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 with two major projects. Thanks to support from the Leverhulme Trust I am writing a history of East African theatre, focussing particularly on cross-national linkages as a consequence of factors such as shared colonial rulers, religious links, political ties, movement of key players, etc, in order to explore this history at a regional level. I am also working on an AHRC funded project with geographers and anthropologists at Leeds and Sheffield Universities exploring intergenerational understandings of environmental responsibility, justice and consumption in three cities: Sheffield, UK; Jinja, Uganda and Nanjing, China. In each place I have led a process of intergenerational generative theatre to explore creatively attitudes to, concerns about and understandings of environment. In Uganda I and my research associate, anthropologist Katie McQuaid, have worked over an 18 month period with a slum community, we have made 6 plays, been engaged in community activism around issues of waste management, alternative fuel sources, corruption in land allocation and women’s rights, and helped the community set up a registered community group ‘We Are Waukuba’ which is now taking the work forward autonomously.

I have been a key player in a number of Theatre for Development projects. Throughout most of the 1990s I ran the Eritrean Community-Based Theatre Project In Ethiopia I was involved throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s with developing the Adugna Community Dance Theatre. More recently my theatre work has switched focus to Uganda where I have been developing work around gender issues, and to an East African project working with academics in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya investigating ways forward for Theatre for Development in relation to teaching, research and practice. I have acted widely as a trainer, consultant and advocate for arts and development initiatives, working with and for agencies such as ACORD, ActionAid, The British Council, Comic Relief, The Department for International Development and Oxfam.

I run the MA in Theatre and Global Development at the University of Leeds

Research Students 

I supervise a wide range of PhD students from many nations; mostly looking at aspects of African or community-based theatre; though I also have students working on African litereature, film and women’s studies.

Recent Publications

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

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, ‘The Faithful Copyist or the Good Thief’, in eds Kafewo SA, Iorapuu TJ, Dandaura ES, Theatre Unbound: Reflections on theatre for development and social change, (Zaria: Ahmadu Bello Press) 52-61

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

2014, ‘Domestication or Transformation: The Ideology of theatre for development in Africa’, Applied Theatre Research, 2:2, 107-118