The Memory Marketplace

The Memory Marketplace

Witnessing Pain in Contemporary Irish and International Theatre
Emilie Pine
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 06/09/2020
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-04950-6
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What happens when cultural memory becomes a commodity? Who owns the memory? In The Memory Marketplace, Emilie Pine explores how memory is performed both in Ireland and abroad by considering the significant body of contemporary Irish theatre that contends with its own culture and history. Analyzing examples from this realm of theatre, Pine focuses on the idea of witnesses, both as performers on stage and as members of the audience. Whose memories are observed in these transactions, and how and why do performances prioritize some memories over others? What does it mean to create, rehearse, perform, and purchase the theatricalization of memory? The Memory Marketplace shows this transaction to be particularly fraught in the theatricalization of traumatic moments of cultural upheaval, such as the child sexual abuse scandal in Ireland. In these performances, the role of empathy becomes key within the marketplace dynamic, and Pine argues that this empathy shapes the kinds of witnesses created. The complexities and nuances of this exchange—subject and witness, spectator and performer, consumer and commodified—provide a deeper understanding of the crucial role theatre plays in shaping public understanding of trauma, memory, and history.

Author Bio

Emilie Pine is Associate Professor of Modern Drama at University College Dublin. She is author of The Politics of Irish Memory: Performing Remembrance in Contemporary Irish Culture and Notes to Self, a collection of personal essays.


"This is an important contribution that pushes the existing scholarship further in a number of fields."

 (Lisa Fitzpatrick, University of Ulster)

"A brilliant contribution to knowledge and a really enjoyable, accessible, and thought-provoking read."

 (Anna Reading, King's College)

"Emilie Pine's The Memory Marketplaceis that remarkable and rare thing: a compelling, rigorously-researched academic book that is also beautifully written. Its analysis of performance modes representing trauma, abuse and violence – from 'docu-verbatim' theatre and autoperformance to site-specific performance – traces complex lines of enquiry about the idea of witnessing, the role of affect, and the types and exchanges of labor in the 'memory marketplace.' This work is a major contribution not only to memory studies and to Irish theatre studies, but also functions as an exemplar of the ways in which transnational literary studies can illuminate broad themes while tending to distinctions across cultures, spaces and times."

 (Oona Frawley, editor of Memory Ireland series)

"Emilie Pine's important new book expands our understanding of the public performance of painful stories, suggesting that they exist in a 'memory marketplace' that has to be considered in economic as well as cultural terms. Drawing on examples from Irish and international theatre, the study challenges the reader to fully appreciate the relationship between witnessing and consuming in contemporary performance. In doing so, it offers exciting perspectives on major theatre-makers (including Yael Farber, Samuel Beckett, Anna Deavere Smith, and Ariel Dorfman), important Irish theatre companies (such as Anu Productions, Kabosh, and the Abbey Theatre), and much more. Scholars of Irish drama, documentary theatre, and memory studies will find Pine's work inspiring and provocative in equal measure—just as general readers will be deeply stimulated by its relevance to many contemporary debates, notably the #metoo movement."

 (Patrick Lonergan, National University of Ireland, Galway)

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Market for Pain
1. Tell them that you saw us: Witnessing Docu-Verbatim Memory
2. The Witness as Commodity: Autoperforming Memory
3. The Commissioned Witness, Theatre and Truth
4. The immaterial labour of listening: Presence, absence, failure and the commodification of the witness
5. Consumers or witnesses?: site-specific performance
Conclusion: Activism in the Marketplace