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School of English and Drama

Dr Swati Arora, BA (Delhi) MA (Amsterdam/Warwick) PhD (Exeter)


Lecturer in Performance and Global South Studies

Office Hours: See QMplus


My work engages with the intersections of performance and visual culture, feminist theory, and dramaturgies of urban space in the Global South. Across my research, writing, and pedagogy, I am concerned with how different forms of performance and artistic production challenge colonial histories, epistemologies, and their corresponding debris.

Prior to joining Queen Mary, I worked as Lecturer at King’s College London and spent a generative time in South Africa as Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research and Women’s and Gender Studies Department, UWC. During 2011-13 and 2019-21, I co-convened the Performance in Public Spaces working group of the International Federation for Theatre Research.


  • Power Plays
  • Culture, Power, Performance
  • Performance and Visual Culture in South Asia
  • Beyond Acting
  • Culture, Performance, Globalisation


Research Interests:

  • Performance and colonialism
  • Transnational feminisms
  • South Asian and diasporic performance cultures
  • Postcolonial urbanisms
  • Afro-Asia intimacies

Recent and On-Going Research

Supported by Mellon foundation, I am working on a monograph that looks at the relationship between urban performance practices and public spaces in Delhi. It explores how performances on the streets respond to the neoliberal project of urbanisation and restructuring of the city, while navigating the dynamics of class, caste, gender, sexuality, and religion. I organised several international research events on related themes during my tenure as a co-convener of Performance in Public Spaces working group of the International Federation for Theatre Research.

Alongside, I am co-editing a book on pluriversal conversations on transnational feminisms. This is the culminating output of a long-term international, collaborative project funded by the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education. The essays, interviews, fiction, poetry, and short reflective pieces in the volume offer creative and critical ways of understanding, writing, and teaching transnational feminisms.

With colleagues at the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, UWC, South Africa, I am part of ongoing, interdisciplinary projects on pedagogies of refusal, decolonisation, and feminist methodologies. Some of this work has been published as an essay on ‘Performing Refusal’ in Injury and Intimacy (MUP, 2022) and as ‘A manifesto to decentre theatre and performance studies’ (STP, 2021).

Grants and Fellowships

  • Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellowship
  • UK-India Education and Research Initiative fellowship
  • European Commission’s Erasmus Mundus funding
  • German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) visiting researcher fellowship
  • Centre for Humanities Research, South Africa research fund
  • University of Leiden’s International Institute for Asian Studies fund



I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any areas of my research.

Current students:

Tobi Poster-Su, ‘Towards a Critical Puppetry: Racialisation and Material Performance’ (with Nicholas Ridout and Martin O’Brien)

Public Engagement

Talks, Keynotes, and Conference Contributions (selected)

‘Disobedient Women and Theatre Historiography in India, Decolonial Feminisms, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, 2022.

‘Emergent Methods and Border Crossing’, TaPRA, University of Essex, UK, 2022.

‘Performing Refusal’, Quorum research seminar series, Queen Mary University of London, UK, 2022.

Panelist, In Other Words – Book Club, Live Art Development Agency and Metal Culture, UK, 2020.

‘Troubling Affects in Transnational Feminism’, Conversations on Transnationalism and Intersectionality in Postcolonial Feminism, UWC, South Africa, 2019.

‘Protest and Performance: Walk(ing) in India and South Africa’, In the wake of #MeToo in India and South Africa, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, 2019.

‘Walking at Midnight: Women and Danger on Delhi’s Streets’, In and Beyond the City: Emerging Ontologies, Persistent Challenges and Hopeful Futures, Ambedkar University, India, 2019.

Panelist – The Urban Invisible, On the Edge of History: Photographs and African Archives, Centre for Humanities Research, UWC, South Africa, 2018.

‘Gender and the City: Urban Feminist Performance in Delhi and Cape Town’, Asia-Africa: A New Nexus of Knowledge, University of Leiden, Netherlands, 2018

Be a Little Careful: Women, Violence and Performance in India’, British Association of South Asian Studies annual conference, University of Exeter, UK, 2018

‘Left to “biyaasi number”: Janam, Street Theatre and Urban Space in Delhi’, South African Contemporary History and Humanities seminar series, Centre for Humanities Research, UWC, South Africa, 2018.

Be a Little Careful: Women, Violence and Performance in India’, research seminar series, Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town, South Africa, 2018.

‘Scarred Geographies: Jana Natya Manch at biyaasi number in Delhi’, Cultures of the Left: Manifestations and Performances, University of Warwick, UK, 2017.  

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