“You must needs be strangers”: Shakespeare and the Scenography of Mobility


Miguel Ramalhete Gomes (University of Porto, Portugal)

Remedios Perni (University of Murcia, Spain)

Christian Smith (Germany)


In a description of the migrant population held in Calais in July 2015, David Cameron referred to a “swarm of people”, a dehumanising metaphor – sometimes used by aristocrats in Shakespeare’s plays to speak of plebeians, peasants and the common people – which showed the symbolic scene that was being set as European governments discussed the migrant question. In the current context, this scene associated with geographic and cultural mobility needs to be set in the temporality of traumatic repetition: Shakespeare’s early modern tragic scenes, which depict the roots of the migrant question at the advent of modernity, can be used to read their repetition in the present. This is not only because we read what is at stake in the present in Shakespeare’s plays, but more deeply, because the early modern period saw the first traumatic scenes of what would become capitalism: enclosure, exclusion, exile, de-racination, de-pastoralisation in the interest of urbanisation and worker combination in workshops.

Through the theatrical metaphor of the scenography of mobility, with the visual dimensions of a tableau, we invite papers that address the question of mobility as represented in Shakespeare, performances of Shakespeare, and Shakespeare in the new media. We are interested in probing dislocation through, as well as the occupation of, space as a political problem and an act of resistance. This implies considering the spaces from and to where characters move, and the traumatic scene that occurs at the borders between the two spaces. Such an approach can be reconfigured as an inquiry into why and how characters are pushed out from some spaces and pulled in into others. The scene of confrontation which often takes place at the interface/border can also be seen to take several forms, from blocking, ignoring, allowing and defusing, as well as appropriating and commodifying acts of mobility.

Proposals will be welcomed on topics including but not limited to the following:

  • Depictions of dislocation in Shakespeare’s plays;
  • Depictions of border clashes in Shakespeare: including at national borders, town borders, generic borders (comedy/tragedy), borders of the self and other (psychoanalytic, philosophical, or feminist), and borders between sanity and insanity;
  • Contested occupations of spaces in Shakespeare’s plays;
  • The early modern migrant question as a source of current migrant questions: the temporalities of scenes of border conflict from early to late modernity;
  • Gender dynamics in migration, occupation and mobility;
  • Economic criticism approach to the migrant question;
  • Shakespeare performed by and to migrants: the dialectics of identity and difference;
  • Performances of occupation: the onstage/offstage boundary;
  • The relationship between tragedy, trauma and mobility in Shakespeare’s plays;
  • National issues (England, Scotland, Wales, France): invasion, migration, evolution and devolution in Shakespeare’s history plays.


Please send 200-300-word abstracts and biographies to, and before 31 March 2017.