David Calder

David Calder


  • Senior Lecturer in Theatre & Performance Studies, Drama

Accepting PhD Students

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Personal profile


I am Senior Lecturer in Theatre & Performance Studies in the Department of Drama at Manchester. Broadly speaking, my research and teaching address the politics of performance through engagement with theatre and performance theory (particularly questions of theatrical space and time), political theory (particularly feminist and queer approaches), and theories of space and place. I am especially interested in what happens when theatre claims or conjures space as public (hence my research on street theatre and other performances of public space -- see Research section for details). In both my research and my teaching, I am interested in how theatre and performance work: the material infrastructures that support them, and the aesthetic and phenomenological dynamics that animate them.

Prior to joining the Drama Department in 2014, I earned my B.A. in French from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and completed my Ph.D., titled "Visible Machinery: Street Theatre and Industrial Space in Contemporary France," at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. I conducted fieldwork for my doctorate as a Fulbright Fellow in France.

I am an award-winning writer working across multiple genres. My work has received the TDR Essay Prize (2012), the inaugural QuietManDave Prize for flash nonfiction (2020), and honourable mention in the Outstanding Article Prize from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (2021). I enjoy working with students and colleagues on the craft and habit of writing.

Research interests

My current research is an exploration of queer performances of public space in 21st-century Europe. The project brings together theatre and performance theory, feminist political theory (especially theories of democracy and the public), and queer approaches to space and place.

Through analysis of performances and their infrastructures (e.g. professional networks, festival circuits, funding structures, even legal frameworks), I aim to trace the performative and theatrical construction of public space—and a contested European public sphere—since the turn of this century. This is a period characterised by debates over the integration (and disintegration) of Europe, national and supranational sovereignty, precarity and austerity, rights and the state of exception, freedom of movement to and within the continent, and indeed the borders of the continent itself.

This project has emerged from my earlier work on French street theatre. In my first book, Street theatre and the production of postindustrial space: Working memories (published 2019), I analysed contemporary French street theatre companies' involvement in urban and regional redevelopment projects in order to discover how street theatre makes sense of urban and economic change. My goal was to show how, 1) the processes of deindustrialisation and redevelopment operate according to the spatial and temporal logics of theatre and performance, and 2) how theatrical events and performative acts make changes in the nature of work manageable and spatial transformations navigable. Thanks to funding from the University of Manchester, this book is available Open Access here.

I welcome proposals and expressions of interest from prospective Ph.D. students in any of the following areas: performance and public space, street theatre, theatre and the public sphere, European performance and political theory, theatre and urban (re)development, theatre and labour, theatrical space, and theatrical engagements with memory and temporality.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Visible Machinery: Street Theatre and Industrial Space in Contemporary France, Northwestern University

Award Date: 25 Apr 2014

Areas of expertise

  • PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
  • Performance in public space
  • Street theatre
  • Performance theory
  • Performance and politics
  • Theatre historiography
  • French theatre

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Creative Manchester


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