Socializing the audience: culture, nation-building, and pedagogy in Chile's Teatro infantil



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Through an analysis of teatro infantil (“children’s theatre”) in Chile, this dissertation interrogates the process of nation-building and social pedagogy in professional performances for child audiences. Postcolonialist theory has typically positioned “nationalism” as a singular discourse or ideology positioned in resistance to colonizing influences. Theorists such as Homi K. Bhabha challenge this monolithic conceptualization, proposing that nationalism is a process and, therefore, continually under construction and subject to different interpretations. My study of teatro infantil examines the ways that theatrical performance has been used in the service of differing ideologies to influence the direction of the nation in Chile. Through an analysis of productions and performances practices over the movement’s history, I trace the different notions of citizenship and duty that practitioners and educators have presented to Chilean children. I argue that performance can serve various, at times rival, ideological discourses in the attempt to teach young people about culture and their place within it. In the process, I interrogate the presence of a growing survival imperative at work in the professional theatre, and uncover its influence on the ways that practitioners construct citizenship. In the process of nation-building, teatro infantil serves as a pedagogical tool to demonstrate for children cultural values, to engage their concern for social issues, and to promote arts appreciation as an important quality in the “good” citizen. In the thinking of these artists and educators, if children successfully adopt these attributes when they mature, the nation will develop healthier social structures, more just political practices, and the future prosperity of the theatre may be secured. The limitations of these assumptions are discussed, yet this study reveals ways in which the theatre may help young people develop critical skills and creative tools that they may use to benefit the culture throughout their lives.