ASTR CfP: Sustainable Tools for Precarious Subjects: Performance Actions and Human Rights


2015 ASTR/TLA Conference

Debating the Stakes in Theatre and Performance

November 5-8, Portland OR

Sustainable Tools for Precarious Subjects: Performance Actions and Human Rights


Natalie Alvarez (Brock University)

Keren Zaiontz (Simon Fraser University)

In the wake of recent uprisings such as Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, the Maple Spring, and the Euro Maiden, this working session focuses on an emergent concern among artist-activists and researchers: How to sustain and keep alive the political interventions and “calls to action” that performance actions stage? How to create activist performance that makes effective use of its “remains,” to invoke Rebecca Schneider, as a vehicle for ongoing political action? This working session charts the changing frontier of global activism by examining the work of artist-activists who are invested in the creation of performance strategies, tactics, and technologies designed to create sustainable tools and sustainable spaces for “precarious subjects”—such as the undocumented laborer, the homeless, the political refugee—that exceed the event horizon of the performance action itself. From Apps and hashtags, to open-source human rights novelas, to socially engaged public art, the tools and tactics artist-activists employ both emerge from and shape local histories. We are particularly interested in work with regional foci in the Middle East, as well as work centered in regions across the Americas. In bringing work from distinct regional contexts into conversation with one another, the working session will respond to the larger conference call to examine how the compass points of activism, advocacy, and coalition-building shift from location to location. Working with the conviction that the tools of our discipline can serve as the “catalyst for change,” to echo the ASTR program chairs, this session will orient its investigations toward unapologetically instrumentalist methodologies—documenting and archiving the repertoires of sustained, and sustainable, performance actions against human rights violations.

Participants will circulate 3,000- to 4,000-word papers seven weeks prior to the conference. Those papers will be organized into thematic subgroups that will exchange feedback via email and identify key emergent issues to bring to our in-person meeting for discussion. Our three-hour meeting time will be devoted to a detailed discussion of participants’ papers and the key concerns that emerged from the online exchanges within subgroups prior to the conference. We will begin the working session with a précis of participants’ papers for the benefit of interlocutors who would like to sit in on the session and allow ample opportunity in the final 45 minutes of the session for discussion with auditors.

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners:

Natalie Alvarez (nalvarez) and Keren Zaiontz (kzaiontz)

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.

Keren Zaiontz, PhD
Banting Postdoctoral Fellow
Simon Fraser University
Department of English
Burnaby, BC, Canada V5A 1S6

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