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Life as Theater: Ander-ing On-Stage

Theater is a powerful metaphor to express the meaning of experiences in everyday personal and professional life. Recently I had such an experience, standing in front of a committee and audience to defend my PhD-thesis Ander-ing On-Stage at the University for Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, the Netherlands. That is the theme of this 41th edition of the Change Letter: Life as Theater: Ander-ing On-Stage.

Life as Theater

Expressing meaning is the essence of dramaturgy: ‘life as theater.’ This is a movement within social psychology that makes the assumption that thoughts, meaning, language, attitude and behavior of individuals – but also personal identity and group culture – stem from the social interaction among (groups of) people. The traditional Thai Khon Mask Dance, a form of non-verbal communication led by a narrator, inspired me to use dramaturgy for my empirical research on loneliness in the everyday lives of expatriates residing in Bangkok.

Ander-ing On-Stage

In the period 2009-2014 I have done PhD-research into loneliness as a form of I and Otherness relationships in expatriates’ everyday personal and professional lives. Based on the approach of life as theater I wrote a play, a farewell party with against the backdrop of a tropical garden and swimming pool of a luxurious house in Nichada Thani compound in the North of Bangkok. During the party (composite) expatriate characters meet each other face-to-face and tell stories about their everyday personal and professional lives abroad. Themes such as home, work, culture, divorces, illness and death of family members are covered in the play. In short, the play is about expatriates’ wellbeing: happiness and unhappiness.

The overall outcome of my research suggests that (1) traditional cross-cultural thinking does not work in practice, and (2) expatriates feel lonely. Driven by my interest in what people moves and inspired by life as theatre, I have devised a concept of individual wellbeing consisting of four stages: (1) to-be, (2) to-be-in-the-world, (3): to-be-with-the-other, and (4) to-be-good. This concept forms the core of my work Ander-ing On-Stage. It is also the fundament of my new program to support expatriates and professionals in the current cross-cultural management industry.

College On-Stage

After five years of study, particularly acting back-stage, I now really wish to take front-stage. Therefore I have developed a new program College On-Stage. In this program, I discuss the different stages of being and how existential loneliness and Self-Ander-ing affects human beings in their everyday lives: directors, managers, entrepreneurs. But also expatriates, immigrants, refugees and students. Nationally and internationally.  

The program will be launched with the Expatriate Archive Centre in The Hague and with the Netherlands-Thai Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok, in April and May 2014 respectively. If you are interested in more information on this change theme, in my thesis, or have experiences you want to share with me, please feel free to let me know. You can mail me or contact me via my LinkedIn account.

Dr. Martin Loeve

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Dr. Martin Loeve is the founding director of Delta Change Management, an international consultancy firm specializing in research, consultancy and education in the field of change management, with a focus on: the human factor.

Martin has, amongst other, authored the management book De Change Maker® (Loeve, 2004) on managing small-scale change processes and the article Mindset Change in a Cross Cultural Context (Loeve, 2007). He awarded a Ph.D. for his thesis Ander-ing On-Stage Addressing Expatriate Loneliness at the University for Humanistic Studies in Utrecht in March 2014.

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