The aesthetics of cancer-related performance and its reception in Greece


Virginia Dakari's postdoctoral research seeks to determine the place cancer-related theatre and performing arts occupy in the Greek cultural landscape to this day by means of exploring the ways the (re)presentation of cancer experience affects audiences. The ultimate goal is to substantiate the argument that performance imparts an immense transformative potential felt by all participants and to disprove the argument that hardly any noteworthy aesthetic outcome can be extracted from cancer experience (articulated by Susan Sontag, whose seminal work Illness as Metaphor reflected and influenced cultural perceptions of cancer).

Virginia is interested in cases where the issue of illness constitutes the core of a professional or semi-professional artistic team's work with a clear orientation towards producing cancer-related art events that are open to the public. If some performers/participants have had an experience with cancer at some point in their lives, this will further texture both production and reception and will add different angles to the dynamics of performance and the potential for individual and collective transformation in a Greek socio-cultural context.

Within the gray stretch of land that separates the success story of survivorship and the romantically popular story of victimhood, attempts are made to shed light on what it means to live with cancer (or die of it). By closely following and analyzing cases of cancer-related performance already taking place in Greece as we speak, this research aspires to set a basis for artists to communicate and collaborate, funding opportunities to materialize, and, in the long run, society to become more affirmative and supportive towards these actions. The socio-cultural particularities that will emerge from this study, in turn, will add different angles to the existing analytic framework and prompt contemporary Greek theatre and performing arts interfacing with medicine, health, and wellbeing to enter the picture of the international academic and cultural landscape.

This research is supervised by Professor Savas Patsalidis and runs from November 2017 until the end of 2019.


Vinia Dakari is Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of English, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Her doctoral dissertation, "Performing Cancer: Toward an Aesthetic of the Unpresentable," explores the aesthetic aspects of the unpresentability of cancer in performance and its impact on spectators.

Her current research focuses on the scope and implications of the critical turn in the cross-disciplinary field of the Medical Humanities with special emphasis on the aesthetics and reception of cancer-related performance in and beyond Greece.

Her scholarly work has been presented in a number of international conferences and published in such academic journals as Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Critical Stages/Scènes Critiques, and Gramma Journal of Theory and Criticism, as well as edited collections.

She recently organized a special topic panel, "Illness, Medicine, and the Arts: Rethinking the Human Across Spaces of Knowledge, Creation, and Healing" as part of the International Conference "The Politics of Space and the Humanities", organized by The School of English in collaboration with HELAAS and held in Thessaloniki in 17-19 December 2017. She is co-editor (with Catherine Rogers) of a special topic issue, "Medicine and/in Theatre", of Critical Stages / Scènes Critiques, the online journal of the International Association of Theatre Critics, which will be published in June 2018.

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