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Dr Rachel Hann

Assistant Professor

Department: Arts

Dr Rachel Hann is a cultural scenographer and current AHRC Fellow who researches more-than-human cultures of performance design, climate crisis, and trans performance. She is also a Chair of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA).

'Beyond Scenography’ (Routledge, 2019) is Rachel’s first monograph and was shortlisted for the Prague Quadrennial 2019 Best Publication Prize. It provides the first theory of ‘scenographics’ as the place orientating traits of staged material cultures: from gardening to visual merchandising, installation art to theatre. Rachel has also published chapters & peer-reviewed articles on subjects such as costume politics, heritage visualization, practice research, & the performativity of architecture.

In 2023, Rachel was awarded an AHRC Fellowship for the project 'Trans Performance Now: Glitching cisgenderism'. This 2-year study will centre on investigations of trans and nonbinary approaches to performance making, as well as the cultural standpoint of 'transness' more generally. Rachel's work on trans performance to date spans arguments for 'atmospherics' as nonbinary stage aesthetics and 'gender-assemblages' to analyse the more-than-human practices of gendering. The overall objective of this ongoing enquiry is to platform the vitality of trans and nonbinary experiences in understanding the impact of cisgenderism on artists, audiences, and academics. 

In 2013, Rachel co-founded the biennial conference & exhibition Critical Costume. This international research network has since expanded with international events in 5 countries and 3 continents. Rachel led a number of Critical Costume's core activities including co-convening the first and third main conferences, co-editorship of a special issue of Scene (Intellect) & writing the organisation’s first constitution. Her work in the formation of this network was shortlisted for the TaPRA Early Career Prize 2017 for 'leadership in the areas of costume and practice research'.

Rachel is currently supervising several PhD projects. Please see a full list of projects in the Further Information section below. She has examined PhDs at 8 institutions including Royal College of Art, University College London, Brunel University, Goldsmiths, University of Wollongong, Southern Queensland University, as well as acting as an internal at Surrey and Northumbria. 

In terms of university leadership, Rachel has held the roles of (acting) Associate Dean (2016-2017) and thereafter Deputy Associate Dean (2017 - 2020) in the founding years of the Surrey Doctoral College. She was also the Director of Postgraduate Research for the Guildford School of Acting (2016 - 2020) having previously held the same role for the School of Arts (2015 - 2016). 

In 2022, Rachel was confirmed as Chair of TaPRA in coalition with Prof. Royona Mitra and Dr Broderick Chow. Previously, she was an Executive Officer (2013-2018) for TaPRA and a co-convenor of the Scenography working group (2010-2013).

Rachel Hann

My current research focuses on how 'world imaginations' are practiced in an era of climate crisis, which draws upon Global South epistemologies (pluriversal thinking) and ideas associated with 'new materialism' (assemblage theory). These will form the basis for my next monograph. Building on my own trans experiences, I also have an interest in 'transness' as a cultural standpoint. This is focused on case studies of trans performance (defined as performances made by and for gender variant individuals) and what they offer as an approach to trans and nonbinary performance making. 

Subjects, methods and approaches include: 

  • Scenography
  • Cultural perspectives on climate crisis
  • Trans* and non-binary performance
  • Architecture
  • Costume
  • Practice Research
  • Digital Humanities (virtual archaeology)
  • Modernist Performance
  • Performing Technologies

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Beyond Scenography, Hann, R. 1 Aug 2018
  • On Atmospherics: Staging Stormzy and nonbinary thinking, Hann, R. 22 Dec 2021, In: Ambiances: International Journal of Sensory Environment, Architecture and Urban Space
  • Gender-Assemblages: The scenographics of Sin Wai Kin, Hann, R. 13 Dec 2022, Analysing Gender in Performance, Cham, Switzerland, Palgrave Macmillan
  • Debating critical costume: Negotiating ideologies of appearance, performance, and disciplinarity, Hann, R. 2 Jan 2019, In: Studies in Theatre and Performance
  • Modelling Kiesler’s Endless Theatre: approaches to paradata for heritage visualization, Hann, R. 19 Aug 2021, In: Theatre and Performance Design

  • David Callaghan Technology and Live Audiences: Developing an Understanding Start Date: 05/09/2022 End Date: 22/09/2023
  • Rain Howard Performative exercise practices and non-binary gender expressions Start Date: 01/10/2023
  • Roma Hardaker Trans embodiment and combat sports: Queer subversion, intimate violence and haptic encounters at the edge of legibility. Start Date: 01/10/2023
  • Katherine Sagovsky Rewilding Play: Somatic Improvisation, Performance, and Eco-consciousness Start Date: 01/10/2022
  • Urs Dierker Futuring Costume: A Critical Approach for Sustainable Futures of Opera Productions Start Date: 01/10/2022
  • Alex Wheeler Start Date: 01/10/2021 End Date: 05/11/2021
  • Eleanor Field Mess as method: Exploring Mess and Scenographic Processes. Start Date: 01/10/2021
  • Brighid Black Arche-lithic performance: artists’ performance practice in caves and mines Start Date: 01/10/2021
  • Hannah Waters Materialising Multiplicity: Anarchiving the ‘Lost History’ of Jean Spencer’s Feminist Art Practice Start Date: 18/01/2021

Rachel welcomes applications for conventional & practice-as-research PhD proposals within the fields of scenography, performance in an era of climate crisis, trans* and non-binary performance, twentieth-century modernism, costume, practice research, the digital humanities (virtual archaeology), & architecture.

Rachel is currently supervising several PhD projects.
As principal supervisor at Northumbria:

  • Hannah Waters (movement practice and assemblage thinking) (funded by RDF)
  • Brighid Black (Arche-lithic performance and mines)
  • Eleanor Field (digital scenography and mess) (funded by RDF)
  • Kate Sagovsky (eco-somatics and improvisation) (funded by AHRC)
  • Urs Dierker (costume and ecological thinking) (funded by AHRC) 
  • Rain Howard (nonbinariness, performance and exercise) (funded by AHRC) 
  • Roma Hardaker (trans embodiment and contact sports) (funded by AHRC) 

Co-Supervisor at Northumbria: 

  • Jo Hauge (neurodivergent performance) (funded by RDF)
  • Bryony Taylor (institutional trauma and theatre) (funded by RDF)
  • Eliza Sweeney (affective environments and wellbeing) (funded by RDF)

Supervisor at other universities: 

  • Ele Slade (social scenographics) (Surrey, funded by AHRC)
  • Michelle Man (light and dance) (Surrey)
  • Anna-Helena McLean (Feminisms, physiovocality, and Gardzienice) (Guildhall) 
  • Gemma Kerr (Housing estates and performance) (Surrey, funded by AHRC techne)

Completed projects:

  • Dr James Burrows (memes and performance) (Edge Hill)
  • Dr Emma Deeks (blogs and feminism) (Edge Hill)
  • Dr Melissa Addey (historical fiction and creative writing) (Surrey)
  • Dr Kirk Woolford (PhD by publication, digital media arts and place) (Surrey)
  • Dr Meg Cunningham (scenography and immersive theatre) (Surrey)
  • Dr Susannah Henry (autoscenography) (Guildhall)
  • Dr Willoh Osmond (Live Action Role Play and performance) (Surrey)

  • Philosophy PhD August 31 2011
  • Fellow (FHEA) Higher Education Academy (HEA) 2010

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