I am an Associate Professor in Human Geography and the Geohumanities at Swansea University. My research focuses on the intersections between geography and the performing arts (especially theatre and dance), though like most geographers working in a creative field, my interests extend into other domains, including the visual and literary arts.
I am one of the Reviews Editors for cultural geographies and in 2017 was awarded the Dillwyn Medal by the Learned Society of Wales for the Creative Arts and Humanities. I sit on the board of Papertrail Theatre Company in Cardiff and recently collaborated with Bridget Keehan on a soundscape entitled ‘Our Place’ through a Leverhulme Trust Artist-in-Residence grant. My main research focuses on dance in contemporary Cambodia regarding the legacies of war and genocide. I am researching the first Cambodian dance tour to the West after the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979) and Vietnamese occupation (1979-1989) which was in 1990 to the UK. This research is being funded through a British Academy-Leverhulme Trust small grant. I was also recently awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (which I will begin in February 2019 for just over a year) to conduct more research and complete a monograph on dance in post-conflict Cambodia. Elswhere, I am working on an interdisciplinary project funded by the Welsh Crucible on the re-construction of marine environments through literary and scientific sources, and collaborating with Dr Steph Januchowski-Hartley in Biosciences on poetry as an ‘art-sci method.’ I blog about my work here.
I specialise in researching British East Asian, Asian American and South East Asian theatres – but at present am especially concerned with the relationship between theatre/dance, war and geopolitics. In previous research I documented how refugee Lao Americans created theatre that dealt with the consequences of an often forgotten/denied episode of the Vietnam War: the ‘Secret War’ against Laos. More recently, I have been developing this work in relation to the Cambodian civil war and the resulting Khmer Rouge genocide. Here, my research is concerned with how national identities are recovered, reworked and embodied in performance, how war and traumatic events can be represented on stage – particularly in ways that attend to their affective ambiguity, and the politics surrounding this process. This is important in contexts where the neoliberal state is open to transnational forces that promote creative experimentation, resulting in performances that potentially conflict with the agendas and ideologies of authoritarian regimes. I am also beginning to investigate how we might view artists as geopolitical agents – from Cold War defectors, to cultural intermediaries that facilitate inter-state and inter-ideological relations.