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ASTR 2020 Annual Conference
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Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel | New Orleans, Louisiana

2020 Conference Theme

Repetition repeats itself. Theories of repetition inform theatre history across periods, methodologies, theoretical frameworks, and approaches to examining theatre history and historical practices. From descriptions of repetition-with-a-difference and performative iteration to twice-behaved behavior and staged revivals, repetition has become an axiomatic starting point for understanding the complex temporality of theatre—sometimes at the expense of other ways of imagining performance in time and as time. Among other entities repetition might be (an ontological allegory, a rhetorical operation, a signifying chain, a rhythmic pulse, a well of influence, a technology of discipline, a comfort, a nightmare), it is a temporal mode that marks a series or sequence. It is the interplay between linear time—existing on a chronological line where things recur again after they have previously occurred—and cyclical time—since if tomorrow is a repetition of yesterday, then yesterday is already tomorrow and tomorrow yesterday. In toggling between line and cycle, repetition gives us seriality, division, memory, and difference. But there are other ways to contemplate and inhabit difference than via repetition.

While appreciating the inestimable value that theories of repetition have contributed to the study of theatre and performance, the 2020 ASTR conference seeks to center other time signatures that may be related to, but diverge from, repetition. Repetition is but one way that past/present/future can be configured in relation to each other, but it is not the only one. What other temporal arrangements organize theatre and performance? How else does theatre and performance temporalize the relationships between identity and difference, between chronos and kairos, between the past and the present? Are there other ways of understanding difference, power, and resistance that are not necessarily shaped by repetition? What are the limits of repetition for comprehending the historicity and phenomenology of theatre? How do ecstatic temporalities alter the linear and cyclical patterns of repetition? How does performance interrupt repetition, rather than rely on it, for its effects? How have new media technologies changed how we think of repetition and performance? What other lexicons might we develop to understand the relationship of performance to time and history?

New Orleans, the location of the 2020 conference, is a crucial test case for theatre and performance after repetition. From the quadroon balls of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the Constitutional instantiation of separate but equal in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896); from the chants of Mardi Gras Indians to the reimagination of the city after Katrina; from the rhythms of Preservation Hall to the swinging of the Second Line; from the humid confines of Tennessee Williams’s tight spaces to regional theatres such as the Southern Rep and Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré; from the rituals of Carnival to the righteous struggle to dismantle or differently contextualize confederate monuments: New Orleans is a city of performance that the straightjacket of repetition constrains. We ask: How does this city and its endlessly rich and inventive performance culture open up new knowledge into theatre/performance itself when other modes of time and other orders of history present starting points other than repetition?

If it is possible to think performance and theatre history outside, beyond, or alongside repetition, New Orleans is the ideal setting at which to convene such an inquiry. A city saturated by performance, New Orleans sits at the crossroads of simultaneous and differential histories of colonization (French, Spanish, English) that nonetheless exceed the sum of the histories that shape it and persist into the present. Whichever direction you turn—northward via the Mississippi River, southward onto the Caribbean—the city is simultaneously a threshold and a destination. Environmental histories also shape the location of the conference, and the ecological dimension of New Orleans has made ephemerality not only an experience but also an epistemology and ontology of the worlds built and rebuilt there. New Orleans is thus structured by temporal cracks and crevices that allow for lifeworlds beyond the governing repetitions that secure colonialism, nationalism, slavery’s afterlives, and socio-ecological catastrophe. Its deep histories of performance have long been framed by repetition at the expense of other possibilities of analysis. We especially encourage proposals for working groups that make use of the resources that only New Orleans provides—a seemingly infinite horizon of performance possibilities—to push the field into new historical and critical inquiries that are not determined by the repetition of repetition.

This conference theme developed out of the first José Esteban Muñoz Targeted Working Group, a multiyear ASTR initiative to increase the diversity of the organization and the research produced under its auspices. The development of the Muñoz Working Groups provides an opportunity for the organization to take stock of the state of the field and the institution of ASTR, shaping both moving forward. Our conference aims to extend the conversations originating from the Muñoz Working Groups to the organization as a whole. Of all the ideas that organize the field’s critical protocols, repetition is almost certainly the most ubiquitous. In the spirit of the Muñoz initiative, we invite submissions that explore how repetition—of performances, institutions, or practices—reproduces institutional exclusion and segregates knowledge production. Proposals that bring minoritarian knowledge and global perspectives to bear on theatre studies and performance studies are especially welcome.

The deadline to submit plenary paper proposals or a proposal to convene a working session has passed.

Note: The Program Committee is not seeking proposals for curated panels for the 2020 conference.


2020 Conference Program Chairs

Soyica Diggs Colbert, Georgetown University
Douglas A. Jones, Jr., Rutgers University
Shane Vogel, Indiana University


2020 Conference Program Committee

Joshua Chambers-Letson (Northwestern University)
Julia Fawcett (UC-Berkeley)
Ellen MacKay (University of Chicago)
Patrick Maley (Centenary College)
Jade Power-Sotomayor (University of California San Diego)
Alexis Riley (University of Texas, Austin)
Rachel Smiley (AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts)
Catherine Young (Princeton Writing Program)
Jimmy A. Noriega (College of Wooster), ex officio

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