosexuality in the context of Islam in Europe and the framing of Dutch Muslim politicians based on their alleged attitudes towards homosexuality. Dino is the executive director of Maruf, queer Muslim organisation in the Netherlands, high school teacher and opinion maker. Dino is Bosnian, gay and Muslim. He frequently speaks and writes about queer Muslims, multiple discrimination and intersections of LGBTQI-phobia and islamophobia. He started the first empowerment program for queer Muslims in Netherlands. Maruf is the co-founder of the 'Global Queer Muslim Network', founder of European Queer Muslim Network and facilitates different queer Muslim platforms on national and international level. Dino Suhonic also appeared in several Dutch television programs and writes for newspapers like NRC, Volkskrant and De Correspondent.