Professor Jane Plastow

Professor Jane Plastow

Professor of African Theatre

+44(0) 113 343 4722

Summary: I am primarily an Africanist with special interests in African theatre, African literature, education, development studies and politics.

Research Interests 

I am primarily an Africanist with special interests in African theatre, African literature, education, development studies and politics. I am also concerned with women's studies in Africa and worldwide with Theatre for Development. I have particularly strong links with East Africa and the Horn of Africa; especially Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, in all of which I have worked in recent years. I also work as a theatre director, usually but not exclusively in the area of African theatre, and teach across a range of courses dealing with contemporary theatrical practice. 

I am currently engaged in a number of research projects. I am involved with three book projects including A History of East African Theatre, a monograph supported by the Leverhulme Trust to be published by Palgrave Macmillan, that looks at cross border links and influences from the early colonial period to the present day in Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. A second book, commissioned by Routledge, will look at the wide range of forms and applications of development arts across Africa in the 21st century. The third will be an edited study of suite of work that has been taking place on a range of arts-based community-empowerment projects focused on the working class/slum district of Walukuba/Masese in the municipality of Jinja in Uganda.

I also have five action-research projects currently in hand. For the AHRC I am leading international research entitled ‘Promoting sexual and reproductive health education among adolescents through creative and arts-led practice in India, Malawi and Uganda’. This is complemented by a British Academy project working in six schools in Jinja, ‘Engendering equality: working holistically in a Ugandan slum neighbourhood to challenge gendered inequalities, sexual ignorance and abusive sexual behaviours’.

In Jinja and in Kenya I am leading a HEFCE Global Challenge project ‘Capacity building, knowledge exchange and upscaling film making for schools in Kenya and Uganda’. I am also Co-Investigator on an AHRC-MRC study led by Dr Shane Doyle of Leeds University School of History on ‘Maternal Mortality in East Africa’, and similarly am part of a team working with Dr Merlin Willcox of Southampton University on an AHRC-MRC Global Public Health Partnership grant; ‘Family Planning: Fact or Fiction?’ In all these projects I work with teams of international partners, using creative methodologies, predominantly theatre and film, to research issues relating to gender inequalities and reproductive well-being.

Research Students 

I supervise a wide range of PhD students from many nations, a number of whom are using Practice as Research. Current students are working on: comparative studies of Chilean and British politically engaged youth theatre; poetic responses to Harlem-based queer women jazz singers; training for performers in Nigerian universities; finding a political voice for young women; and using theatre with Caribbean men to challenge psychiatric diagnoses of schizophrenia that fail to take cultural factors into account.

Recent Publications

2017, African Theatre: Six Plays from East and West Africa, Ed with Martin Banham, Oxford: James Currey

2017, ‘Ethnography, Applied Theatre and Stiwanism: Creative Methods in Search of Praxis Amongst Men and Women in Jinja, Uganda’, with Katie McQuaid, Journal of International Development, 29:7, 961-980

2017, ‘From Research to Activism: Theatre and Anthropology in Walukuba’, with Katie McQuaid, Critical Stages, 15:26

2016, ‘Teatro Asmara: understanding Eritrean drama through the study of a national theatre’, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 29:3, 311-330.

2015, African Theatre: Contemporary Women, ed with Yvette Hutchison and Christine Matzke, (Oxford: James Currey). Includes Susan Kiguli and Jane Plastow, ‘Exploring Poetic Voice in the Uganda Women’s Intergenerational Theatre Project’, Jane Plastow and Mahlet Solomon, ‘Contemporary Ethiopia Actresses.

2015, ‘Embodiment, Intellect, and Emotion: Thinking about possible impacts of Theatre for Development in three projects in Africa’, eds Alex Flynn & Jonas Tinius, Anthropology, Theatre, and Development: The transformative potential of performance, (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan) 107-126