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Puppetry, perhaps more than other art forms, teaches us how human projects are accommodated in or resisted by the non-human world. While digital technology executes our commands frictionlessly, puppetry reminds us that working with puppet performers is a negotiation with the agendas of other things, in much the same way that construction or environmental management must see human intentions as part of an assemblage of persons, materials and ecologies. Puppetry is an especially developed art at the CHR, which has worked extensively with the renowned Handspring puppet company, sponsors the activities of Ukwanda, a black puppet company housed in the Factory of the Arts, and hosts Jane Taylor, the Mellon Chair of aesthetic Theory and Material Practice.

Activities in Toronto in 2018-2019 (dates to be finalized after 1 September 2018)

  • October 2018: Animacy and/or Agency in Artificial Intelligence
  • November 2018: Materializing Indigenous Treaties
  • January 2019: Prostheses, Physical and Virtual
  • February 2019: Puppets, Parades and Protests
  • March 2019: New Methods in Puppetry and Material Performance Research (roundtable)
  • April 2019: Eurasian Flows and Migrations in Puppetry, Past to Present
Activities in Capetown, 2018-2019
  • June 2019 LoKO ten-day workshop with scholars and practitioners of the Handspring Puppet Company

Activities in 2017-2018

Activities in 2016-2017 

During the past year, Handspring Puppet Company, in collaboration with the University of Western Cape, has conducted intensive puppetry workshops and parades in Barrydale, a historically disadvantaged village in the Karoo region of South Africa. Through the construction of and care for puppets, Handspring works to cultivate practices of nurture and responsibility among young adults while also enabling artistic approaches to slavery and other incendiary topics through the medium of object performance. Through a collaboration with Handspring and the University of Western Cape, the Jackman Humanities Institute will investigate how puppetry as civic engagement in impoverished communities might inspire similar initiatives in Toronto.

Barrydale elephant and Premesh Lalu 2016Barrydale Puppetry Festival, December 2016. Puppet elephant/Premesh Lalu, Director, Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape. Photo credit: Sonia Norris.

Our second proposal for a seminar on puppetry and material performance was accepted at the American Society of Theater Research.  Last year, Veronika Ambros and Larry Switzky co-chaired a similar seminar with Dawn Brandes and Claudia Orenstein; this year, Larry will be co-chairing with Dassia Posner, Dawn, and Claudia.

"Profile on South African Puppetry." Edited and Introduced by Veronika Ambros and Lawrence Switzky, with contributions by Lara Foote, Adrian Kohler, Sonia Norris, and Jane Taylor. Puppetry International 41: African Puppetry (Spring/Summer 2017).

Puppetry cover


Larry Switzky     Larry Switzky

Veronika AmbrosVeronika Ambros

Jane Taylor

Jane Taylor

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