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Defying toponormativity: a queer reading of the performing arts in non-conventional spaces

Dr Isaías Fanlo
Fitzwilliam College
University of Cambridge

Vote of thanks by Sarah Wright, Professor of Hispanic Studies, School of Humanities, Royal Holloway

The global financial crisis of 2008 entailed devastating effects in the Spanish economy, enhanced by the burst of the ‘housing bubble’ (burbuja inmobiliaria). What has been become known as the Great Spanish Depression led to state bankruptcy, the need for economic rescue by the European Union, and astronomically high unemployment rates. In the already precarious cultural sector, the recession also led to the closing down of a large number of venues and stages, both public and private, which occasioned a more dramatic scarcity of opportunities for emerging playwrights.

This lecture will explore how this crisis and its consequences shaped not only the majority of the plays written during this time, but also the venues they were performed in. Dr Fanlo will do this from a queer theoretical perspective, by coining and developing the notion of toponormativity, which will allow him to tackle the complex intersection between spaces, scenic arts, and city life. He will observe how initiatives like the Torneig de Dramatúrgia (Girona), the festivals Terrats en Cultura and Píndoles (Barcelona), and new venues like La Casa de la Portera and La Pensión de las Pulgas (Madrid), offered a much-needed scapegoat for these new plays, often written for a reduced cast and shaped for modest productions. These emerging, non-conventional performing spaces swelled with hybrid texts, queer genres and genders, losers and monsters: performative beings for a nation in crisis. In this regard, both performative works and performative spaces contested, he will argue, the traditional theatrical paradigms and discourses, and therefore articulated new, powerful discourses on cultural, social, and political resistance for post-crisis Spain.

David Vilaseca memorial lecture

Dr Isaías Fanlo teaches modern and contemporary Iberian literature at the University of Cambridge. His work on Iberian cultures, scenic arts and queer theory has been published in scholarly journals and in books such as De vidas y virus (2019) and the forthcoming The Unsafe Stage (2022). His monograph El llibre rosa (2004) (The Pink Book) was a pioneering work on gender and sexuality in Catalonia. He also contributes to generalist media, where he writes about the performing arts, culture and activism. He has been editor, curator and content creator for Barcelona’s Teatre Nacional de Catalunya and artistic advisor for Barcelona’s Teatre Lliure. He founded Terrats en Cultura, Barcelona’s awarded rooftop scenic arts festival, and he has been literary advisor for different projects in Barcelona and Chicago.

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Ocaña, Reina de las Rambla at Terrats en Cultura, Barcelona Rooftop Festival. (c) Guillem Pacheco/Shasta Daisy Produccions


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