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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, Black Study, 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. I have held fellowships at the Centre for Humanities Research; Women’s and Gender Studies Department, UWC, South Africa; and TU-Dresden, Germany. During 2011-13 and 2019-21, I co-convened the Performance in Public Spaces working group of the International Federation for Theatre Research. Currently, I am part of the editorial board of C21 Literature: Journal of 21st Century Writings.


  • 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
  • Black geographies

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. Funded by the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education, this volume is the culminating output of a collaboration with Linköping University, University of Bergen, Central European University, and the University of Western Cape. With a focus on feminist ‘trickster’ methodologies for research that is committed to justice-to-come, the essays, interviews, fiction, poetry, and short reflective pieces in the volume explore transversal relations, ongoing communion with the dead, friendships, decolonisation, and an ethics of planetary sustainability.   

With colleagues at the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, UWC, South Africa, I am part of ongoing, interdisciplinary projects on pedagogies of refusal and critical humanities for sexual and gender justice scholarship. 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.

Jordan/Martin Hell, ‘Black Deviations, Archival Speculations: Black Feminist Practice-led Research in 20th Century Literature and Performance’ — with Nisha Ramayya and Isabel Waidner.

Public Engagement

Talks, Keynotes, and Conference Contributions (selected)

‘Emergent Methods and Border Crossing’, Thinking Migration and Postmigration in Europe through Colonialism, Empire and ‘Race’, Department of Theatre Studies, LMU Munich, Germany, 2022.

‘Disobedient Women and Theatre Historiography in India’, Decolonial Feminisms, UKZN, South Africa, 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 Feminisms’, 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.

‘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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