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Dr Rachel Hann

Assistant Professor

Department: Arts

Dr Rachel Hann is a cultural scenographer who researches more-than-human cultures of performance design, climate crisis, and trans performance. 

'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.

Since 2019, Rachel has been investigating trans and nonbinary approaches to performance making. This includes 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 events in Liverpool, Helsinki, Prague, Guildford, and Oslo. Rachel has 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 Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) Early Career Prize 2017 for 'leadership in the areas of costume and practice research'.

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)

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 techne)
  • Michelle Man (light and dance) (Surrey)
  • Anna-Helena McLean (Feminisms, physiovocality, and Gardzienice) (Guildhall) 
  • Will Osmond (Live Action Role Play and performance) (Surrey)
  • 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)

Examined PhDs: 7 at Royal College of Art, University College London, Brunel University, Goldsmiths, University of Wollongong, Southern Queensland University, and Surrey (as internal). 

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.

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). 

From 2013-2018, Rachel was an Executive Officer for TaPRA after having been 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 experiences as a trans woman, I also have an emerging interest in what trans* performance (defined as performances made by and for gender variant individuals) can offer as an approach to non-binary performance making. These research projects align in my forthcoming chapter Gender-Assemblages: The Scenographics of Sin Wai Kin (Analyzing Gender in Performance, Palgrave).

Research interests

  • 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
  • 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

  • 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 Anarchive and Performance: Reactivating the Jean Spencer Archives Start Date: 18/01/2021

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


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