Nation and Negation (Terrible Rage)

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The aftermath of the Brexit referendum has revealed a deeply divided Britain, with anger on both sides and seemingly little desire to seek compromise or mutual understanding. Remainers denounce Leavers as ignorant bigots. Leavers denounce Remainers as metropolitan elitists. Theresa May went even further, characterizing supporters of open borders and free movement as ‘citizens of nowhere’ whose lack of attachment to nation suggests they simply don’t understand what citizenship means. Given the UK’s regional correlation between high levels of theatregoing and high support for Remain, this is a challenge for theatremakers and scholars. One strong feature of contemporary British playwriting is a detachment from place; in numerous recent plays, place is estranged, unspecified, annulled, orphaned, globalized, generalized, combined, relativized and scenographically anonymized. Does this represent an absence of nation? No, because this would be to accept the rigid oppositions of the Leave campaign between nations and open borders, between the local and the global. Instead, there is a restless deconstructive movement within the very identification of nation that moves to transcend it and this is captured and embodied in the heterotopic ambiguities of the spatially specific performance of the placeless play.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-39
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Contemporary Drama in English
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018


  • theatre
  • playwriting
  • dramaturgy
  • Brexit
  • European Union
  • space
  • place
  • nation
  • state
  • globalization
  • heterotopia
  • David Goodhart
  • Michel Foucault
  • Joanne Tompkins
  • Dani Rodrik
  • Jean-Luc Nancy
  • Jeremy Bentham
  • Caryl Churchill

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