Interview with Anabelle Contreras (2007)
Anabelle Contreras Castro did her undergraduate work in Anthropology at the University of Costa Rica and went on to complete her MA and PhD in Latin American Studies at the Freie Universitaet Berlin. She has participated as a guest researcher at the Freie Universitaet Berlin and in various programs financed by the DAAD (German Service for Academic Exchange) and the Max Plank Institute, as well as in numerous international workshops, conferences, and seminars. She is a Professor at the School for Scenic Arts and the coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Doctorate of Arts and Letters of Central America at the National University of Costa Rica. She is also a playwright in the independent theater group Abya Yala. She has developed her research in areas such as identities in Central America, youth cultures, gender, popular culture, and media.X
Diana Taylor: Hi, Anabelle. Can you please introduce yourself for this project?
Anabelle Contreras-Castro: Yes. My name is Anabelle Contreras-Castro, and I am a professor at the National University of Costa Rica. I am a professor in the School of Performing Arts, and I direct a doctoral program, which is called the Interdisciplinary Doctorate of Arts and Letters of Central America.
Anabelle: Virginia Pérez Ratton who founded TEOR/éTica, but there were no formal studies in the academy. Then from there came the idea to introduce performance studies in the National University in the School of Performing Arts, and we created, as a first step, a senior seminar at the undergraduate level, in which we introduced performance studies as a mode of research and put into practice some needed new concepts. At the same time, we broke a bit with the direction of the school, which was focused exclusively on theater.
Diana: So there was, let’s say, a debate or a conflict between theater and the visual arts in relation to performance, as to whether it was interesting as practice or as methodology?
Anabelle: I don’t think there was an open debate, nor a prior conflict. First was the seminar, and the questions came later because the seminar had really positive results, However some people began to ask whether the School of Theater should go down this path or not.
"We introduced performance studies as a mode of research and put into practice some needed new concepts. At the same time, we broke a bit with the direction of the school, which was focused exclusively on theater."
Anabelle: That is a problem in the smaller countries in Central America, where they don’t import large quantities of books. Books are very expensive because of high import taxes, and so we have a fairly informal and illegal system. This is to say: we photocopy books, we clone books, we scan books, and we find ways to circulate knowledge through channels that are informal and illegal.
Diana: Who are the theorists with the strongest presence here?
Anabelle: Well, we have worked a great deal with Diana Taylor’s books and with some other virtual periodicals. The e-journal from the Hemispheric Institute e-misférica has been a significant resource and later, some theorists from Brazil, South America, some connected to the Hemispheric Institute, and other things we find on the Internet, basically because in the bookstores you can’t find almost any of this stuff.
Diana: Yes. Is there anyone here who works on these themes?
Anabelle: On performance studies?
Diana: Yes. Who publishes on this, in theoretical terms?
Diana: Okay, thank you so much.
Anabelle: My pleasure.
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