Helen Gilbert is Professor of Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London, and current Visiting Professor of Australian Studies at the University of Tokyo. Educated in Australia and Canada, her primary academic interest lies in the theatre and performance of marginalised cultures. Over the last three decades, her research has spanned artistic works and practices drawn from diverse parts of the world, with special emphasis on contemporary theatre in Australasia, Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand. Thematically, she concentrates on issues relating to race and representation, indigeneity, cultural identity, nationalism, democracy, diplomacy and the politics and aesthetics of cross-cultural engagement. Theoretically, her work attempts to extend postcolonial analytical models to better account for performative praxis.
From 2009–14, she led a transnational European Research Council-funded project on indigenous performance across the Americas, the Pacific, Australia and South Africa. A major performance-based exhibition, EcoCentrix: Indigenous Arts, Sustainable Acts (2013), emerged from this interdisciplinary work, along with several edited books, including Recasting Commodity and Spectacle in the Indigenous Americas (2014) and In the Balance: Indigeneity, Performance, Globalization (2017). The exhibition brought images, objects, sounds, performances and live art installations by over 40 international artists to London and was shortlisted for a UK national engagement award. A monograph synthesising the project’s pioneering insights is also near completion; it focuses on transnational aspects of indigenous performance, paying special attention to environmental justice, belonging, commodity culture, heritage and reconciliation.
Professor Gilbert recently completed a fellowship at the Rachel Carson Centre for Environment and Society in Munich, supported by a Humboldt Prize for career achievements in international theatre studies. Her early books in this field include Post-colonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics (co-authored with Joanne Tompkins, 1996) and two award-winning monographs: Performance and Cosmopolitics: Cross Cultural Transactions in Australasia (co-authored with Jacqueline Lo, 2007), and Sightlines: Race, Gender and Nation in Contemporary Australian Theatre (1998). She has also published in animal studies, among other eclectic topics. With Helen Tiffin and Robert Cribb, she wrote Wild Man from Borneo: A Cultural History of the Orangutan (2014), which studies the species boundary between humans and orangutans as imagined by scientists, philosophers, artists and the public at large over the past three centuries. Her research is now turning towards performance and activism in the age of the Anthropocene.