Prof. Dr. Katharina Pewny

Director of the research centre S:PAM and Secretary of the exam commission for Art History, Musicology and Theatre Studies

Short biography

Prof. Dr. Katharina Pewny

Katharina Pewny is Professor of Theatre, Performance and Media Studies and Director of the research centre S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts & Media) at Ghent University's Department for Art History, Musicology and Theatre Studies. From 2005-2007, she was a research fellow at Hamburg University and at Free University Berlin, in 2004 at the University of California Los Angeles. She holds a PhD and a Master from Vienna University in Theatre, Film and Media Studies. She wrote her Master's thesis on 'Tragedy as a Paradigm and Construction of the Female' (1993). In her PhD thesis, she applied theories of mimesis to contemporary dramatic art. Her Habilitation thesis (University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, 2009) on the "Theatre of the Precarious" concerns contemporary European Theatre, Dance and Performance Art. In it, she develops the concept of the "precarious" as a new analytical category for Performance Studies. She is a member of the faculty board of the School of Art of the Hogeschool Gent (Ghent University College). Since november 2016, she is also a member of the editorial board of Forum Modernes Theater. Katharina Pewny also worked as a free lance dramaturge, as a theatre critic and festival curator in Hamburg and in Vienna.




Telephone: +32 (0)9 264 41 29

Address: Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 41, 9000 Ghent Belgium (Technicum Block 4, office 90.006)

Office hours: Thursdays, 9h-12h (with appointment only)


Research interests

From her roots in Performance Studies, the body of Katharina Pewny's research is located within the following three areas: 1. theatre history (Greek classics), 2. contemporary theatre, performance and dance, and 3. new media and communication technologies. Especially the ethical, political and social aspects of the Performing Arts and Media are of interest. This includes collective (transnational) memory and theatre history, ritual and spirituality. Recently, she is particularly compelled by Ritual Studies and Interreligious Theatre. She invites Ma-, PhD- and postdoctoral projects on the above mentioned and related topics.

In her doctoral thesis, Katharina Pewny studied constructions of gender within contemporary theatre texts. For this research, she applied Plato's, Theodor W. Adorno's and Luce Irigaray's theories of "mimesis" to the artistic corpus. In her Habilitation thesis on the “Theatre of the Precarious”, Katharina Pewny developed the concept of the “precarious” as a new analytical category for Performance Studies. In the course of this project she has translated Emmanuel Lévinas’ ethics into the realm of performance. For this research project she received the highest funding awards given by Austrian funding institutions. Katharina Pewny thus created a firm link between Performance Studies, Gender and Postcolonial Studies. Her, and her teams, current research focusses are death and transformation of form, representations of the "Other", the interplay of media in performance, dramaturgy and/of new theatre texts, the dialogue and multilinguality on stage in the context of migration.

Research Projects

Current Projects:

  • Spirits of Performance. Tracing Ritual and Religion in Contemporary Theatre in Europe. Monograph in preparation, sponsored by the Flemish Research Fund and Ghent University (research sabbatical).
  • Co-promotor of PhD. Project Dra. Eva van Daele, Distorted Characters: The Discrepancy Between Character And Singer In Twenty-First-Century Opera (since 2018, Promotor: Francis Maes)
  • Promotor of PhD Project Dra. Eun Kyoung Shin, Audience Discomfort. A Study on the relation between audience and actor in Participatory Theatre, read with Martin Buber’s philosophy of Encounter (since 2017)
  • Promotor of Postdoc Project Dr. Jeroen Coppens, Images in Time & Space. The Lives of Images in Contemporary Theatre. (since 2016)
  • Collaborator on the project of incoming researcher Prof. dr. Yana Meerzon (University of Ottawa), Staging Self in the Plays of Cosmopolitanism: Language, Authorship, Migration. Co-collaborator: Prof. dr. Gunther Martens (FWO-funded project on text theatricality)
  • Promotor of the PhD. project Dra. Sun Wei Wei (UGent), Track and Create “Ritual-like performance based intermedia art" (China Scholarship Council project). Co-promotor: Dr. Chokri Ben Chikha
  • Promotor of the Joint PhD. Dra. Hannah Speicher, 1989 and GDR Theatre: The Transformation of Aesthetics and Institution after the System Change at Deutsches Theater in Berlin and the Theaterhaus Jena
  • Promotor of the research project: Choreographies of Precariousness (2014-2018). Co-promotors: Prof. Dr. Rudi Laerman (KULeuven), Prof. Dr. Christel Stalpaert
  • Co-promotor of PhD. Project Dra. Charlotte Dhont (UGent): The Artist as Diplomat in the Public Space. A Performance-Philosophical Research towards an Ethico-Ecological Aesthetic in the works of Benjamin Verdonck, Lotte van den Berg and Thomas Laureyssens (since academic year 2013/2014). Promotor: Prof. Dr. Christel Stalpaert
  • International member of the „Forschungsplattform Elfriede Jelinek: Texte  – Kontexte – Rezeption“. Promotor: Prof. Dr. Pia Janke, Universität Wien (since October 2013)

Finished Projects

  • Co-promotor of PhD. project Dra. Laura Karreman: Capturing Dance Movements, Intensities and Embodied Experiences. Research Into New Possibilities of Digital Media for Dance Analysis and Notation based on Fase (1982) by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and ROSAS (since 2012). Promotor: Prof. Dr. Christel Stalpaert, co-promotor: Marc Leman, medewerker: Dr. Michiel Demey
  • Promotor of PhD. project Dr. Charlotte Gruber (UGent): Antigone in/as Transition (since academic year 2011-2012). Co-promotor: Prof. Dr. Kristoffel Demoen
  • International member of the research project: Elfriede Jelinek, Werk und Wirkung. Annotierte Bibliografie (Universität Wien). Promotor: Prof. Dr. Pia Janke, Universität Wien
  • Co-promotor of the FWO-project Text Theatricality. An Integrated Approach through Narratology and Performance Studies (2013-2017). Promotor: Prof. Dr. Gunther Martens, Co-promotoren: Benjamin Biebuyck, Johan Callens (VUB) en Inge Arteel (VUB)
  • Promotor of PhD. project Dr. Jeroen Coppens (UGent): Visually Speaking. A Research into Visual Strategies of Illusion in Postdramatic Theater. (2009-2015). Co-promotor: Prof. Dr. Christel Stalpaert

  • Promotor of the postdoctoral research project Dr. Irfan Hosic (Bihan University): Portraying the Other. Art and Terrorism after 9/11 (2013-2014).

  • Co-promotor of the postdoctoral research project Dr. Aneta Stojnic (UGent): Body and Its Double (2013/2014). Promotor: Prof. Dr. Christel Stalpaert

  • Co-promotor of PhD. project Marko Stamenkovich, Suicide Cultures. Theories and Practices of Radical Withdrawal - A Transnational Culture and Media Paradigm (since 2011). Promotor: Prof. Dr. Tom Claes



Academic service

Katharina Pewny is convener of the Working Group Dramaturgy (German Society for Theatre Research), member of the international advisory board of the Elfriede Jelinek research centre (Vienna University), member of the "Intermediality Working Group" of the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) and member of the editorial board of the journals Journal of Diversity and Gender Studies DiGeSt and of the journal Theatertijdschrift Documenta. She is also a member of the international board of the Elfriede Jelinek Forschungsplattform (Vienna University). In 2012, she organised a conference on Relational Aspects of Dramaturgy in cooperation with Johan Callens (VUB) and Katrien Vuylsteke-Vanfleteren. In march 2014, she organised the international conference Occupy Antigone together with Charlotte Gruber. From 2013 until 2018, she was also member of the board of the School of Art of the Hogeschool Gent (Ghent University College). Since 2017, Prof. Pewny is also a founding member of EASTAP (European Association for the Study of Theatre and Performance).

She is also editor of the following publication series:

  • (co-)editor of the publication series Studies in Performing Arts & Media (Academia Press Ghent)
  • (co-)editor of the publication series AGENT. New Theses in Performance Research (Tectum Verlag)
  • Member of the editorial board of the journal Forum Modernes Theater (since 11/16)

  • Member of the editorial board of the journal “Performance, Religion, Spirituality.” PRS is a peer-reviewed, online, open-access journal published in affiliation with the Performance and Religion Working Group with the International Federation of Theatre Researchers (IFTR) and the Religion and Theatre Focus Group with the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE)

She is peer reviewer for funding institutions, international journals and publishing houses in Belgium, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, in the UK, in the US, and in Canada.

Together with Inge Arteel (Free University Brussels), she is also director of the Joint Research Group THALIA. Interplay of Theatre, Literature and Media in Performance.


Public service

  • Partner of the Neues Institut für Dramatisches Schreiben (NIDS) Berlin
  • Dramaturge for Victoria Hauke’s choreography ‘( ) else’, Sprechwerk Hamburg (2009)
  • Member of the Theatre and Performance Jury, City of Hamburg (2006-2008)
  • Curator and chair of theoretical discussions at the international theatre and performance festival ‘Her Position in Transition’ (Vienna 2006)