Performance, Theatre, and Society in Contemporary Nicaragua: Spectacles of Gender, Sexuality, and Marginality

by Alberto Guevara


This book is in the Cambria Contemporary Global Performing Arts Series (general editor: John Clum, Duke University).

*Includes rare images.

Since coming to power in 2007, the Sandinista Front of National Liberation (FSLN) has proclaimed itself the “government of the poor” and the “government of peace and reconciliation.” Accordingly, the regime has endeavoured to control and manipulate the symbols, social images, important spaces, and situations of popular struggles for social justice in the country. Under the watch of Daniel Ortega’s administration, Nicaragua has become a country where an extraordinary effort is put into social spectacles, propaganda, and theatricality to create the impression of social and economic transformation.

While the current regime orchestrates impressive social performances in support of its power, there are other social spectacles marking Nicaragua’s urban landscape that tell a different story. These mine the gap between experiences and promises in today’s Nicaragua. The exhibit of suffering bodies in public national spaces as political weapons by pesticide victims, as well as a transvestite circus spectacle in Managua redefine spaces and states of “invisibility” and “visibility” by articulating social positions through performance. The bodies of these Nicaraguans––refusing to be invisible––show Nicaragua’s ongoing social drama of a predominant social power relation of inclusion and exclusion within a narrative intersected by political power, marginality and theatricality. As spectacularized bodies, they become avenues for showing processes of structural violence.

Although there has been some excellent academic research focusing on performance or/and theatre in Nicaragua, such scholarship seldom attends to the very important connections between daily staged public social acts and local, national/global politics that deal directly and indirectly with marginalized social/cultural landscapes in this country. This book fills the gap by examining the connections between Nicaragua’s marginalized landscapes and bodies, between social/political visibility and invisibility, and the relationship between social abandonment and social encompassment in the nation. Three sites form the core of this study: the current government’s commoditized performances of compassion for the poor and traditionally excluded components of Nicaraguan society; fringe circuses’ and their displays of sexual marginality in undesirable urban areas; and, exhibits of suffering bodies in public national spaces as political weapons (aimed at the government and multinationals) by former banana plantation workers.

One of the main contributions of Performance, Theatre, and Society in Contemporary Nicaragua is in its collective gathering of insights in areas of performance studies and ethnography that highlight and invoke local epistemes to critique Western ideologies and paradigms. With a view to furthering a critical ethnographic/performative epistemology, the book explores the methodological potentialities of research and presentation in Nicaragua. Through a methodology that combines ethnography and performance studies, called here “presentational ethnography,” the book brings together theoretical and interpretive insights about the links among neoliberal politics, nostalgia of the revolution and public spectacles that challenge prescribed notions of gender, sexuality and marginality in Nicaragua.

Performance, Theatre, and Society in Contemporary Nicaragua is an important book for performance studies, social cultural anthropology, theatre studies and Latin American studies.


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