- Career Center
- Theatre Survey
|2017 Working Sessions|
Jane Barnette, University of Kansas
The performer’s face is at the root of our perceptions and performances of difference. Extant stage makeup manuals feature tutorials on how to use cosmetics to change one’s appearance, including one’s age, race, and gender (or even species). Partial and full masks provide another way to transform the actor’s face into various others, as a technology of performing difference. This working session explores the use of makeup in the construction and maintenance of difference, broadly conceived. We will consider makeup, including cosmetics, prosthetics, and special effects makeup from both historical and contemporary perspectives. We welcome contributions about the material history of a wide variety of stage makeup, which can extend to include hair and those elements of costume that highlight the face.
This working session explores the use of makeup in the construction and maintenance of difference, broadly conceived. We will consider makeup, including cosmetics, prosthetics, and special effects makeup from both historical and contemporary perspectives. What assumptions about otherness does the use of makeup imply? In what ways does makeup reflect the perception of ordinary and extraordinary, and in what ways does it participate in shaping those perceptions? How, for example, do makeup manuals and product guides draw on and perpetuate social norms of age, race, class, and gender? Participants might address questions related to the following:
In this working group, our primary interest is in projects that engage in the material practice of makeup and mask-making. We will also consider papers on fashion/editorial makeup. What does the use of paint and powder conceal and reveal? We are particularly interested in how makeup has been used to transform performers into non-human characters, “freaks,” “ugly ducklings,” and racial Others onstage and in the performance of everyday life. Do these representations presume that the face is in some ways a static object that can be framed by a narrative for the audience, but overlook the considerable technology, artistry, and biases that shape that perception, which starts with facial recognition? Even in repose, through cosmetics the face is always already performing.
Before the conference, participants will share critical reflections (2500 words maximum) via our shared private wiki. Each participant will then pose questions for at least two colleagues from the seminar, with the goal of elucidating the crucial elements of each colleague’s project: its context, its execution, and its potential contribution to the conversation. Following a dialogue occasioned by these questions, each member of the working group will post one artifact (photo of made-up face, technical diagram, mask, video, makeup tool or product, etc.) to the wiki; participants will review all posted artifacts as their final step of preparation. The two hours we share at the conference itself will be our opportunity to share insights about connections and provocations across projects, and to brainstorm the next steps for the participants who want to continue these conversations.
For any specific questions, please contact the working group convenors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website here. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group proposals is 1 June 2017 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at email@example.com if you have any questions about the process.
Samer Al-Saber, Florida State University
Although distinct and unequal, the categories of “Arab” and “Muslim” invite similarly charged emotional responses in the public sphere today. These responses have escalated throughout the twentieth century and proliferated in the so-called War On Terror and the ongoing refugee crisis of the twenty-first century. The desire of scholars in the field to explore these categories has rarely gone beyond the use of the “Middle East” as an example for furthering Euro-American theoretical hypotheses. Thus, Arab and Muslim theatre and performance become illustrative tools or means to human rights claims, rather than scholarly case studies of the cultural production of highly diverse peoples, including those holding hyphenated identities, such as Arab-American, Muslim-American, Arab Christian, Central and South Asian Muslims, and other Middle Eastern populations.
Performance studies and related theoretical frameworks have not moved significantly beyond Edward Said’s seminal 1978 work, Orientalism. Unless we increase the number of effective forums for the discussion of these identities, on their own terms, with regional awareness and expertise, this latent neocolonial trend will continue. In part, we intend to explore methodologies that entail linguistic expertise, ethnographic methods, and historiographic investigations in source texts.
In this working session, the conveners seek to gather scholars of Arab, Muslim, Arab/Muslim American theatre and performance at different career levels, for a discussion of methods and theories that address current issues of the representation and cultural production of Muslims and Arabs in the United States and relevant regions in the world. By seeking the participation of native and non-native experts with scholars who wish to develop their expertise, the conveners hope to create a community that holds itself accountable for the fair representation of precarious subjects in performance and theatre scholarship. In the lead up to our meeting in Atlanta, we plan to share resources, articles, bibliographies, and expertise. With the help of this group, the conveners expect to produce a discussion statement on the competencies necessary for carrying out research in the scholarly investigations of these categories.
We invite submissions of 250 to 400 word abstracts. Broadly, topics may include issues of race, representation, method, theory, identity, and mixed identities. We also invite disciplinary critiques in the areas of performance, theatre, criticism, literature, and anthropology. Examples of potential investigations may include:
Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website here. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group proposals is 1 June 2017 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the process.
In the past three decades, scholars have made key advancements in the field of dance studies by situating dance as a vital topic, theory, and method of contending with discursive embodiments. In a recent reflection on the state of dance research, Jens Giersdorf and Yutian Wong suggested a crystallization of dance as an integral area of study in the US and UK academy around three interrelated axes of inquiry: (1) dance as method and site of political agency, (2) dance practice as research, and (3) dance’s political ontology (how the universal category of dance intersects with political, aesthetic, and philosophical concepts) (2017: 70-71) . Departing from the conference theme “Extra/Ordinary Bodies,” the co-conveners hail researchers whose work complicates dominant assumptions about agentic embodiment using dance as a topic, theory, or analytical framework.
Possible interventions into this topic might include papers that interrogate:
Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website here. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group proposals is 1 June 2017 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at email@example.com if you have any questions about the process.
Joshua Abrams, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
Responding to the call to interrogate “spaces of discomfort produced when we speak about difference and otherness,” this working group asks how performances of food, cooking, and eating define bodies of excess, deficiency, or normativity. From Gargantua’s extraordinary consuming body to the spectacularized shrinking bodies on extreme weight loss television programs, literal and figurative performances of eating and cooking have been essential to marking human bodies as extra/ordinary. Food marks bodies as extraordinary through consumption or creation, as in Mitterand’s extraordinary last meal, Karen Finley’s yams, Carmelita Tropicana’s Milk of Amnesia, or Kara Walker’s sugar sphinx. In claiming “only man dines,” Brillat-Savarin uses food to distinguish human bodies from animals, while scientists Richard Wrangham and Rachel Carmody argue that cooking is not merely an outgrowth of but a precondition for human brain development.
Food fundamentally shapes both bodies and the ways those bodies relate to the world through societal construction of taboo and consumption. Recent performances like Gay Bilson’s proposed human blood sausage, BiteLabs’ theoretical “celebrity meat” cultivated from human DNA, and Chrissy Conant’s “human egg caviar” blur lines between bodies and food, exploring the physical and ethical limits of human bodies. Examination of contemporary foodways and food systems provokes discussion of scarcity and luxury, of differences between individual embodied experiences and hierarchical divisions among human bodies and within the body politic. This working group seeks papers and projects which interrogate the role food, cooking, and eating plays in the production, performance and aesthetics of “difference.”
Potential Topics Might Include:
Participants will exchange brief (10-12 page) research papers in advance of the conference, with conveners facilitating a series of pre-conference discussions around these essays. In an effort to respond to the conference’s call to “interrogate, stage, claim, theorize, promote, and celebrate” spaces of difference and discomfort, participants will not only theorize, historicize, or interrogate their areas of inquiry, but will also stage and claim them through the creation of edible elements that enact their scholarship or creative practice into or through cooking and eating as medium, method, and/or event. Participants will gather in advance of our formal working session to cook together off-site, exploring relationships between labor, food, and the human body through the shared practice of cooking. During our formal session, participants will reconvene to share their work. Each participant will have a 15 minute period in which to present both their scholarship and the results of their experiments in cooking, after which participants and audience will explore relationships between and among the papers and food elements together.
Submissions should not only outline the research to be shared with the group, but also how the participant plans to explore that research through cooking and/or food elements.
Sarah Bay-Cheng, Bowdoin College
When we talk about bodies--extraordinary or otherwise--we tend to think about physical beings in the world. However, alongside our physical experiences, we are each compiling simultaneously a record of data, a "data body" that parallels the physical self. For most of human history, such data has been recorded, collected, and analyzed in material objects by other humans. These ranged from bank transactions recorded by corporations, to surveillance files compiled by governmental organizations such as the FBI or Stassi. Since the mid-20th century, such files have shifted from analogue to digital through electronic credit cards, satellites, and GPS. Now, with fitness trackers, smartphones, and social media adding to the vast array of digital personal data, these databodies have become desirable commodities that can now only be understood by machines. As a collection of various performances, these databodies and how they are understood by institutions have very real consequences for the bodies they represent. As artists, theatre and performance scholars, and teachers, these data are ubiquitous within our field, from maintaining our own data collection, to new methods of analysis and publication, to dissemination of academic material online and online scholarly profiles. It is therefore vital that as we engage these methods within our research and teaching, that we and our students can also understand the implications of digital methods in research. This session invites participants to share their tools and methods for doing and sharing their work, while also maintaining privacy in online environments.
This session invites participants both to share methods and practices from their use of digital methods in theatre and performance studies and to raise questions about the safety and security of digital databodies in our work, classrooms, and scholarship. The goals for this session are three-fold: 1) to share our respective practices for doing the work itself, i.e., how do scholars engage digital methods in the collection, analysis, and dissemination of performance scholarship; 2) to draw attention to potential vulnerabilities in this work; and 3) to share and discuss strategies for addressing potential problems, particularly as they affect potentially already vulnerable populations of artists, scholars, and activists. In an age of rampant social media and digital exchange, how does one protect one's own work, scholarship, and reputation online? For artist-activists, what digital strategies most useful for promoting community and access, while also protecting the vulnerability of one's databody within existing surveillance systems? When introducing social media and digital exercises into a curriculum, how can we ensure that our students are engaging fully while also protecting their rights to privacy? What are the ethical concerns of digital research and scholarship in performance? (Here, we might also think about the ethics of participatory performance that digitally tracks or records its audience.)
Participants in the working group will be invited to submit short position papers (3-5pp) outlining their potential questions or project to share. The potentially wide-ranging focus of this working group may require the formation of smaller focus groups within the working group based on these papers and these will be organized in an online session prior to the conference. The session conveners will arrange the various contributors into topical areas (for example, activism and security; digital ethics in performance; protecting your data online; etc.) Online group discussion will precede the conference with position papers shared among the group via the DRS blog site.
At the conference, the session will begin with project and methodology presentations, akin to a digital roundtable or electronic poster session. We will model this on the 2013 Digital Methods session in which several project and presentations are available simultaneously for sharing and review with participants' own technologies. These presentations will ideally be interactive to introduce scholars to new techniques in the participants' own practices and projects. The second part of the session will focus on group discussions of ethics and implications for these kinds of project. This discussion will also focus on teaching digital methods in a variety of environments. Much of the content will be lead by the individual proposals and the format of online sub-group discussion, simultaneous presentations at the conference, and larger group discussion and debate will allow a significant number of participants to contribute to the session, while also allowing for maximum engagement with the issues at hand.
Lisa Woynarski, University of Reading
Responding to this year’s theme of Extra/Ordinary Bodies, the Ecology & Performance working group will concentrate on the intersection of ecology and “extraordinary bodies” by focusing on bodies, both human and non-human, that are not often given visibility. This session will engage discourses relating to environmental racism, queer ecologies, postcolonial ecologies, vital materiality, speciesism and ecofeminisms, to specifically examine what bodies (human and non) are allowed political agency and privilege in countering ecological effects, and their visibility in performance. The concept of the Anthropocene has been critiqued for offering a homogenized view of humanity, one that does not acknowledge the violence and exploitation of colonialism and systemic racism on some members of humanity. As Rob Nixon asserts “Casualties of slow violence - human and environmental- are the casualties most likely not to be seen, not to be counted.” (Nixon 2011: 13) This violence is often enacted both through and on the environment and perpetuated against bodies that lack political agency. The Anthropocene was created by some human bodies exploiting other bodies (human and non-human). This difference is our point of departure. Growing out of the performance and ecology seminar at ASTR 2005/Toronto, and continuing as a research group at ASTR's 2010/Seattle, 2012/Nashville, 2014/Baltimore, 2015/Portland, 2016/Minneapolis conferences, this working group has been at the fore of the emergent field of performance and ecology. In 2017 our focus is on integrating bodies of difference in the human and more-than-human world within Ecology & Performance.
To address what feels in many ways like a paralysing political moment, our group will forego traditional academic papers in favour of bringing people together to create action plans to develop, enhance and effectively intervene in our research area. This format reflects our desire to include different bodies, not only different physical bodies but other bodies of knowledge outside the academy such as artists, activists, and other practitioners. Rather than talk about how theatre and artistic performance can engage/critique/reveal ecological dialogues we aim to create task lists and actions plans of what we as scholars and practitioners can actively do to work outside the patriarchal paradigm to make our field more intersectional, with a particular focus on how we can incorporate this into our pedagogy, scholarship, practice. Current political and environmental conditions – Trumpism, Brexit, climate change, pollution, pipelines, xenophobia –make these issues more relevant than ever and it is the goal of our session to create concrete actions to try to effect change.
Rather than abstracts, applicants should create proposals that address an area of ecology, performance, and bodies of difference, and then discuss how they engage or critique these issues in either their pedagogy, scholarship, or practice. For example, a proposal might ask about how we teach an intersectional approach to environmentalism and ask for the creation of resources (performances, critical reading, pedagogical strategies) for doing so. Or it could take the form of a theoretical provocation. We are interested in proposals for things you are attempting to address (in your pedagogy, scholarship, or practice) or questions you have, or things you are struggling with, or things that have worked well for you in one of these areas. When we meet at the conference we will come up with ways to address the questions/provocations/ideas that were posed and compile resources that may be of use.
Specifically, proposals should fall into one of the following:
Themes that proposals could address include:
In advance of the conference, participants will share their proposals, and related creative works-in-progress, recently completed work or works of interest online. Additionally, they will write short mission statements/contextual statements for their proposals. At the conference, we will form “task and finish” groups to create resource lists, action plans, strategies and shared goals for developing our pedagogies, scholarships, and practices.
Jess O’Rear, University of Texas at Austin
In her 2015 Emmy Award acceptance speech, as the first black woman to win in the Lead Actress in a Drama category, Viola Davis stated, "The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there." One year later, genderqueer theater artist Taylor Edelhart penned a letter to The Public Theater advocating for the casting of transgender performers in the roles of transgender characters, stating that, “[Trans] identities are not negotiable, and our collective ability to tell stories based in trans experiences and history shouldn't be either.” Both Davis's and Edelhart's statements identify the continuous hurdles and pitfalls surrounding representation for marginalized identities in performance. Roles for women of color are markedly absent, and many that do exist create and perpetuate stereotypes to uphold white capitalist patriarchal gender and bodily norms. Meanwhile, the presence of trans characters is on the rise but, as Edelhart and others have noted, casting practices that place cis bodies in these roles reinforce ideologies of biological essentialism, prioritizing and inviting scrutiny of the body to (de)legitimize gender identity. This working group seeks to interrogate casting practices in performance by asking questions such as: How are certain bodies excluded from representation when they fail to conform to capitalist patriarchal ideals? Similarly, how are these same bodies co-opted to uphold capitalist patriarchal ideals through their (mis)representation? What happens to representations of marginalized identities when those roles are placed in the bodies of artists who share those experiences?
This working group will be structured around the sharing and collective synthesizing of research focused on questions surrounding the issue of ethical representation in performance. We are excited to put a diverse variety of scholarship in conversation around this issue and so have deliberately conceived the focus of this working group broadly to consider both the diverse bodies represented onstage and the time periods in which those bodies are situated. We invite papers that consider the working group's core questions from various personal perspectives and methodologies, including historiography, participatory research, empirical research and data analysis. Submissions may also approach the topic of ethical representation through wide ranging theoretical lenses including but not limited to: disidentification, futurity/utopian performatives, biopolitics, affect theory, moral philosophy, and applied or community based theatre theories. Priority will be given to submissions that utilize intersectionality in their interrogation of the core questions, considering how multiple axes of identity and oppression interact to affect the paper's subject(s).
Amy Meyer, Tufts University
Are trans bodies inherently extraordinary? The mainstream categorically deems trans people “other.” LGBTQ and feminist discourses celebrate certain modes of gender non-conformity, but frequently marginalize trans persons. Onstage and off, people learn to understand gender by looking, and transgender embodiment is perceived as defying logics of classification. As Rosemarie Garland-Thomson describes in Staring: How We Look: “Extraordinary-looking bodies demand attention. The sight of an unexpected body […] is compelling because it disorders expectations” (37). Yet defying expectation is not always tantamount to a wish for “difference.” Some trans people claim the extraordinary; others seek to be or become indistinguishable from normative gender performance.
As the desire for strict classification pushes against varying orientations toward gender expression, trans and gender non-conforming people are rendered invisible or unsafe. How can intersectional feminist ethics approach “difference” without relegating some individuals to spaces outside the ordinary? How can scholarship regarding the spectacularization of bodies support discourses of agency and personal choice? Can we reject impositions of “ordinary” or “extraordinary” while acknowledging that the production of identity always reflects normalizing discourses of power?
This year’s conference theme provides the perfect opportunity to ask how we, as scholars, can negotiate terms, identifications, and material realities that are perpetually changing. The task of this session will be to nuance the discussion of trans and gender non-conforming bodies in historical and contemporary performance, and to examine our own acts of naming and categorizing within our scholarship. Participants will debate: 1) Issues of representation in staging gender expression and identity; 2) Issues of authorization in deeming trans stories “authentic” or worthy of attention; 3) The ways in which performances have constructed, rebelled against, or destabilized expectation in characterizing trans identities; 4) The possibilities performance provides for challenging or expanding the aesthetics of extra-ordinary or gender-fluid bodies.
Papers may focus on specific productions, scripts, performance groups, protests, or performances of identity, and might address the following questions:
Paper exchange and discussion will begin two months before our session convenes. Participants will be divided into thematic subgroups, and will circulate initial drafts of 10-15 pages in September, in order to receive feedback and revise. In early November, organizers will facilitate a group chat online as a forum for participants to discuss themes, pose questions, and narrow in on crucial discussion points for the in-person session. At the conference, conveners will structure group discussion to include both working group participants and attendees of the session.
Susannah Crowder, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY
Medieval performance is at once ordinary and extraordinary, a site of both affective familiarity and critical discomfort. This segment of our performance past remains “monstrous” to scholars, made foreign by history despite striking similarities to contemporary ways of being. Historians and practitioners confront this problem of “difference” with regard to medieval dramatic activity and performance practices, staging patterns and material conditions, and audience engagement and players’ experience; we simultaneously grapple with our own “difference” from these cultural and scholarly artifacts, as well.
This session seeks contributions of short scholarly papers that actively engage with questions of “extra/ordinary bodies” in medieval drama and performance practices. Although topics that address medieval constructions of difference are welcome, we particularly encourage submissions that examine the spaces of discomfort produced through modern encounters with medieval texts and bodies.
Some possible paper topics:
This is an on-going working group focused on Medieval Performance, and will be organized as one two-hour session at the 2017 annual conference; as in previous years, discussions will begin in the months prior to the meeting in order to foster a deeper exchange in person. Online conversation will begin after June 30th, when all those who submit an abstract will be notified of the status of their acceptance. The group will include ten to twelve contributors representing both scholars and practitioners of medieval performance. Over the summer, participants will introduce themselves via email and share their proposed topics and approaches. Completed papers of 8-10 double-spaced pages and 200-word abstracts will be due on September 8; the former will be circulated by the conveners at that time. During September and October, specific prompts will foster online conversation about shared findings and areas of interest, in preparation for the in-person discussion.
The conference workshop itself will take the form of a two-hour session consisting of a roundtable and group prompts; these will focus on the individual papers, online discussion, and audience questions and feedback. Organizers will moderate these discussions, posing questions to the group and suggesting possible breakout groups/partnerships among the contributors and audience. Practical steps are planned to engage and involve all those in attendance at the ASTR session: in addition to the preparation of a collective abstract sheet, each contributor will prepare a three-sentence description of their project and its significance. Audience members will be invited to reflect upon and share their own experiential knowledge of the topics throughout the session.
Ji Hyon (Kayla) Yuh, CUNY Graduate Center
As a geographical place, discursive concept, and heterogeneous community, East Asia often appears to be at once an exotic other and “extra-ordinary,” exceptional threat in the Western imaginary. However, East Asia’s internal construction of its own extraordinariness complicates hegemonic narratives about “the East” as always already an object of the gaze of the dominant West. This session, without evacuating the critique on Euro-American hegemony, recognizes the impact of Sinocentrism, Japanese imperialist aggressions, and “exceptional” economic growths and failures of “Four Asian Tigers” as shaping East Asia’s own vision of “extraordinary Asianness” in many embodied forms over time. It specifically explores how a dualistic vision of extraordinary Asianness, imagined both from within and outside East Asia, have manifested aesthetically through performance. This working session continues the dialogues from the 2016 ASTR session “Race and Performance in Transnational East Asia,” which explored framed and quotidian performances of national, regional, and racialized identities ranging from Chinese productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin to aesthetic surgeries as an embodiment of Koreanness. In so doing, this session renders visible the productions and consumptions of racialized self and others through performances in modern and contemporary East Asia.
We ask that the papers address topics including but not limited to:
By engaging in these topics, this session calls attention to the specific cultural and historical contexts that shape many dimensions of “extraordinariness” in East Asia.
As a working group, “Extraordinary Body in/and East Asia” proceeds in three phases. During the first phase, participants will circulate their 8-10 page work-in-progress among the group prior to the conference for feedback. This will allow participants to have more tangible materials to discuss and maximize the limited amount of time given to the conference session. Upon convening at the conference, participants will directly respond to pre-circulated papers to address the theme of extraordinariness in East Asia more broadly. During this time, the session will invite and encourage the audience to participate in the discussion. The third, “post-conference” phase will encourage interested participants to continue to share and develop their works towards more polished outcomes such as journal article submissions or book chapters. We will document these processes online and encourage participants to share their resources on race, ethnicity, and performance in East Asia in light of expanding the body of scholarship.
Shannon Walsh, Louisiana State University
“Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. If you kick 'em all out, you'll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”
Meryl Streep, in her 2017 Golden Globes acceptance speech, characterized Hollywood and the arts as spaces that embrace and celebrate difference, and challenge the xenophobic values espoused by the current administration in the US. In doing so she drew upon an assumed opposition between the performing arts and sports that this working session hopes to trouble. While frequently positioned as fundamentally different from one another, sports and performance are genealogically linked across time and geography.
Taking up this year’s conference theme of extraordinary bodies and the aesthetics of difference, we will take a deeper look at both the borders and fluid boundaries between the performing arts and the physical arts. This working session is especially interested in sites that perturb US, Western, and contemporary assumptions about the assumed relationship of difference between sports and the performing arts. How might these assumptions shift if we consider theatre a sport, or sport an art? How might blurring this line help us rethink the use of the body in theatre? In sport? In what ways do our own engagements with sport and physical training facilitate our navigations of the arts and academy?
Theatre and athletics have historically flirted with one another along the boundary of the aesthetics of difference. For the Greeks, both practices contributed to the education of the polis through the agon where competition in theatre, religion, and art were meant to sharpen the mind, and in sports, perfect the body. Later, Meyerhold, Artaud, and Grotowski borrowed many of their techniques from physical training regimens practiced in gymnasiums, in dance, and in cultures that were not their own, reappropriating them for a Western context. Shifting to audience experience, Brecht suggested theatre spectatorship should be more akin to sports spectatorship in order to create audiences of experts, rather than the culinary consumers he felt populated modern theaters. Today we play out many of our social, cultural, and political dramas through sports. This session aims to interrogate the ties and tensions between sports and theatre as spaces, epistemologies, ideologies, metaphors, and practices.
The bodies engaged in athletics are often characterized as extraordinary, either superhuman or subhuman. From Roman gladiatorial contests to contemporary American football fields, sporting arenas construct social hierarchies built on the difference between those who should be watched and those who have the privilege to consume. As a result, the toll of the training and games is many times disproportionately doled out on people of color, foreigners, and those from poorer backgrounds. Conversely, despite Streep’s characterization of football and mixed martial arts as practices without foreigners, sports and physical fitness have often been the ground upon which marginalized cultures establish some sense of agency and power in the face of the dominant culture’s attempt to oppress and suppress their communities. Fields, courts, and gymnasiums have been and continue to be places where outsiders have found community and safety, and rags-to-riches stories accompany many famous athletes who come from marginalized communities. Frequently, those same athletes serve as role models of difference in a whitewashed celebrity culture. We will question the advantages and disadvantages of being considered an extraordinary performing body and the ideological weight that label carries.
This session invites papers that address a myriad of perspectives and issues related to sports and physical training such as:
Session participants will circulate 10-15 page papers in early October and will be grouped based on thematic, theoretical and/or methodological commonalities to exchange feedback prior to the conference in November. The structure of the Working Session itself will be determined based on the questions and discussion that come out of these smaller groupings prior to the conference.
For any specific questions, please contact the working group convenor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sonja Arsham Kuftinec, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
How do feelings of extra-ordinariness shape populist activism? Citing theorist Jan Werner-Müller, we approach populism as “a moralistic imagination of politics,” focusing on populism’s affective frames of disenfranchisement and indignation. Populist groups perceive themselves as doubly extraordinary. On one level, they see themselves as excluded from a dominant regime of ordinariness or normalcy. On another level, however, populists position themselves as the true People—not just ordinary but uniquely, authentically, and extra ordinary. Ethnographers of Donald Trump’s voter base, for instance, note a shared perception (Arlie Russell Hochschild’s “deep story”) of subjugation among certain white communities. These voters see themselves as left out of ordinary access to resources and opportunities, supplanted from their place in line by (minority) upstarts and condescending elites. Although this narrative jars with sociological evidence about the persistence of white advantage, verifiable facts mean less to social groups than affective framings. The deep story of extra-ordinariness trumps statistical data. But populist affects are by no means exclusive to the right. The noble audacity of any number of progressive social justice movements carries a populist flavor: we, the left-out, assert ourselves as the People. Such a claim—often in the face of contrary realities—can propel justice movements to reshape the democratic landscape. Given populism’s power and perils, we pose a number of questions. How do social movements use performance to mobilize populist feelings of extra-ordinariness? How do activist performances manifest or mitigate populism’s dangerous potentials? How might global/transnational movements offer alternative models for US-based populist efforts?
Our goals for this session involve three interventions into scholarship about activist performance. First, we seek careful, nuanced studies of the populist movements so resurgent in the past few years. In particular, we want to move beyond the facile use of “populism” as a purely pejorative frame for “right-wing movements we oppose.” Second, we wish to acknowledge and explore structural similarities between left-progressive and right-conservative activist strategies, further sharpening the tools scholars use to describe and analyze activist performances. Finally, we seek to link insights from disciplines like social psychology and social movement theory to investigate how social movements like populism use performance to advance their goals.
We welcome both historical and contemporary case studies as well as theoretical inquiries. Questions or lines of research for this working session might include any of the following:
We propose a two-hour seminar session in which twelve participants share and expand upon conversations and arguments made by e-mail conversation over the months preceding the conference. Participants will email ten-page papers by September 15. Based on the questions asked or methods used in these papers, we will organize participants into four groups of three. During the month leading up to the conference, group members will exchange mails among themselves about each other's work. At the conference, before our main meeting, the groups will meet separately to plan a ten-minute presentation to the seminar as a whole. The presentation will consist of three minutes of summary (what were their contributors' arguments?), five minutes of update (what issues have our conversations raised?), and two minutes posing a “pressing question” to the seminar. After each pressing question, the seminar will spend ten minutes discussing the group's arguments and question. Four group reports plus discussions will take up 80 minutes. With ten minutes of buffer time (announcements, transitions, overtimes, etc.), the first phase of the seminar will thus take 1 ½ hours. During the remaining half-hour, we will open the conversation to auditors, who may pose questions or contributions of their own.
Penny Farfan, University of Calgary
As campaigns for gender parity such as 50/50 in 2020 (US) and Equity in Theatre (Canada) make clear, women’s bodies remain extra/ordinary in twenty-first-century theatre. At the same time, recent global “women’s marches” to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration and social media awareness-campaigns such as #BeenRapedNeverReported make clear that feminism is far from “post” in the new millennium and is in fact highly visible and current. This working session will consider feminist critical interventions in global women’s playwriting from 2000 to the present. We are particularly concerned with how recent women’s playwriting, grounded in the corporeality of theatrical performance, has “bodied” forth resistance to the rendering “extra/ordinary” of “othered” subjects. For this consideration, we seek critical perspectives on works by established and/or emerging women playwrights who engage with and contribute to “larger issues and movements of our time” through their staging of, for example, gendered, racialized, queer, trans, disabled, immigrant, refugee, displaced, sick, poor, overweight, or aged bodies. In this way, the working session will articulate how twenty-first-century women playwrights are “interrogating the performance and aesthetics of difference” and contributing to a complex feminist politics of and for extraordinary bodies.
The working session will be a combined reading group/seminar (maximum 12 participants, plus the co-conveners). We therefore invite proposals submitting the title of a play by a woman playwright dating from between 2000 and 2017, along with an abstract (maximum 250 words) articulating why it is important to consider this work in relation to the above-described focus and objectives of the working session.
Those whose proposals are accepted for the working session will be notified in mid-late June, at which time a bibliography of selected plays (published or in manuscript) will be circulated to participants. Participants will read all plays (maximum 12) over the summer. By September 15, each member will circulate a critical statement on their chosen play (maximum 1000 words). The plays and critical statements will serve as the basis for a pre-conference electronic discussion that will in turn help to generate the agenda for a structured discussion at the two-hour working session at the conference in Atlanta.
Vivian Appler, College of Charleston
“From the Curious to the Quantum” examines how the performing body is rendered explicit within biomedical, chemical, astrophysical, geological, and other socio-scientific contexts. The intersection of science and performance is a site for devising and revising definitions of normal, abnormal, and extraordinary bodies; we welcome papers that illuminate this site within various cultures and time periods. What scientific circumstances render certain bodies more visible than others? How does scientific process—its objective ideals and emphasis on observation— influence notions of biological and social norms? Whose bodies matter to the history of science, and why? How might performance scholarship contribute to an ethics of research that simultaneously documents and challenges racist, ableist, sexist, and heteronormative ideologies in medicine and science?
Topics might include but are not limited to:
This session furthers the efforts of the 2016 working group, “Transfusions and Transductions: Science and Performance as Permeable Disciplines,” but proposals for “From the Curious to the Quantum” are not limited to “Transfusions and Transductions” participants.
There are two primary goals of this working session: to assist participants in making productive and substantive improvements to their articles-in-progress through a pre-conference peer-review process, and to facilitate a session that is fully inclusive of conference participants. Working group members will prepare an 8-12 page paper (inclusive of footnotes) by October 10, 2017 to be uploaded onto the group’s closed page on the ASTR website. Each member will then provide written feedback to several group members by October 25, 2017. During the conference session, participants will gather in predetermined subgroups to extend their feedback discussions and engage with wider questions of interdisciplinary theatre and science scholarship, followed by a full-group discussion. All aspects of the working session are open to outside participants.
Imagining an Other “Eastern Europe”: Performances of Difference in Central-Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and Russia
Jacob Juntunen, Southern Illinois University
In Inventing Eastern Europe, Larry Wolff describes how eighteenth-century, European Enlightenment ideals created an ideological construct called “Eastern Europe.” As Wolff explains, this construct served as a monstrous mirror to the equally new construct of “Western Europe.” Though amorphous, the geography of “Eastern Europe” stretched from Prague to Moscow, into territory we now think of as Russia and the former Soviet Bloc. This area became an extraordinary part of Europe: neither Orient nor Occident, neither entirely civilized nor entirely barbaric, neither recognizable in custom nor entirely alien. It was “Europe,” but seen through an exoticized frame. For example, in his musings on Eastern Europe, Voltaire wrote of a “[Western] Europe that knows things” and an Eastern Europe that “waited to become known.” In so doing, Voltaire evinced himself of the Enlightenment desire to classify and master, and to situate “Eastern Europe” as a mysterious terra incognita. The “Western” compulsion to master “Eastern Europe” has not been historically limited to cultural and imperial domination. Anne McClintock writes, in Imperial Leather, of “an erotics of ravishment” in the narrative of male travel and territorial expansion. The imperial desire McClintock speaks of extended to Eastern Europe’s “extraordinary bodies.” Drawing from historical letters and travelogues, Wolff details bodily incursions the West made into Eastern Europe. This includes Giacomo Casanova—bon vivant of the Italian Renaissance—purchasing a thirteen-year-old Russian sex slave.
The ideological creation of Eastern Europe as an exotic “Other” of Western Europe was built on cultural, economic, and linguistic boundaries, and was carried through to the twentieth-century when in 1946 Winston Churchill described an “Iron Curtain” dividing the continent. The remainder of the twentieth century continued this division through the rhetoric and politics of the Cold War. According to Wolff, Eastern Europe transformed into a construct onto which “Westerners” could place their views of politics, economics, sociological thought, and racial theories. Eastern Europe was not—and has not been—an objective reality for them, but, instead, a way to legitimize notions of “civilization.” Today, this notion persists. According to rhetoric coming out of the U.S. intelligence community, a new Cold War is being fought in cyberspace with “Eastern Europe” caught between the so-called civilized/democratic “West” and a barbaric/autocratic “Russia.” Likewise, the idea of Eastern Europe/Russia being a place for sexual deviance continues with the New York Times recently releasing the “salacious” details of the 45th President’s sexual activities in Moscow. Regardless of the veracity of these reports, it is incontrovertible that the current U.S. President sees himself as a modern day Casanova, who stands before the world with his second Eastern European bride at his side. Thus, from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries, the so-called West has utilized the construct of Eastern Europe as a fetishized “Other,” both philosophically and bodily.
Building on the idea of Eastern Europe as a monstrous mirror onto which the West casts its ideologies and pathologies, this working group takes Eastern Europe’s “difference” as a point of departure. It does so not to investigate “Eastern Europe” from the West’s point of view, but instead, to give voice to the actors within the states of that reified region. We invite participants whose work examines any aspect of Eastern Europe as a performing site that shifts and challenges our understanding of the “abnormal” body/politics and “extra/ordinary” aspects of the region prior and post-1989, as well as projects that address the proliferation and institutionalism of forms of performance that take the East European “extraordinary body” and transform it into a lucrative transnational figure under the demands of global capitalism that may work for or against human rights.
Accordingly, we are interested in a wide-range of topics including, but not limited to:
In early September, conveners will request 5-10 page drafts of papers from group members. Based on common vocabularies, theoretical foundations, or contextual interests, the conveners will divide the papers into groups. Before meeting in Atlanta, the papers will be circulated to these groups, and discussion will be conducted via email among them, culminating in a final draft in mid-October. At that point, papers will be circulated to the entire working group for reading. In Atlanta, participants will be asked to bring an object, document, article or ethnographic anecdote specific to their paper that the previous virtual conversation made more crucial for their argument. For the first half of our meeting, we will split up into the same small groups from our virtual discussion where members will (a) discuss their research object and the question that object situates about Eastern Europe’s Otherness, and (b) respond to the group’s papers and broader theoretical intersections. In the second half, groups will report their discussion and present it to the other three groups and the audience at large, allowing for group conversation. Lastly, we will reserve time at the end of the session to discuss the prospect of an edited anthology on the subject of extra-ordinary bodies and performance in Central-Eastern Europe, Eurasia and Russia.
“I’m the Witch, You’re the World”: The Stage Witch as a Sign of the Shifting Paradigms of Embodiment
Chrystyna Dail, Ithaca College
Actual or inferred witch characters have appeared on stage in myriad cultures over the millennia. There exist witch-demons in Kyogen, the virgins in Hrosvitha’s Dulcitius, the weird sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and the “good/bad” witches in iterations of The Wizard of Oz, naming only a few. Depending on the culture, these characters have been celebrated bodies or harbingers of social instability. The witch, as Patrice Pavis would argue, is “defined by a series of distinctive traits [that] make the character a paradigm, a crossroads of contradictory properties, completely destroying the conception of a character as an indivisible essence; there is always, just beneath the surface, a splitting of the character and a reference to its opposite.” In this way, the stage witch is always defined through a self-other duality; viewed not only in comparison to other non-witch characters on stage, but to the non-witch—or normative—bodies and idealized behavior in society. Furthermore, the witch’s staged body is almost always constructed as spectacular, grotesque, or contrary to normative expectations. Post-Enlightenment staging of the witch’s body are grounded in gendered discourse prevalent in medical, religious, and philosophical treatises of the period. They directly equate witches and women, but as the mirror image to, quoting Judith Butler, “true and model” femininity. This working session asks participants to not only consider how the stage witch operates as a sign within a specific cultural moment, but how the character’s body on stage interrogates/troubles/supports/radicalizes paradigmatic thinking on gender, sexuality, race, age, and ability.
To apply for this working session, please submit a 250 word abstract by June 1st, 2017. Six weeks before the conference, accepted participants will provide the session convener with a seven to nine page paper and one or two supporting images or video files of the witch they are analyzing. The session convener will formulate a series of questions to frame the conference conversation and distribute these to the participants. Each participant will be responsible for reading two participants’ papers and writing a one-page response on how these papers are in discourse with the framing questions.
At the conference, each participant will have two to three minutes to introduce their papers (30 minutes in total). The second thirty minutes will be devoted to viewing the images and videos collected from the participants. The final sixty minutes of the working session will involve presenting the one page responses and holding a roundtable conversation on the overlap and/or differences between the cultural representations of the stage witch addressed in each paper. The goal of the conference working session is introducing scholars studying the stage witch from varying cultural and historical periods to one another in order to broaden the scope, theoretical lenses, and vocabulary pertinent to this topic. Especially significant to the session is how individual paper submissions and the collective whole are able to grapple with and articulate the multitudinous ways the body of the stage witch has reified or radicalized paradigmatic views of gender, sexuality, race, age, and ability. A future goal of this working session is garnering interest in producing an edited collection of essays on how the stage witch has been represented in theatre and performance history as well as the cultural ramifications of this character.
For any specific questions, please contact the working group convenor at email@example.com.
Jill Carter, University of Toronto
“Degrading stuff” abounds—even in theatre programs that actively work to include and incorporate Indigenous bodies into their programs. Many Indigenous performers receive messages that their instruments require radical transformation to become acceptable. Such artists must reconfigure their speech patterns and sanitize their body language so their accents and somatic expressions are not too “rez” or “street.” The Indigenous body—the Other body—must be either “enfreaked” for public consumption or inhibited to minimize the threat that it is seen to pose.
The very presence of the performing Other who refuses to be consumed by what Monique Mojica terms “the pornographic gaze” offers the “potential to destabilize or rewrite existing cultural power structures and establish alternative narratives of embodiment.” And yet, a question remains for those who place their bodies in the fray: How EFFECTIVELY ARE THEY—as BODIES performing resistance—SERVING THEIR time and place?
This years working group will examine Indigenous resistance as a performance that is inseparable from the Indigenous body. We invite reflections on and conversations about this body and its performance as a human shield that carries out the responsibilities of relationship to protect other bodies—bodies of land, bodies of water, missing and murdered bodies.
Some questions to consider, in addition to others, include:
Through a collective investigation of the performative nature of embodied resistance, we hope to intensify the challenge against the continuing consumption of Other bodies— those historically marked for suffering—to consider the processual encounters and performative strategies that interrogate the myth of whiteness. We seek to encounter and/or develop a series of exercises through which the Othered body in Performance Studies might somatically interrogate that myth as she reclaims physical sovereignty, grounding herself (corporeally, spiritually, mentally and emotionally) in this space and time.
We seek brief proposals from scholars and/or artists who are interested in engaging in this collaborative investigation. Proposals should include a brief statement that outlines your research/artistic praxis, the questions you pose in your work, and the issues you seek to explore—issues related to the ongoing consumption of Other bodies that have been historically marked for suffering and/or the performative nature of embodied resistance. Our work together will begin with the circulation of pertinent case studies, photographs, scripts, and video clips. During the months before our November meeting, we will reflect on the materials shared through a communal Wiki page, generating questions and discussion points from this material with which to collectively (re)define discursive and embodied boundaries with the intention of transgressing and reimagining the field’s limitations.
Jennifer A. Kokai, Weber State University
Building on a legacy of pleasure gardens and World’s Fairs, the modern theme park draws millions of visitors a year to ride rides, purchase goods, enjoy carefully crafted vistas, and watch shows. The theme park always presumes an ideal spectator, against which heightened and spectacular displays are constructed for the “normal” visitors’ enjoyment. Rides, shows, and landscapes are crafted for a presumed normalized and natural body to enjoy. Tourist attractions are not simple entertainments, but have significant impacts on culture. Jane C. Desmond argues in Staging Tourism that "public display of bodies and their materiality… are profoundly important in structuring identity categories... And that, when commodified, these displays form the basis of hugely profitable tourism industries.” This working group seeks to examine the confluence of tourism, performance, and consumerism at the theme park and their reliance on notions of normal and spectacular bodies to do so. How have theme parks aesthetically relied on spectacular bodies to create their appeal? What ruptures have revealed their underlying notions of normality and who is invited to participate and who is excluded? How have these understandings shifted (or not?) over time?
Potential topics might include:
Papers (8-10 pages) should be distributed to all session participants by October 1. Leading up to the conference, the moderators will ask the participants to help organize themselves spatially into our own thematic “park” and to develop a “map” for how spectators at the working group might best experience the issues and ideas introduced by the papers through discussion, visual representation, and activity. The goals of the Working Session are to advance critical and theoretical conversations about tourism and performance and to develop the essays for publication.
Aleksei Grinenko, Graduate Center, CUNY
The study of madness has been integral to a number of academic fields concerned with embodied difference. From reappraisals of hysteria in the 1980s to the current emphasis on mental disability, theater and performance scholars writing about representations of mental have theorized and historicized the mad body onstage as a form of gender, sexuality, race, and class-differentiated otherness. This session aims to encourage and facilitate ongoing and nascent research projects in the field of scholarship on madness and promote a constructive dialogue among different related disciplines and intellectual traditions, including feminism, gender/sexuality studies, race theory, psychoanalysis, ethnography of mental health, history of the psych fields, early modern studies, opera studies, musicology, musical theatre, modernist studies. Responding to the conference theme, we position mad corporeality in performance under the suggested rubric of disabled, grotesque, socially deviant and/or morally excluded bodies and draw attention to the continued need for rigorous scholarly investigations into this complex phenomenon, historically marked as Other. In addition to being a term of radical difference, madness enables inquiries into pre- or non-psychiatric forms of mental distress, opening up the space for engaging with multiple historical and geographical contexts. By framing our central subject as “mad” bodies, we call attention to the voices and lived experience of people associated with the global Mad Pride movement, as they campaign for their right to live outside or on the borders of psychiatric norms and definitions. However, we are equally interested in interventions that push back against Foucauldian academic paradigms for madness and reclaim or reappraise the value of medical formulations like “mental illness.” Our hope is to promote an inclusive conversation about madness as a historically and geographically variable object of conceptualization and aestheticization.
While our working session pursues the study of mad corporeality in performance, we are also concerned with re-appraising the methodological utility and ethical impact of historiographic and theoretical approaches dominated by tropes of a mad “otherness.” Following the work of madness scholars like Carol Thomas Neely, who has thrown into question “the durable analogy between Bethlem Hospital and the stage as comparable spectacles,” we are concerned with the implications of what she defines as the historical rise of “lunacy” as “’trade’ for academics.” Thus, we hope to interrogate our own methodological biases, as we consider the investment of madness studies and disability studies in the notions of “a romanticized universal madness” and “a specularized excluded madness.”
Papers can focus on specific performances/productions/theatre artists from a variety of methodological angles and disciplinary locations concerned with mental distress. We also want to encourage contributions that address the state of the field(s) represented. Among the topics we hope to see addressed in the papers are:
Justine Nakase, National University of Ireland, Galway
Responding to the theme of “Extra/Ordinary Bodies,” this working group proposes to investigate the mixed race or multiracial figure in theatre and performance as both dramatic device and material body. Michele Elam notes that in contemporary America “persons of mixed race have been often represented as […] the corporeal resolution of racial diversity and national unity” in what Danzy Senna has termed the “mulatto millennium.” Yet mixed people have always existed, and this recent commodification is just one of many ways in which mixed bodies have performed and been performed both historically and globally.
This working group thus seeks to explore the mixed race body as one of perpetual political performance due to the liminality of racial excess. As bodies that evade, subvert, or defy monoracial (and thus ‘easy’) categorization, mixed race figures in both theatre and society speak to larger issues of authenticity, identity, borders, and belonging. From the mestizaje of Latin America to the Brazilian ideology of multiraciality to the recent presidency of Barack Obama, mixed race bodies are frequently mobilized to stand in for larger national narratives. However, these narratives are often at odds with the lived experiences of the millions of mixed race people living around the world. What can studies of theatre and performance tell us both about the mixed race figure and the societies in which they are situated?
The main aim of the working group is to further engage with the conference’s theme ‘Extra/Ordinary Bodies’ by proposing a close investigation of the mixed race body as both ordinary and extraordinary. In doing so, we pose the following questions:
To this end, we invite papers that consider topics such as (but not limited to):
Working group members will prepare an 8-12 page paper to be circulated to the other members in advance of the conference. The group will be subdivided for peer review exchanges and online discussion in advance of the conference. The conference session will open with participants presenting “lightning talks” on their research (lasting five minutes) to familiarize outside observers with the scope of the session. After the short presentations the room will divide into small discussion groups based on themes and prompts synthesized from the working group, world café style. Observers of the working session will be encouraged to engage in the discussion, or move freely between tables, based on their preference. The facilitators will introduce topics for each table with 15-20 minutes given for small-group discussion. After three small-group discussion rounds, the entire room will come back together for a large-group discussion guided by the facilitators.
Catherine Ming T'ien Duffly, Reed College
In the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and a wider Western European shift to the Right, analyzing political, class, racial, gender and regional division has become of utmost urgency. In this political moment, community-engaged performance projects offer opportunities to acknowledge, interrogate and negotiate those differences, though that potential often goes untapped. At its most utopic, community-engaged performance offers the possibility to negotiate differences within local communities, such as differences of race, ability, gender, religion or class, in order to work together on a common project. Yet, recurrent and well-documented tensions endemic to this kind of work including the negotiation of relationships between professional artists and “community” participants, as well as the negotiation of differences within groups from diverse backgrounds, might also be valuable to consider as forwarding and not limiting the potential of this work. This working group asks what can be gained politically, practically and aesthetically from confronting as well as bridging difference in community-engaged performance. It also asks why engaging with difference is sometimes avoided in these contexts, and offers the opportunity to theorize how participants and facilitators engage with one another in light of those differences. As David Roediger offers, “We ought to be willing to make solidarity uneasy as well, seeking it by owning its difficulties” (Roediger, 245). What does “making solidarity uneasy” look like in community-engaged performance practice? Roediger, David. 2016. “Making Solidarity Uneasy: Cautions on a Keyword from Black Lives Matter to the Past,” American Quarterly 68, 2: 223-248.
The goal of this working group is to explore a range of international case studies that enable scholars to theorize and evaluate strategies for confronting and making use of difference through community-engaged performance practices. Participants will examine how “difference” is theorized not only regarding their particular case studies, but in this wider field of theory and practice from both historical and contemporary perspectives, using texts by Martin Buber, Audre Lorde, and Nicola Shaughnessey as common points of reference. Papers might address the following questions:
This group will be given a selection of common texts during summer 2017 including selections from Martin Buber’s Between Man and Man, Audre Lorde’s “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, and Nicola Shaughnessy’s Applying Performance. Participants will then submit 8-10 page papers exploring their case studies with reference to the common readings.
For any specific questions, please contact the working group convenors.
On Their Own Terms: Extraordinary Responses to Stigmatized Bodies in the Nineteenth-Century Dramaturgy of the Americas
Heather Nathans, Tufts University
Nineteenth-century stages overflowed with character types that represented othered bodies as the subject of spectacle, derision, arousal, or fear. In playhouses throughout the Americas, these figures invited spectators to co-create an aesthetic of difference that encoded certain groups as "beyond" normative categories. Yet throughout the nineteenth century, performers, playwrights, and audiences challenged these expectations, presenting bodies that defied habits of performance and instead asserted the power of the othered body. While extraordinary in terms of “aberrations that produce either fear or marvel,” such performances also provide a counter-archive rich with potential for continued investigation. This working group will provide a forum for the continued exploration of nineteenth-century theatre culture, with a particular focus on those bodies that proved extraordinary in their response to the mainstream stigmatization of the “extra-ordinary.”
We ask colleagues to explore how theatre artists of the Americas challenged familiar types that offered such persuasive yet reductive categories for belonging. We invite explorations of both the archive and the repertoire. Colleagues may consider how technical, storytelling, and linguistic conventions linked to values propelled by the nineteenth-century American theatre economy connected to “Americanness” and its performative transactions. How, for example, did language (including style, accents, fractures) operate in theatre that supported or challenged politics, hegemony, gender roles, and racialization?
Ongoing archival research and the contributions of critical theory have allowed scholars to acknowledge this historical legacy while also finding evidence of performers and performance events that actively fought against oppressive stereotypes and restrictive roles. For example, Daphne Brooks’ Bodies in Dissent and The Captive Stage by Douglas A. Jones identify and contextualize the racist mainstream theatre milieu and provide striking examples of individuals who exploded these seemingly closed systems of representation.
We encourage participants to juxtapose these kinds of moments with social, political, and economic events beyond the playhouse. How did changes in reform culture, medical practice, immigration laws, military conflicts, struggles for women's rights, and African American civil rights demand a change in the dramaturgy of the period as power shifted towards members of traditionally marginalized groups?
First drafts of articles will be due by September 15 for a first round of comments; First rounds of comments will be returned by October 15.
Michelle Liu Carriger, UCLA
At a moment when democratic and diverse bodies are exposed to extraordinary danger, who and what we put on our syllabi, our ability to create safe and brave spaces in which to carry on open conversations, and our commitment training teachers prepared to organize and lead these classes take on a new importance. The university theatre history curriculum may be the most common academic sequence in US theatre departments; a large proportion of ASTR's membership are likely responsible for classes like these in both tenure-track and precarious teaching positions. The challenges with building a strong, diverse, and balanced theatre history curriculum are myriad: lingering Euro- and Anglo-centrism in textbooks and curricula (with concomitant tokenization of non-Western topics as colorful addenda), the burden of exposing students to traditionally canonical texts while making space for women and other canonically marginalized artists, the impossibility of any one instructor developing expertise in the wide swath of world performance history given constraints on time and effort such as adjunct remuneration and balancing research and other teaching responsibilities. This working group seeks to (re)interrogate and (re)assemble our syllabi and in our theater history classrooms, exploring new modes in which to create prodcutive “spaces of discomfort” to speak and learn about difference and otherness with each other and with our students. We are fundamentally concerned with how we incorporate diverse bodies, broadly construed, into our discipline, across the divisions of rank amongst the professoriate, graduate and undergraduate education.
In this working group, we propose to bring together academics who teach theatre history from a variety of positions (tenured, tenure-track, adjunct, and graduate student) at a variety of types of institutions with a variety of approaches in order to work together to share and improve our methods of decolonizing, expanding, and energizing the typical theatre history curriculum. This working group engages with the 2017 conference theme in focusing specifically on how we can incorporate and present the widest variety of theatre and performance's "extraordinary bodies" to a diverse contingent of students with sensitivity and confidence.
The working group will be organized into subgroups of cross-generational participants working at similar institutions, who will precirculate position papers, syllabi, and/or lesson and assignment plans amongst each other. In the working session itself in Atlanta, the pre-assigned small groups will collaborate to present summaries of their work to the assembled group and then we will break out into discussion group/task forces on the key concerns of the group (like effective strategies for training and supporting adjunct and grad student instructors without unduly burdening them, building diverse and effective collections of teaching materials—in all media formats--in conjunction with colleagues and libraries, and working with different types of classes from large lecture to small seminars). The long term goals of this working group include building a database of lesson plans, syllabi, and teacher-training materials; a special journal issue on pedagogy; and perhaps even a new theater and performance history textbook.
David Donkor, Texas A&M University, College Station
The history of modernity, as theorists of decolonization have argued, emerges simultaneously with and through the violence of coloniality writ large. As scholars of the global South, our working group has focused on the histories of alterity that haunt Western performance practices--in theatres, museums, fairgrounds, archives and courtrooms, and on stages, pages and screens--which are derived from the lived embodiment of coloniality’s constituent Others: the peoples of Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Pacific Islands and indigenous people the world over. The production of the founding epistemic categories of modernity, most importantly the boundaries of the term “human,” have been defined against those subjected to the violence of the colonial state. Yet, Saartjie Baartman, the so-called Venus Hottentot, is but one example of the myriad bodies displaced from the Global South that went on to stage epistemic and aesthetic revolutions in Euro-American performances of race, gender, sexuality, class, (dis)ability, and beauty. At the same time, performance studies scholars of and from the Global South are also poised to assess how ideas of other(ed) bodies circulate outside of the West in pre- or de-colonial spaces where the very idea of difference is differently understood. How might the aesthetic categories of Noh, Kathakali or Egungun masquerade, disrupt prevailing notions of alterity that enshrine Western expectations as the norm against which deviation is measured? By drawing together these two strands of inquiry in and from the Global South, we explore new directions for the field as it comes to terms with extraordinary bodies the world over.
Conveners will assign each accepted abstract into a smaller sub-group, whose themes emerge from within the accepted papers. Those chosen to participate in the working group are assigned to one of three or four sub-groups based on the nature of their work and its affinities with that of other contributors. Members of each sub-group share complete drafts of their papers and offer each other feedback in the early fall, with the expectation that everyone will come to the working session at the conference in November primed for discussion. At the conference itself, during our allotted working session time, each sub-group meets for the first half of the session, with discussion of the circulated papers. For the second half of the session, the entire group draws out insights from each subgroup and participates in a wide-ranging discussion of issues in a discussion facilitated by the co-conveners.
For ASTR 2017 our goal is to explore how performance studies scholarship in and from the Global South might complicate, enliven and enrich the timely discussion of alterity and extraordinary bodies that the conference as a whole seeks to stage. The goals of this particular working session reflect the overarching goals of the Global South Working Group since its inception. We seek to provide a space in which scholars working on or coming from performance traditions outside of the Euro-American canon can share ideas, explore methodologies, test theories, and build community. Such a space is particularly crucial in the contemporary moment given the urgency of our geopolitical crises, with the continuing attacks on people of color, the poor, refugees, gender and sexual minorities. Today, as ever, the pressing demand to understand violence and power on a global scale requires work that can speak in rigorous and nuanced ways about the histories and experiences of those who live and work in the global South; a category that requires renewed analysis especially given the blurring of geographic and political boundaries between the West and its Others.
James Harding, University of Maryland
Most people in advanced technological societies are aware of the massive collection of personal data that accompanies their use of cell phones, social media, internet commerce and any number of digital and smart technologies. They are accustomed to the pervasive intrusiveness of surveillance and dataveillance. And they know that one of the most “ordinary” and yet unnerving aspects of contemporary life is the production of “data doubles,” those hyper-real constructs based on individuals’ digital interactions (Deleuze; Haggerty and Ericson). So one would be hard-pressed to find a better description of the massive body of personal data collected by state and corporate entities than the key term of this year’s ASTR conference: “Extra/Ordinary Bodies.” For those bodies of data are extraordinary in their quantitative amount and in their qualitative political consequences even as their accumulation has become quotidian and ordinary. But so too have their effects become normative. Data bodies and data doubles intensify and increase as well as automate and thus mystify deeply prejudicial processes of social sorting that stigmatize differences of ethnic, national and religious heritage, of gendered, sexual and embodied identities, and of cultural, political and class affiliations. In short, data bodies are never stagnant or neutral. They are performative, affecting the material lives and social performances of us all. We believe – and the governing assumption behind our working session is – that theatre and performance studies scholars are thus uniquely qualified to explore how our data doubles remake the body as a social actor and agent.
In this working session, the goal is to marshal our expertise as theatre and performance studies scholars in a collective examination not only of how our “data doubles” perform and of how those “data doubles” thereby reproduce historical prejudices and disparities of power, but also of how theatre and the performative arts might engage, counter and subvert the hyper-normative tendencies of surveillance and dataveillance in society. Participants are thus invited to consider the performative dimensions of surveillance, seeking out its most visible as well as its hidden forms.
Keeping with the conference’s theme, participants might consider how vast bodies of data ultimately discipline the corporeal body. They might consider the taxonomies that data and biometric surveillance perform on the body, parsing it into a hierarchy of data bits and individual body parts that give preference to specific social behaviors and performative acts. Alternatively, participants may examine how performance practitioners investigate and challenge the normative tendencies cultivated by our data doubles. Participants might also explore the uneven and unjust effects of biometric surveillance on the lived experiences of individuals and groups, particularly those from historically disenfranchised communities. Finally, participants might consider the actor’s body in relation to real and imagined forms of surveillance. These are, of course, suggestions, and we certainly welcome participants who are pursuing projects on the extra/ordinary bodies of data and surveillance that we have not mentioned.
We envision a working session of 12 participants, who based upon the focus of their papers will be placed in sub-groups of 3 once proposals have been selected and the working session has been formalized. Completed papers will be due on October 15th, and participants are expected to read all of the papers for the working session prior to our meeting at the conference. The sub-groups will be asked to convene in advance of the actual working session in order to prepare a brief presentation about its members’ papers and about themes and questions that the papers raise in conversation with each other. During the scheduled working session, each sub-group will make their presentation and then respond to questions that the entire group may have. We anticipate devoting approximately 90 minutes of our session to presentations and to an exchange of ideas among the working session members, and then to move to an open format in the last 30 minutes for discussion with those who have opted to sit in on the session as observers.
Mike Sell, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Difference plays differently in video games and the ludic sectors of technoculture. The player’s performance happens in the difference between their activity as operator and those of processors and software. The player’s activity produces difference as they engage game variability and the technoculture in which play is embedded. Video game play is often about the extraordinary, whether it be the violent eradication of the other or the empathetic embodiment of its singularity. Queer play is illustrative. The best-selling Overwatch recently unveiled a queer character, but players have long queered play in elaborately coded in-game performances (e.g., BDSM-inspired “healslutting”), in player forums, fan art, and cosplay. A vibrant LGBTQ+ community can be found on the Proudmore server of World of Warcraft. In Porpentine’s text adventure With Those We Love Alive, we are asked to inscribe sigils on our real-world bodies and to share those inscriptions with other players on the author’s website. Queer game strategies have dislodged heteronormative representations in games and in public commons. And game technologies and procedures can queer dramatic texts, theatrical spaces, and performance repertoires. Continuing the collaborative interrogation of digital games and theatre studies initiated in our 2016 working session, we seek papers by scholars and practitioners that deploy the methods of theatre studies to consider how difference plays in games and game culture.
Our goal for this working session is to identify the ways extra/ordinary difference functions in digital games (both aesthetically and procedurally); in player performances within, around, and across games; in the ludic registers of technoculture; and in the deployment of game technologies, procedures, and rhetorics in non-game contexts. Concomitantly, we hope to continue the work begun in Minneapolis on the development of fundamental terms and methods for interrogating video games and game culture through the lens of theatre and performance studies. Ultimately, we seek to work with and consolidate a community of interested scholars and practitioners to promote critical video game studies in ASTR, in academia, and in the technoculture more broadly. To these ends, we will expect participants to draft and share a 10-15 page essay, participate in structured peer-review groups, and play two or three exemplary game texts to be decided upon in response to participant interests and research foci. The session will be structured to facilitate the identification of key terms, methods, and future directions for the field, including strategies to improve the institutional and discursive position of theater- and performance-oriented critical video game studies. We hope to create a wide-ranging and diverse conversation in Atlanta about extra/ordinary difference. Proposals might address the spatialization of extra/ordinary difference in otherwise homogenous spaces, both in-game and out; the construction of monstrous and sublime bodies and their effects on game play; sites and strategies of digitally mediated ludic rebellion; the strategies deployed by alt-right gamers to undermine social justice movements in the game industry or player community; the use of digital games and procedures to intervene in non-digital environments; identity politics and the digital body; the strategies used by subaltern groups to secure power in the gaming community; coding and decoding difference (i.e., modding, griefing); the queering of aesthetic and procedural affordances in forum discussions, machinima, cosplay, or transmedial hybrids.
We ask that all proposals identify how their work will develop the interface between digital game studies and theatre/performance studies. We especially value those proposals that aim towards broader methodological, critical, or disciplinary claims concerning digital games and theatre and performance studies.
Dawn Brandes, Independent Scholar
In puppetry and material performance, objects become “extraordinary bodies” that are both irreducibly material and implausibly, miraculously “alive.” This Session will explore how puppets and objects become extraordinary bodies onstage; how the bodies of puppeteers and performers relate to objects in extraordinary ways; why puppetry and material performance is uniquely situated to tell stories about and/or for extraordinary bodies; and how puppets and objects act in the service of non-normative bodies politically, socially, and culturally. The Center for Puppetry Arts, located in Atlanta, offers possibilities for grounding our discussions in concrete examples, and for productive exchanges over the course of the conference.
Working Group participants are invited to engage in theoretical, historical, or contemporary analyses of puppetry and material performance. Individual case studies might investigate, but are not limited to:
Papers (8-10 pages) should be distributed to all session participants by October 1. Leading up to the conference, the moderators will divide participants into smaller thematic groups, and participants will be asked to read and comment on the papers in their subgroup by November 1 using our online discussion board. At ASTR, participants will first present brief (1 - 2 minute) abstracts of their papers at the start of the session in order to help familiarize audience members with each project. Participants and audience members will then divide into their subgroups to discuss the themes that linked their papers, and then reconvene with the larger group to exchange ideas. The goals of the Working Session are to provide a broader critical context for puppetry scholarship and to develop essays for publication.
For any specific questions, please contact the working group convenors at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kemi Adeyemi, University of Washington
This is the 2017 José Estebán Muñoz working session awardee. This working session invites submissions from scholars and artists making work about queer nightlife. We want to center the labor of queer and trans people of color, indigenous people, and migrants across the world who apprehend the risky medium of the night to explore, know, and stage their bodies, genders, and sexualities in the face of systemic and social negation. Nightlife, we understand cannot be valorized as a utopic alternative to heterocapitalism; we encourage submissions to consider the exceptional possibilities that nightlife affords minoritarian subjects, while also acknowledging the systemic and social oppressions that impinge on the spaces and bodies being analyzed.
We hope to think about the night as a discursively produced time of both regulation and possibility.
While queer nightlife evokes clubs, bars, cruising parks, and piers, we imagine a spatial approach to queer nightlife that does not set itself apart from domestic spaces.
We are committed to analyses of the political economies of the night.
We hope participants will bring to the table interdisciplinary methods, analytics, and formats to studying queer nightlife performance: documentary film and theatre, dance ethnography, sound studies, cabaret performance, fan studies, analyses of dramatic literature, biographies, and film, etc. All accepted contributors will share versions of their work (up to 10 written pages, or up to 10 minutes of footage) prior to the conference. The conference session will offer an opportunity to discuss individual works, highlight major themes, identify lacunae, and imagine possible collaborations and new directions. Beyond the working session, media and performance artists will have an opportunity to show their work at a pre-planned nightlife event in the conference city.
For any specific questions, please contact the working group convenor at email@example.com.
Claire Pamment, The College of William and Mary
This working group foregrounds theatre and performance in Islamic countries and cultures, and representations of Muslim bodies on stage. Orientalist ‘othering’ into an age of paranoid nationalism has often rendered entire bodies of performance in Muslim worlds ‘absent’ in scholarship (Bell), or created a monstrous Muslim body of surveillance in the theatres of everyday life. Perhaps more than ever, Muslim bodies on stage (and off) have to negotiate an existence in a particularly hostile public sphere. These bodies resort to several negotiation strategies, such as strategic essentialism (Spivak), strategic anti-essentialism (Lipsitz), and disidentification (Muñoz), among many. This working session is an attempt to provide a counter public sphere in which all incarnations of these negotiation strategies are recognized and valued. This year, we are interested in interrogating the multiple ways in which theatre and performances from Muslim worlds, and theatre and performances about Muslim worlds, stage ‘otherness.’ We intend to probe the ways in which a Muslim ‘ordinary’ body becomes ‘extraordinary’ in performance through processes of (mis)identification, disidentification, (re)imagination, orientalization, or abjection. We particularly welcome provocations, interjections, and interventions that investigate representations of intersectionality of Muslim-hood and other racial, gender and sexual minoritarian categories.
Our definition of the Muslim world incorporates, but is not limited to: Sunni cultures of and beyond the Middle East; Shi’a countries such as Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain (including Shi’a minorities in predominantly Sunni countries); Ibadis of Oman, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and East Africa; and other often overlooked populations of the Islamic world, such as Muslim China; as well as hyphenated bodies of minorities on stage.
The working group is committed to interrogating the multiple ways Muslim bodies are (re)presented on stage, in everyday life, and in the archive. In what ways do performances of Muslim Worlds (re)present, perform, and (re)imagine ‘otherness’ on stage? We intend to define ‘other’ in the broadest way possible. Examples might include (but are not limited to) staging the white body as ‘other’ (invader, colonizer, or simply objects of desire), performances of political protest, performances of piety to the dictatorial regimes, performances of piety, trans* performances in the minoritarian sphere of Pakistan’s Sufi shrines, and subversive representations in times of US turmoil, such as Fawzia Mirza's embodiment of Ayesha Ali Trump, Donald Trump's illegitimate Muslim daughter. We invite scholarship that reimagines what Muslim performance entails. Papers may address various aspects of Muslim performance through such areas as:
Participants will circulate 8-10 page papers via email by mid September 2017. These papers will be organized into subgroups with thematic similarities by the conveners. In the weeks leading up to the conference, subgroups will exchange feedback on the papers and identify key points of contact and questions to bring to our in-person meeting in Atlanta, GA. Our meeting will begin with brief summaries of key issues by each of the subgroups, followed by commentary from the conveners. We will then move to a large group discussion with questions drawn from the full range of papers submitted and end with questions from observers. While the annual conference is an opportunity to further discuss the works of participants, conveners intend to maintain an open dialogue that sustains throughout the upcoming years. The journal of performance and religion, Ecumenica hopes to develop a special issue from this panel.
Eric Mayer-García, Louisiana State University
How are transgressive performances remembered? In this working session, we will critically analyze the research methods of scholars who collect, describe, memorialize, re-perform, embody, or digitize the performances of extra/ordinary bodies. Historically, people of color, queer folk, transgender communities, indigenous peoples, people in poverty, people with disabilities, or cultural minorities in diaspora have held a rightful distrust of governments and colonial institutions that archive their cultures, traditions, and performances of resistance as deviance or pathology. Alternative archival practices in private spaces or coded forms remain invisible or illegible to the collecting practices of academic researchers. Following Fred Moten and Alexandra Vazquez, we assert that transgressive performances both challenge and evade the power structures that seek to erase difference. In addition to the unique demands transgressive performances and their elusiveness place on research methods, the digitization of archival materials and social media continue to expand the breadth of memory even further, and perhaps, include disembodied transcripts from extra/ordinary sources.
“Residual Transgressions” proposes an urgently needed conversation on research methodologies driven by questions, such as: How do established archival practices attempt to normalize extra/ordinary bodies or supplant difference with universal humanism? What is it about the conventional construction of the archive, the ethnographic site, or the performance event that prompts an erasure of difference? How do these questions re-open conversations about the colonizing of extra/ordinary subjects in our practices as scholars documenting the remnants of transgressive performances? How can established critical theory, like Muñoz’s Disidentifications, be employed innovatively to disrupt normative practices of reception, reading, and representation?
Our working session seeks to create a collaborative discussion on performance studies research practices. We aim to bring together theorists, historians, ethnographers, archivists, and librarians who work with a range of sources remembering performances that challenge structures of power and celebrate difference. We will explore living archives that are generative to nurturing extra/ordinary subjects and what they have to say. We also are interested in practices that unsettle temporalities relying on Eurochronology, linearity, and compartmentalization. By grappling with questions prompted by transgressive performances and alternative practices of remembering, we hope to approach a provocative theory of the performance archive, one that is inclusive of multiple bodies of knowledge and traditions of remembering. Our work urges the consideration of excessive, unruly, and monstrous assemblages of knowledge.
We encourage scholars to submit abstracts for papers addressing, but not limited to, the following topics:
Selected scholars will write a 10-15-page paper on critical research practices that will be shared with the entire working group by October 2. After the papers are submitted, the co-conveners will organize participants into subgroups focused on similar or complementary concerns regarding research methodologies. Subgroups will exchange feedback on each other’s papers by October 23. By October 30, individual participants will submit to the entire working session, a response commenting on points of connection and tension within their subgroup. We will break the two-hour session at ASTR into two parts. For the first hour, we will separate into new groups to discuss one of four chosen overarching issues brought to light by the papers. For the second hour, we will come together into a larger discussion culminating our working session.
Julia Fawcett, UC Berkeley
How does performance studies make (or re-make) history? How can we use performance studies’ vocabularies of loss, of disappearance, of memory and forgetting, to restore the behaviors and attend to the bodies of the past?
This working session is designed to highlight the interventions that performance studies has made in the histories of raced, gendered, queered, disabled, and otherwise extraordinary bodies and how we access and study these bodies. Against scholars who see performance studies as presentist or who regard history as long-past, thinkers such as Joseph Roach, Diana Taylor, Rebecca Schneider, and Robin Bernstein (among others) have exposed the ways in which performance studies and historical studies might work together to emphasize the political salience and even the urgency of studying pre-1850 bodies and performances. We invite papers that carry on the legacy of these scholars by applying today’s cutting-edge theories to yesterday’s cultures and performances, or that explore the historiographical challenges of doing so. What might the extraordinary bodies of the past teach us about how we regard our own extraordinary bodies in the present? How can we use current theories from performance studies, queer theory, critical race theory, Indigenous studies, and/or disability studies to rethink historical bodies, or to fill the gaps that extraordinary bodies have left in the archives? And what theories and methodologies can we use to resurrect these bodies and these performances long after their time has passed?
Working Session Goals: We are interested in work that takes a stance and that blends relationships between, for example, history and ethnography, performative writing and historical research methods. This impulse to gather with colleagues includes reflection on the ways and methods through which we teach history and historiography today, addressing the blending of archive and repertoire, intergenerational transmissions in multiple embodied and mediatized forms, cultures of conviviality, and erasure. This work addressing disciplinary turns, political imperatives, scholarly community building, and activism asks us to consider both a performative turn in the discipline of history and a historiographical turn in theater and performance studies.
The aims of the working group include (but are not limited to) the following areas of interest and scope: Locating and building relationships between those who work using performance studies methods pre-1850. Diversifying the scholarly methods, techniques, and subjects of theatre, history in theoretically engaged and rich conversation among colleagues. Establishing a presence for dynamic theatre, performance, and dance histories with critical approaches to archival work and original research. Exchanging bibliographical and theoretical resources within an expanded, interdisciplinary research community. Intensifying intersectional research methods in historiography, disability studies, critical race studies, Indigenous studies, women’s histories, queer historiography, and archival studies. Fostering a site of confluence for performance-oriented historiography across geographies and times. Considering complex, even entangled notions of time, religiosity, and secular practices. Extending conversations among those who use written sources and engage with or encounter non-written forms that may include ceremony, declaration, devotion, gesture, and everyday life. Complicating and intensifying ‘histories from below,’ of emotions, mentalities, and of relational conceptions of body and stage.
Matthew Moore, Muhlenberg College
Performing for/as the dead interrupts the ordinary distinction between ontological categories of alive and not. Ritual and theatre alike open imaginative spaces in which time can be distorted, bodies reframed (possessed, resurrected, de-invisibilized), liveness unsettled, and grief given voice.
Whenever death is made public, politics inevitably come to bear: Creon rules the city, but Antigone undoes him through her control of (rituals of) death; theatrical ghosts manifest the past in the present; funereal processions in Turkey perform a necropolitical analysis of urban space; immersive installations of Aleppo’s garden-graveyards potentiate intersubjective and cross-cultural encounter; an actor embodying Henry V contends with the ghost of Henry and the genealogy of actors who came before him. We are fascinated with death, repulsed by it, and seek always to control it through collective acts of embodied re-membering. Death inaugurates an end, but need not always be the end.
This session explores theatrical and ritual contact with the dead in multiple contexts, asking participants to consider the personal and political effects of such mystical encounters. How do performances reopen and reanimate stories that seem to have been put to rest, silenced, killed? How are rituals of the dead used as mechanisms of control or resistance, transformation and lamentation? How can theatre function as resistance in the face of powers that silence, exterminate, or erase bodies often already marked as other-than-fully-alive? If we consider the actor’s body, and the receiving bodies of the audience, as sites of embodiment, what is transferred, brought (back?) to life?
From vampires to zombies, the supernatural has captured contemporary imaginations--what does the popularity of The Walking Dead, Buffy, and Game of Thrones indicate about our contemporary condition? In addition to papers that take up these theoretical and political questions, we invite performance analyses of actual rituals, bodies, plays, training paradigms, and live and mediated performances including but not limited to:
Catherine Scott Burris, Cal State Channel Islands
In 2017, the SPRG proposes taking explicit advantage of the conference theme to invite papers addressing not only the diversity of extra/ordinary bodies framed by the dramatic interrogation of categories of racialized, sexualized, gendered, or even species identification posed by the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, but moments in the history of Shakespeare performance which hinged on the extra/ordinary work of specific actors, whose bodies were themselves sites of differential aesthetics (Kempe, Robeson). Given the group's history of engaging with contemporary performances, theory, and methodology, though, we also anticipate essays engaging the practices of extra/ordinary embodiment today: the globalized and capitalized bodies of the world festival circuit (the Globe-to-Globe season, for example); the queering of the gendered and sexualized binary in productions that are not so much "cross dressed" in ways that stabilize and so reinforce the hegemony of those categories (e.g. the Rylance Twelfth Night) as working to subvert, expand, or rethink the intersection of gender, sexuality, and the performative; the function of "race blind" or "cross cultural" casting as an instrument that asserts principles of equity while representing practices of difference and hegemony; the "posthuman" infiltration of digital code in the interaction and impersonation of the human—actors and audiences; the recorporealizing of the "body" of the text across contemporary digital platforms; the marks of social class in performance practice, and their extension to notions of performance accessibility; performance as prosthetic; performance as rehabilitation (Shakespeare in prison, in mental institutions); differently- and dis-abled performers and performances.
As a means of focusing the papers, which we expect to explore a wide range of questions having to do with Shakespearean performance and extra/ordinary embodiment, the conveners will identify 3-4 common texts for the seminar, and papers are expected to engage with at least 1 of these texts. The texts will be selected with the goal of incorporating into the papers and discussions a diverse array of theoretical and methodological perspectives that do not explicitly engage with Shakespeare.
Our working method is to divide into 5 subgroups with 4-5 papers each, guaranteeing a focused and productive discussion of everyone's work; we have also found it productive to come together for part of the session as a larger group, to exchange comments, and also raise larger theoretical, methodological, or institutional questions.
For any specific questions, please contact the working group convenors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caitlin Marshall, University of Maryland College Park
Inspired by Dwight Conquergood, and picking up critical threads laid out by Brooks and Kheshti in their 2011 Theatre Survey interview, “The Social Space of Sound,” this working session listens to the “sonic subaltern:” those bodies that do not so much speak as (re)sound throughout theater and performance history (333).
Over the last several years sound studies has gained a foothold in theater and performance studies, furnishing new research methodologies and modes of analysis. Such scholarly contributions have largely come from critical intersections with black studies, queer theory, Latina/o/x studies, indigenous, crip, and hip hop studies – fields that are historically committed to anti-racist and decolonial investment in extra/ordinary bodies. What sonic lines of investigation in these academic grooves reveal is that while the mainstream (and some academics too) are preoccupied with looking at and producing overdetermined meanings for extra/ordinary bodies, many such bodies destabilize normative spectatorial politics and lived social positions by sounding out subversion, survival, and/or sociality. This is the cultural work of the sonic subaltern.
Attuning to such cultural practices, this working session asks: what are the performance practices and aesthetics of the sonic subaltern? How might we listen for them in the archival record? How do their resonances sabotage, steal away, resignify, and/or produce otherwise conditions of being from those imputed by normative readings of their extra/ordinary embodiments? And finally, why are the resonances of the sonic subaltern so often inaudible? This last question demands an account not of the sonic subaltern, but of the formation of normative listening and its acoustic shadow. Importantly, the working sessions seeks to develop research methodologies for hearing sonic subalterity that do not recuperate normative listening or shift the hegemony of the scholarly gaze to a scholarly ear. Restated, we seek proposals that do not contemplate how to capture or make “good research objects” out of sound, but rather attend to how sound flees, hides away in a fleshly loophole of retreat, or flies just below the threshold of hearing.
It is our hope that developing methods for listening to the sonic subaltern will enable new forms of critical listening in the present political moment. How might listening to the sonic subaltern furnish a template for articulating an ethics and practice of listening to and heeding minority discourse, minor vibrations, and to the performativity of minor silences? And finally, in studying how the sonic subaltern has survived, thrived, and continued to resonate despite master narratives of history that have threatened to drown out such strains of resistance, we hope the session will foster new ethics, practices, and coalitions for the art of living under the current face of hegemonic power.
Potential Topics include:
The goals for this working session are multiple, and are directed towards both scholarly and political activist ends. First, the working session aims to grow a recognizable community of sound studies specialists within theater and performance studies. Work towards this sub-disciplinary formation will allow like-minded scholars to share and develop analytic and methodological tools for an interdisciplinary mode of research that attends to a new stage of theater and performance studies: the sound stage. The ability to form a working session will also enable participants to articulate the interventions and relevance of sound studies to theater and performance studies. Many of us are seeking language to help us speak to and better communicate with our home disciplines and those sub-disciplines that already engage the sonic, such as musical theater studies. Where can we find common ground?
Carla Della Gatta, University of Southern California
Within theatre scholarship that addresses difference based on identity and identification, Latinx and Indigenous theatre and performance remain underrepresented. Over the past two years the field has expanded to include gender and sexuality (as denoted by “Latinx” rather than “Latina/o”). Thoughtful conversations have resulted in the decision to integrate Indigenous theatre into the conversation with Latinx theatre, such as ATHE’s newly-titled Latino and Indigenous Americas (LIA) Focus Group, which signals not only a change toward broader gender inclusivity, but also reflects upon what kinds of performance traditions and innovations, topics, themes and aesthetics are currently most relevant to the field. This change arises at the same time as the initiatives in the Latinx Theatre Commons, catalyzing the creation of works by Latinx playwrights containing Latinx characters as only a portion of the total characters. This connects to the ongoing issue faced by Indigenous dramatists: the perception of a lack of qualified Native actors and audiences interested in plays with Native themes. The past decade has seen a surge of quality Native-written scripts, and a notable but non-proportional uptick in produced plays by Native American playwrights. To be produced, some Native dramatists seem to be testing the strategy of including more non-Native characters and accepting “non-traditional” or coalitional casting practices. This working session seeks to join these two conversations to determine the commonalities and differences between Latinx and Indigenous theatre, and how each is changing in subject matter, dramaturgy, practice, and performance to reflect a changing understanding of identity in 2017.
The format for the working session will be to obtain abstracts from each participant in order to divide the participants into pairings or two or possibly three. Essays will be placed in a shared Dropbox and pre-circulated with deadlines for review and commentary. Participant-groups will respond with comments to one another’s essay and pose two questions. These questions and reflections will also be sent to the session leaders. The working session will be held in a roundtable format, with participants giving a one-minute summary of the their partner’s paper. After all of the participants and papers have been introduced (fifteen minutes), the conference leaders will guide the larger conversation and ensure that the discussion pertains to all participants’ papers.
The session leaders will determine four discussion categories that will advance the conversation on Latinx and Indigenous theatre (twenty minutes each, for a total of eighty minutes). Of critical importance will be larger questions regarding the nature of identity as reflected in these papers, practical concerns pertaining to the production of Latinx and Indigenous American theatre and performance, the role of the scholar/critic in engaging with Latinx and Indigenous American theatre practitioners, and an assessment of the changing aesthetics, themes, and forms in a genre/genres currently characterized by an ethos of inclusivity.
After each topic has been discussed, the working group will identify next steps in the conversation (ten minutes) and allot time for Q&A with auditors (fifteen minutes). The goals of the working session will be to develop and advance the discourse on the expanding genres of both Latinx and Indigenous theatre. Historically, the playwright’s background informed a categorization as “Latinx theatre” or “Indigenous theatre” as well as generalized ideas about cultural themes. Given the shifting borders of the field and identification in the second decade of the 21st century, such generalizations based on aged notions of identity politics may not hold. Rather, this working group will grapple with how the expanded notions of indigenous/brown/native/mestiza/mized/on-the-border/borderless/gender+ are produce and are reflected in contemporary Latinx and Indigenous performance. The participants’ papers will inform the working session and hone in on the most urgent issues facing these fields. This may include negotiating how language, linguistic code-switching, performance venues, casting, dramaturgy, historiography, and criticism have all informed the delineations between Latinx and Indigenous theatre.
Alicia Corts, Saint Leo University
Monsters are linked to the female body in scientific discourse through the question of biological reproduction." The capacity of the female body to grow, change, and produce new life has been a simultaneous source of fear and wonder, while incidents of monstrous births and the opacity of those same bodies drove centuries of speculation about how and why the process of reproduction could 'fail.' As medical understands of pregnancy grew, the possibility of non-biological reproduction in the form of Frankenstein’s monster or Stoker’s vampirism opened new frontiers of extraordinary bodies to people the popular imagination. Susan Caldwell, in a different cultural context, refers to the mother goddess in the Hindu Pantheon as a terrifying mother. The moniker aptly summarizes confusion surrounding the female body in patriarchal faith systems. Female energy is both revered and feared.
We continue to confront the myriad ways in which pregnant bodies are othered today. Insurance companies categorize pregnancy as a disability, suggesting all such bodies are abnormal; accommodation of pregnant and nursing bodies in the workplace raises accusations of special treatment; postpartum issues can permanently alter the female body well into maternity. This working group proposes to study the way in which pregnant and mothering bodies push the boundaries of social, medical, and theatrical performance, particularly when this process results in extraordinary bodies, from multiple births to children born with disabilities to those affected by the Zika virus. In many cases, we can consider the pregnant body itself extraordinary because of the social, cultural, or political discourse which surrounds it--when African-American women in our hospitals die at exponentially higher rates during birth than white American women; when pregnant refugee women are doubly or triply invisible because of the intersections of race, gender, and bodily status;when women with disabilities are confronted by medical professionals who assume pregnancy is not, and could not be, a wanted thing for them.
This working group will begin with the gathering of full papers from each participant. Rather than simply being about the discussion of these works, the participants will also work with visual images and auditory examples of their work that will be compiled into a media presentation at the time of the conference.The biological process of birth and maternity are sensual, and this reimagining of the body through images and sounds will help us consider the body from a different perspective. These sounds and images will be our jumping off point into a wider discussionof the pregnant body, where we hope to consider the following questions:
Paper topics could include the laws and controversy surrounding breastfeeding, the online propagation of pregnancy norms, the disruption a pregnant body can have on a performance, the ways the ritual of birth confines the body’s performance, and the regulation of the pregnant body through cultural and social standards such as “body after baby” and other tropes of female beauty. In addition, this working group seeks to understand what society considers the “normal” pregnant body; medicine, for example, as worked to minimize symptoms such as morning sickness as a way of controlling the grotesqueness of pregnancy. Bodies continue their extraordinary biological journey following birth, and discussions of what makes the (extra)ordinary maternal body is also welcome. From the way the monstrous pregnant body brings the view of society sharply into focus, forcing law and cultural norms to tightly bind pregnancy and maternity performance, to the way that the pregnant body is revered and considered divine, rarely does pregnancy render a body’s performance as anything but extraordinary. We seek topics that explore all aspects of the pregnant and maternal body to interrogateboth extraordinary and normative performance.
(Muñoz working session winner selected in 2016)
This working session is not accepting new applications for this year.
Sean Metzger, University of California, Los Angeles
Description: The “transient performance” working session will examine how Extra/Ordinary Bodies on the move might challenge increasing state surveillance. Simone Browne reminds us that the maintenance of boundaries (national, racial, and otherwise) depends upon racist, heteronormative surveillance technologies. To render one’s abject (or extra/ordinary) body out of sight can be dissident as much as organized marches protesting an autocratic regime. The “transient performance” working group seeks to elaborate on the contingent performances of extraordinary bodies that transgress boundaries in their refusal either to stay in place or in plain sight. How do people use their (extra)ordinary bodies to interrupt/take up space? What are the aesthetics of transience? What do transient bodies look like? What might be the value of thinking through transience for performance studies, in general?
We welcome proposals that treat any form of transient performance, including but not limited to: diaspora and migration, itinerant theatrical practices, performances of homelessness, riots and insurrections, and subcultural movements. We are particularly interested in submissions that speak to the experiences of minoritarian communities in the US and around the world.
Because we seek a wide variety of topics and perspectives on these issues, we wish to run the working session in two parts to which all participants must commit. The first is an online reading group. To establish a common, but not exclusive, critical vocabulary for the participants in this year’s session, we will read together various selections from a list of works that may include the following:
One to two online meetings and/or exchanges will occur over the summer and early fall of 2017. Participants will use these readings as part of the basis for thinking through their individual essays in relation to a more collective project. The working group will culminate in short descriptions and outlines of full articles that will be shared at the ASTR conference in Atlanta. We eventually hope to propose a special issue of a journal or an edited volume based on the scholarship produced through the working group.
Vicki Hoskins, University of Pittsburgh
Stage blood, prop weapons, and stage combat frequently create an “illusion” of violence on the stage, but in “The Performance of Violence and the Ethics of Spectatorship,” Liza Fitzpatrick notes that these illusions should not be underestimated because they are “not real;” rather, they should be viewed through a cautionary spectatorial lens. Through performative violence, Fitzpatrick argues, the spectator can become a “witness to violence and trauma,” which can have numerous effects, including traumatizing, inciting empathy, and provoking social/moral/political action. From early Greek plays to Sarah Ruhl, theatre has long been a site for exploration of violence. Whether physically or psychologically enacted upon bodies, onstage violence must be considered in relation to, as Marvin Carlson has argued, the “haunting” from “real” violence that occurs in daily life. In what ways and to what effects does performative violence perpetuate notions of “real” violence upon the human bodies of spectators, performers, and others?
In conversation with the conference theme, this working group takes performative violence—whether representational, mimetic, or simulated—as a point of departure for examining how violent acts are performed by and upon human bodies. In particular, we are interested in examining how violence makes bodies “non-normative,” “othered,” and “extra-ordinary.” In what ways does, as Fitzpatrick argues, performative violence enacted upon actors’ bodies create a culture of possible spectatorial complicity and a perpetuation of victimhood? Further, in our current moment of increasingly global upheaval, how can performance offer ways to understand violence that have implications beyond the formal performance space?
Considering both historical and contemporary moments of performance, we will interrogate the ways in which onstage violence (broadly construed) intersects with the “extra-ordinary body,” examining such concerns as complicity, trauma, witnessing, and spectacle, among others. Although scholars have taken “real” violence and its effects as objects of study, we assert that mimetic or performative violence—and the ramifications thereof—is an undervalued and under-theorized facet of theatre and performance. In assembling this working group, we hope to engage with diverse methodologies and theories in order to have the most nuanced and variegated conversation about the potential bodily effects/affects of performative violence. Some of the topics papers may address include (but are not limited to):
We hope that, through our conversations, this working group will come to a better understanding of how performative violence affects audiences, actors, and communities at large. Through an examination of the “extra-ordinary” bodies of potential “perpetuators” and “victims,” this working group intends to draw connections between the horrific “real” violent acts in the world and those that may initially appear “safe” or “fake” in performance spaces.
In early September, the working group conveners will circulate a set of short readings related to the group’s themes to provide a common foundation for our conversation, though specific papers do not need to engage with these readings directly. In early October, participants will submit their short (10-12 page) papers. Participants will be divided into smaller groups based upon thematic, topical, and/or theoretical interests, and will share their feedback and ideas within these groups. During the conference session, participants will have the opportunity to share their papers with the larger group and discuss connections between the papers, the provided readings, and the larger conference theme, before moving into their subgroups for more targeted conversation. Then, the entire working session will re-convene to address final questions, conclusions, and discoveries.
Harley Erdman, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
This Working Session seeks proposals for people wanting to participate in this Working Session for ASTR’s 2017 conference, whose theme is “Extra/Ordinary Bodies.” The theater of Golden Age Spain and colonial Latin American speaks directly to the conference theme. Its repertory overflows with such bodies. A spate of recent scholarship, including David Castillo’s influential BAROQUE HORRORS (University of Michigan Press, 2011), interrogates monsters and monstrosity on 17th-century Spanish stage. Appropriately, Castillo’s most recent book, MEDIALOGIES: READING REALITY IN THE AGE OF INFLATIONARY MEDIA (co-authored with William Egginton; Bloomsbury, 2016) applies some of the same critical framework to our current national circumstances. This Working Session seeks to make similar connections. Why was the Spanish empire so fascinated with these extra/ordinary bodies? Why are these bodies so frequently heroic on stage? What might they say in performance today? What is the connection between an empire in crisis and transition and the urge to make a spectacle of non-normative bodies on stage? Our Working Session invites case studies of specific texts and productions to explore these provocative and timely questions.
The Working Session invites 250 word abstracts for focused position papers that stake a claim in relation to the above questions. Once accepted into the session, participants will be asked to share a 2000-word paper, due six weeks before the conference. The Working Session in Atlanta will consist of a guided discussion of these papers. Abstracts are welcome from both scholars and practitioners.
For any specific questions, please contact the working group convenor at email@example.com.