Performing the Anthropocene – Canadian Association for Theatre Research Conference


Performing the Anthropocene Setting the Stage for the End of the World

Canadian Association for Theatre Research L’association canadienne de la recherche théâtrale (CATR/ACRT)

Toronto, Ontario
Saturday 27 May – Tuesday 30 May 2017

Call for Papers

We would like to acknowledge this sacred land. It has been a site of human activity for 15,000 years. Takaronto has been stewarded by the Erie, Petun, Wendat, and Seneca First Nations, the Anishinaabeg and most recently the Mississaguas of the New Credit First Nation. The territory was the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Three Fires Confederacy (of the Anishinaabeg) to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes.

Today, the meeting place of Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work in the community, on this territory.

Once, the Dream’s parameters were caged by technology and by the limits of horsepower and wind. But the Dreamers have improved themselves, and the damming of seas for voltage, the extraction of coal, the transmuting of oil into food have enabled an expansion in plunder with no known precedent. And this revolution has freed the Dreamers to plunder not just the bodies of humans but the body of the Earth itself.

—Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)

Scientists may provide precious data and design solutions to address the climate crisis. But what artists can do, perhaps better than anybody, is to create the narrative that will make this endeavour an exciting and even spiritually rewarding one. […A]rtists have rewritten history to correct mistakes, point out omissions, and give a voice to those who were silenced. This time, we have a chance to write history before it happens and to put in place-markers that will guide us in our journey forward.

—Chantal Bilodeau, “Addressing Climate Change One (Theatre) Artist at a Time” (2009)

Geological change and its effects on the global political climate informs the notion of the Anthropocene: “a new epoch in Earth’s geological history […] characterized by the advent of the human species as a geological force” (Scranton 2015). Canadians, as global citizens and consumers, are performing the Anthropocene as we live it. Canada is the second largest country in the world, though four-fifths of its population hovers near its southern border—leaving the majority of its land space to forests, Tundra, and the Rocky Mountains. Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna garnered international praise in December 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris for her commitment to maintaining average rising temperatures to within 1.5 degrees C (rather than the proposed 2 degrees C) of pre-industrial levels. But only six months later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came under attack for approving permits for the Site C dam on British Columbia’s Peace River—its construction irreversibly impacting Treaty 8 First Nations. In July 2016, over two hundred people met in Vancouver as part of the Paddle for Peace campaign to protest the construction, and, in a parallel situation in the US, in August, over one thousand Native American activists on foot and horseback effectively shut down construction on the Dakota Access pipeline—a pipeline with similar ramifications as the Site C dam to local tribes in North Dakota.

These events foreground the harsh dialectic between economic and industrial progress and individual, environmental, and social justice. An intersectional approach to climate change notes the ways in which Indigenous and otherwise marginalized communities experience increased health risks and depleting access to clean water and other resources. Climate change will inevitably affect everyone in the Anthropocene, but it will not impact everyone in the same way.

Like performance, the Anthropocene is contingent on its, and our, own disappearance. This conference asks: How is the human impact on the environment represented in theatre and performance? Does awareness of the Anthropocene give rise to altered aesthetics, practices, revive former traditions, or suggest their abandonment? What of performance practice’s geological impacts? Might the Anthropocene displace or reorient the (generally) human-centred activity of theatre and performance? Where do theatre and performance fit in this new, contested subdivision of geological time? Can we read the Anthropocene as another, pressing form of agon? How do we perform or represent a new, contemporary era, or geological time, or conflicting geological and environmental forces? How can performance present a better strategy for effecting change in geo-political social life? Canada’s celebration of 150 years of sovereignty in 2017 highlights again issues of land rights, de/colonization, and the asymmetrical impacts of climate change raised by the Anthropocene.


We invite proposals for papers from scholars and artists, with emphasis on foregrounding voices from underrepresented or marginalized perspectives, including POC, Indigenous, black, queer, and independent scholars and artists. We welcome the range of research (from auto-ethnographic, to arts- and action-based, to semiotic), practice (from embodied work, studio exploration to dramaturgy), and pedagogy (from class-room based, to peer review, mentorship). All forms are encouraged.

We also invite current and recent graduate students, having graduated within the past two to three years, and/or independent scholars who have not yet presented at a major national conference to submit papers to CATR/ACRT’s 2017 Emerging Scholars Panel. We particularly encourage submissions that engage specifically with this year’s conference theme.

Possible topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • Ecological performance and/or performing ecologies
  • Theatricalizing post-apocalyptic futures and performances of warning
  • Aestheticizing destruction and spectacles of degradation
  • Educating in/against the Anthropocene and the role of applied theatre
  • Theatrical geographies and topographies
  • New durations and cross/multi/-temporal performance; performing an ‘era’
  • Performing politics and protest
  • The Anthropocene’s audiences and demands of 21st-century spectatorship
  • New materialisms, expanded consciousness, and object-oriented ontology
  • Digital detritus and the waste and economies of expenditure at the end of an era
  • Peripheral performance and underrepresentation
  • Looking back, looking forward through archival warming and the role of performance history
  • De/colonizing performance practices and spaces
  • Urban concepts and performances of wilderness, wild looking back at the city

While we encourage proposals to consider the theme of the conference, scholars and artists should not feel limited by its parameters. Scholars may think of ways “performing/staging the Anthropocene” intersect and impact their own chosen areas of research and practice. Please consider how working through this lens may offer new ways of approaching analysis, theatre/performance studies, criticism, etc. Scholars who propose papers not related to the theme, per se, may consider how their proposal sheds new light on marginal or historically silent voices, or explores areas that are underresearched.

All accepted presenters and participants are required to join CATR. For more information on CATR and to join or renew your membership please visit

Please send all proposals to T. Nikki Cesare Schotzko, National Conference Chair, by 21 January 2017.

Please note: this is a general call for papers for open panel sessions. Calls for accepted curated panels, seminars, workshops and roundtables will be issued separately and individually, and are also accessible on our website.