Performance and Its Genealogies of War
Natalie Alvarez moves through several sites of her field research at military bases in the US, Canada, and the UK to observe the ways in which the performance paradigm has been taken up by the military-industrial-academic complex as it attempts to advance training methodologies nimble enough to take on a new frontier of irregular and asymmetrical warfare. Each site raises a particular set of concerns that, when taken together, trace the genealogies of performance and war. In her studies of scenarios at an insurgent training camp for US Special Forces in Utah, USA, and mock Afghan villages at CFB Wainright, Canada, and the Stanford Training Area in England, Alvarez raises questions concerning how the affective entrainment of soldiers through large-scale immersive improvisations converges in unsettling ways with histories of performance theory. She examines the instrumental use of empathy in military strategy and queries how the immersion of soldiers in the mise en scène of an Afghan village designed to foster Cultural Intelligence (CQ)—positioned by military strategists as a “force multiplier”—prepares soldiers to engage in an irreconcilable paradox of punitive, yet culturally “sensitive,” militarism.
Natalie Alvarez is an associate professor in the Department of Dramatic Arts at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts at Brock University, Ontario, Canada, where she teaches in the Theatre Praxis concentration. She holds a PhD in Theatre Studies from the University of Toronto. In 2010, she received a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for her current book project on immersive simulations and intercultural performance in military training and dark tourism, which allowed her to conduct field research at military bases and tourist sites in Mexico, the US, Canada, and the UK. Her research on performance and simulation, performance theory, and contemporary experimental performance in the Americas has been published in a variety of periodicals, as well as national and international book collections. She is the editor of the first two collections on Latina/o-Canadian performance, which establish the field of Latina/o performance studies in Canada. She is the recipient of the 2013 Richard Plant Essay Prize and the Robert G. Lawrence emerging scholar prize, both by the Canadian Association of Theatre Research.