Luis Carlos Sotelo-Castro (PhD) was Concordia’s Canada Research Chair in Oral History Performance (OHP) between 2016 and 2021. He is Associate Professor in the Theatre Department, and co-director of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS). A Canada Foundation for Innovation Infrastructure Grant enabled him to create the Acts of Listening Lab (ALLab) in 2018. Based at the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (LB.1042, ), the ALLab is a world-leading hub set up to investigate the transformative power of listening to personal narratives by survivors of social trauma. With state-of-the art technology and a performance space, the ALLab brings together sound art, performance, oral history, and social innovation methodologies to support conversations (or rather, listening processes) that matter. In his research and teaching, performance creation, social drama, oral history, community-building, memory studies, trauma studies, political philosophy, and audience participation combine to engage publics as active listeners of difficult but crucial knowledge.
He was recruited in 2016 from the University of East London (UK), where he was a Senior Lecturer in the Applied Theatre and Community Arts Program. He is originally from Colombia, and his current research at the ALLab focuses on developing creative approaches to transformative justice processes. He co-founded the Quebec Working Group, an interdisciplinary group of volunteers who have collected a significant number of statements from Colombians in exile in Quebec for Colombia’s Truth Commission. In collaboration with singer Pilar Jimenez, he founded in 2019 the Listening Choir, a community choir that creates acoustic spaces to support collective acts of memory for Colombians in exile and their circles of support. He collaborates with the Essex Transitional Justice Group (Essex University, UK) to provide expert advice on how to stage restorative conversations to the Special Peace Jurisdiction, a transitional justice tribunal in Colombia. Local collaborators who benefit from his research and with whom he exchanges knowledge regularly include non-for profit organizations such as the International Victims’ Forum (based in Quebec City), the Centre de Services de Justice Reparatrice (Montreal), and a network of artists and scholars in Canada, Mexico, Colombia, the US, Australia, the UK and Europe.
Current PhD students under his supervision follow research-creation methods to explore topics in areas such as applied theatre and performance, socially engaged practice, walking as art, participatory performance, oral history and performance, documentary and verbatim theatre, audience research, listening research, autobiographical performance, and notions of transformative justice. Titles of research projects by current graduate students under his supervision include: Arts activism and im/migrant justice in Montreal (Koby Rogers), Using podcasts to facilitate listening to narratives of Colombians displaced by war (Manuela Ochoa), Linking Place, Identity, and Memories through Autotopography and Performance (Nisa Remigio), Walking inside the soundscapes of four immigrant diasporas: a media study on place-making (Amanda Gutierrez), Beyond the Stage: Using Theatre to Create Social Capital (Joel Bernbaum), and Real face Time: Genuine Self Expression as Performance for Social Resistance (Veronica Mockler).
Mediating listening, performing living connections: the art of being guided through someone else’s life story…in her absence
Paper for the Annual Meeting of the Oral History Association. Minneapolis. October. 2017
Participatory walking as aesthetic strategy for transforming a hostage space
Paper for Unstable Geographies: Multiple Theatricalities. International Federation for Theatre Research. Sao Paulo, Brazil. 10 - 14 July 2017.
‘It’s ok not to hear all the story, it’s the experience of it’. On the performative functions of listening in the context of audio-walks.
Paper for the Annual Meeting of the International Listening Association. Nebraska.June. 2017
Vocabulario Crítico para el análisis de Puestas en escena de Historia Oral
Paper in Spanish for the National Meeting of the Oral History Association (Colectivo de History Oral). Colombia. May 2017.
The aesthetics of intercultural listening within a theatrical frame
Paper for Migration/Representation/Stereotypes Conference. Univ. of Ottawa. April 2017.
Oral History Performance
Students in Oral History Performance will study a range of approaches to combining oral history interviewing techniques with socially engaged performance strategies within the context of the ethics and politics of this emerging practice. Students will develop skills in acting, researching, and devising within a range of memory-based performance practices including oral history performance, documentary and verbatim theatre. The course will culminate with a final public demonstration of student-devised work, and with a portfolio documenting each student’s learning process.
Politics of Performance and Memory
This course explores performance projects, ceremonies, and live art installations that bring about ways of engaging publics with processes of collective remembrance. It pays attention to the question of how politics, collective memory, identity, performance and activism are intertwined. It is open for theatre students and for anyone interested in this subject, particularly from a creation-research perspective. I take both undergraduate and graduate students.
Creative Approaches to Listening & Interviewing
Listening and listening-related abilities such as understanding, open-mindedness, and supportiveness are crucial for anyone interested in using interviewing as a resource for gathering information from others. This applies to performance creators (playwrights, theatre directors, etc.) and other artists interested in developing verbatim, oral history, and documentary work informed by real-life narratives; it also applies to any social science student and journalist-to-be, for whom listening and interviewing will be the basis of their profession. In this course, you will develop the skills and understanding to plan, conduct, analyze and submit for ethical approval a verbatim or oral history performance project based on interviews involving specific participants of your choice.
Listening in the context of Oral History Performance for Social Change
Current research projects include:
Engaging performance audiences as listeners of restorative justice processes in the context of sexual violence. (Partnership Engage Grant, SSRHC). Partner: Centre de Services de Justice Reperatrice.
Based on testimonies gathered through recorded interviews, Luis C. Sotelo Castro is producing a performance piece that will engage specific performance audiences as participants in a restorative justice process in the context of sexual violence. Through a technique called headphones verbatim, performers will deliver the memories of a woman who was a victim of sexual violence in the past and of a man who committed several sexual offences and underwent a successful restorative process with Montreal-based Centre de Services de Justice Réparatrice (CSJR).
Diasporic Listening: Performative Interventions in Transitional Justice in Colombia and Beyond. Partners: International Victims’ Forum and Truth Commision of Colombia. (Connections Grant, SSHRC)
The objectives of this project that I am inviting you to be part of, are:
· to identify what do different segments of publics both in Colombia and in foreign host societies know and feel about the struggles of peasant, Indigenous, and Afro-Colombian women who are forced to go into exile;
· what does the act of listening to the first-person narrative of three representatives of an association of peasant, black and Indigenous women of Colombia do in terms of engaging said segments of publics as participants in a public conversation of relevance to advance post-conflict goals such as accountability, restorative justice, democracy-building, community-building, sustainable development, multiculturalism, gender justice, and to raise awareness about the need to bridge the gap between urban and rural areas.
· to explore how publics in foreign host societies may engage in a conversation about mental health practices with refugees as a result of listening to the podcast.
Preventive health techniques for the performer of painful narratives. (Internal Concordia Grant)
This project combines the expertise of Dr Sotelo Castro and Dr Emily Coffey (a neuropsychologist, Associate Professor at Concordia) in order to develop an understanding of how an innovative acting technique called headphones verbatim may be used to enable performers to embody someone else’s real-life, emotionally charged narratives with relatively minimal risks.
I welcome enquiries from potential doctoral and postdoctoral students interested in joining my research team in the following areas:
- Performance of memory and oral history performance
- Performance and activism in zones of conflict, terrorism, and post-conflict contexts (for instance Colombia, Mexico, Canada, United States, El Salvador)
- Participation Performance and Collaborative Performance Practices
- Performance and Transformative Justice
- Performance for social change – socially engaged and applied performance
- Performance and migration
- Orality and oral history performance
- Walking Art
- Performance and Indigenous Peoples in the context of truth and reconciliation efforts
- Listening research in the context of performance studies
- Creation research
Not being able to speak is torture: performing listening to painful narratives
International Journal of Transitional Justice, Special Issue Creative Approaches to Transitional Justice: Contributions of Arts and Culture. Volume 14, Issue 1, March 2020, Pages 220–231, https://doi.org/10.1093/ijtj/ijz033
Enterarse de viva voz de las peores cosas: la escucha en el contexto de actos escénicos que usan la memoria como material en un escenario postraumático
Revista Artilugio Nro 5. 2019
La Acción Escénica para un contexto transicional: casos colombianos
Cornago, Oscar y Rodriguez, Zara. (Ed.) Tiempos de habitar. Practicas Escenicas y Esfera Publica. Cuenca (España): Genueve Ediciones.
Facilitating voicing and listening in the context of post-conflict performances of memory. The Colombian scenario
In: De Nardi, S., Orange, H., et al. Routledge Handbook of Memoryscapes. Routledge: London. 2019
‘Mr. President, open the door please, I want to be free’: participatory walking as aesthetic strategy for transforming a hostage space.’
In: (Breed, A. and Prentki, T. Eds) Performative Landscapes. London: Palgrave. 2018
Looking backwards in order to walk forwards: walking, collective memory, and the site of the inter-cultural in site-specific performance
Performance Research,Vol. 15 No. 4 (Dec. 2010)
Participation Cartography: blurring the boundaries of space and autobiography by means of performance
Ride: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance. 15.4, November 2010
Participation Cartography: the presentation of Self in spatio-temporal terms
CFP: 'Disclose', M/C Journal Vol. 12 No. 6, 2009
Being heard may prove fatal
Sound installation in collaboration with sound artist Barry Prophet and a Colombian family of refugees in Quebec. It will be launched in April 2018.
The Most Convenient Way Out (and audio-walk for two)
Commissioned by International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (2014)
Adapted for Mexico and presented at the 39th Annual Conference in Local and Regional Anthropology of the Colegio de Michoacan, Zamora (October 2017)