Throughout this summer, I have been working on the script for the film I’ll be submitting as part of my PAR dissertation. The first half of the script is now in an advanced stage, and I will begin preparing for preliminary screen tests and funding submissions in the in the following weeks.
The story is set in Buenos Aires, and involves an office worker that decides to stop working —both professionally and at home — without any clear or apparent reason. The film follows her as days of ‘doing nothing’ turn into weeks, transforming her whole physical perception and psychological subjectivity.
This summer, thanks to PFS summer funding, I began facilitating weekly performance workshops engaging young people from Central America detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Yolo County Juvenile Justice Center, in collaboration with Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network (YIIN). This work, which is ongoing, will form part of my practice-as-research portfolio for my Qualifying Exam later this year, and has also been an opportunity to begin exchanging ideas with community colleagues to foster future, sustainable collaborations that could shape my dissertation. With the aim of applying a community-based participatory research methodology, I have attempted to allow group goals to emerge as part of a reflexive praxis, considering participants’ interests and expertise, as well as drawing on the skills of YIIN volunteers. By exploring performance techniques, including acting, movement, writing, drawing and mask-making, we are discovering the forms of expression that the group best engages with, shaping workshop activities around session-by-session feedback. I seek to value the participants’ (and facilitators’) experiences alongside representational codes, since embodied knowledge can be unarticulable within hegemonic discourses. Unlike prison theatre that becomes instumentalized by the carceral system when applied as part of a rehabilitation agenda, serving to further the aim of “socializing legal citizens into behaving morally” (Balfour, 2004), this work is about fomenting strategies of survival and potentiating alternative networks of care, in resistance to the isolating and dehumanizing conditions of incarceration.
How can participatory performance offer alternative frames for inter-action that fissure discourses of the stratified global mobility regime, by presencing time, space and relationality differently?
This summer funding enabled me to focus my energy on asking questions that stimulated new explorations of performance-ethnography, with the aim of developing a practice-as-research approach to honing my participatory methodology for facilitating the self-expression of experiences of mobility and enclosure. Based on my previous summer research project in Chile, I proposed that by moving past representational narratives to embodied knowledge, we could create a space of ‘afecto’ (affection, solidarity and care), and performance workshops could offer a momentary place of respite, strengthening affiliations between incarcerated immigrants and those outside. Although we may not be able to change the circumstances of incarceration, we can make room for reflecting on how experiences of mobility and enclosure influence subjectivities, analyzing the ‘masks’ we wear, not as permanent identities, but a scripted set of roles, finding other ways to be ourselves, without heeding oppressive labels, such as ‘criminal’ and ‘migrant’, feeling our agency through inter-actions and affective relations. By offering time and space to explore multiple relationalities, this project is now opening up new questions of belonging (beyond citizenship), identity (as more-than self-containment) and human (and other-than-human) rights as well as interdependences. In addition to reflecting on my own somatic experience as facilitator, I am currently re-thinking the ethical frames for validating voices that are traditionally excluded from academic research, through mutually beneficial processes of co-learning that could be adapted for other contexts of immigrant incarceration. I believe it is possible to cultivate moments of freedom within confinement; with PFS summer finding, I have been able to consider, with care, how appropriate methods may emerge.
The summer 2018 PFS research fellowship helped to fund my travel to Havana, Cuba for the 43rd annual International Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) conference. This year’s theme was Education, Culture and Emancipatory Thought in the Caribbean. As part of the bilingual French-English “Rethinking and Refounding Emancipatory Thought in the Caribbean” panel, I presented a paper titled “Dereliction in the Time of Pedagogy with Brand and Fanon”.
The PFS Summer Fellowship contributed to my cost of living for the summer while I continued my research on algorithmic targeting and everyday surveillance. My in-process article is investigating the ways in which metrics of energy consumption transform both the discourse of the home in privacy law, and the material infrastructures of northern California’s energy grid. Since 2007, the transition to a “smart grid” positions both users and providers as communicable nodes in a larger system of control. I concluded my summer with a camping trip to Rancho Seco – a recreational site and lake operated by SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) – that also houses a decommissioned nuclear facility, a privatized solar-power array, and over 22 metric tons of nuclear waste.
The remaining funds were used to cover some of the costs of travelling to the 8th Biannual Surveillance Studies Network Conference in Åarhus, Denmark on the 7-9 of June. My paper, “You have been hacked: Paranoid subjects in the age of C.I.S.A. and River City Media”, explored the affective milieu cultivated by the use of information networks, and the challenges facing users who must navigate corporate and governmental matrices of power.
This summer I focused on developing and refining methodologies for teaching dance/movement. More specifically I am designing lesson plans and other materials for introductory classes in movement and manual therapy, as well as for my practice as a massage therapist (MT), movement educator and practitioner of dance. I was able to apply and receive approval of licensure (LMT) in the state of California in July, which will allow me to continue my research beyond the university campus and teach Continuing Education Courses to massage therapists (NCBTMB approved).
I see these different communities as informing one another and bringing forth ideas for enhancing our embodied experience as human beings. My work is influenced by the Axis Syllabus, my own experiences as a dancer, and massage therapist. I call the work I do ‘BII – The Body’s Intrinsic Intelligence’. Focus of this approach is to teach fundamentals of movement science to dancers and people from all walks of life (non-dancers, massage
therapists, the elderly, etc) for the purpose of gaining or reclaiming cooperation of articulations and soft tissues, improving proprioceptive feedback and control, and becoming a confident, fluid and athletic mover, establishing a healthy practice, reducing the risk of injury, maintaining fluidity in older age, and many more.
During summer session 2, I audited a class in human osteology, which was enriching in many ways. In my work, in class, with students and clients, the first thing we usually look at is the human skeleton. I see it as an informative starting point for investigations into kinesthetic learning experiences about movement and the design of the human body with its many individual/idiosyncratic variations. Creativity and movement improvisations play important roles as well as self-motivated inquiry and verbal articulation of felt sense.
In order to advance my studies within this research, I taught an introductory dance class at UC Davis, developed syllabi for dance classes, massage therapy applications and continued structuring my approach (BII). I traveled to Berlin, Germany, meeting with artists and organizers of different events, laying the foundation for BII workshops in the summer of 2019. Every day, I spent time studying and preparing exercises and writing outlines for logically building one concept upon another in order to transmit the
basics of movement in the shortest amount of time. What are the most important/fundamental elements that one should understand and explore kinesthetically for in order to increase one’s ability to sense, process, analyze and apply new concepts? Which concepts are more fundamental to others and which are
extensions and advanced versions, or simply inversions? How do we teach in a democratic manner without losing respect from the student or loosing their interest, as they are being asked to step way back to the beginnings of sensory input, bypassing preconceived notions, and trying to sense processes they do most likely not have the tools or ability to detect quite yet. What are some activities that have the potential
for positive catharsis and help people detect and possibly change non-beneficial habitual patterns? Important is also to consider more fundamental questions of intent, about what is beneficial and what is not? The work is both practical, kinesthetic and philosophical. Through these investigations I am drawn to learning more about expression-, body-, and representational theory, and theories of learning.
The work I am doing this summer is significantly contributing towards my dissertation research. My findings and processes this summer were documented in writing, in the form of syllabi, class concepts, philosophical and pedagogical findings and video. I am planning trips to the Fascia Congress in Berlin, the Axis Syllabus Sensing in Festival and other pedagogy-specific teacher labs of the Axis Syllabus. I am interested in the psychology of teaching and class dynamics and see myself investigating that route through university coursework and through an independent research group I would like to form.
As stated in my initial proposal, I used my summer funding money to attend two
productions which are objects of analysis in my second dissertation chapter. This chapter explores how settler colonialism and the racial capitalism of the petroleum economy shape masculine subjectivities for Indigenous men in Alberta. The plays are Matthew Mackenzie’s play Bears which follows Floyd, a Cree man, as he flees his tar sands site after being implicated in a workplace accident and Chris Bullough’s Rig Pig Fantasia which explores the tangled threads of industry vs. nature and economy vs. environment through the lens the friendship between two oilfield workers. Focusing on a performance, I conceptualize the petroleum economy as an extractive industry, both of the human and non-human, and explore how centering Indigenous worldviews can offer alternatives to Alberta’s particular form of hegemonic masculinity (explored elsewhere in my dissertation through the figure of the “roughneck”).
This project is part of a larger dissertation chapter which asks if the current spike in
mental health crises and suicides amongst men in Alberta’s oil and gas sector be understood as a crisis in masculinity rather than simply discussed as a result of the struggling economy? How can understanding the figure of the “roughneck” better illuminate this current health trend? My entrance to this work is largely theoretical and builds on existing research by tracing narratives of Albertan masculinity from the figure of the pioneer to the cowboy to the roughneck. Then turns to the current socio-economic climate of Alberta which is characterized by economic precarity and political uncertainty following the global collapse of crude oil prices and the historic election of a New Democratic Party majority at the provincial level in 2015. This leftwing party has since instituted a carbon tax and channeled revenues towards green energy which has challenged the hegemony of roughneck masculinity in Alberta. The chapter synthesizes existing work on the health crisis that has been published in popular media as well as analyzes the social commentary that accompanies these publications. While the provincial NDP government has taken major steps towards supporting the transition of energy sector workers from oil and gas to alternate energy, I argue that it is not solely the threat of income loss that is producing negative health outcomes for Alberta men, but the challenge to their masculine identities that is posed by the imposition of government intervention by an urban-based, female-headed party.
The chapter then argues that Alberta’s petroleum economy, both as an extractive industry and an agent of settler colonialism, has helped foster the development of new masculinities for both settler and Native men, ones grounded in the respectability of ‘Big Oil’, mythos of a Western frontier, and in the economic, social, and political challenges of the province. These narrow masculine subjectivities, which characterize the Roughneck, attempt to neutralize the threat of class-based and racial queerness. When confronted with the economic precarity and political uncertainty of contemporary Alberta, the subsequent negative affect (in the form of stress over loss of social position and masculine capital) is irreconcilable with the figure of the stoic Roughneck. The result of this incommensurability contributes to the current mental health crisis amongst this population. The summer funding that I received from the PFS grad group not only allowed me to see both productions, but also went towards supporting myself while writing this chapter.
This summer (2018), in addition to research for my dissertation, I taught three workshops, where I could apply a developing articulation of my
research into the realm of “in-studio practice”. I taught at the Vienna ImpulsTanz Festival and at the Fact/SF Summer Lab 2018.
My Impulstanz workshop was called: “Aha! Oh! Small bodily felt happenings that feel expansive.” In this workshop we work with attention and felt sense to open up a landscape of subtle qualities. These qualities belong to the body, to experience, to the sense of our own agency and spontaneity, and also the sense of the limits of our agency. We will cultivate an awareness around the threshold where an impulse accumulates into movement and we will examine the ways movement — or an emergent moving — can lead us to Aha! or Oh! experiences. In this workshop we seek to facilitate subtle bodily happenings that are both bodily sensed and meaningful and can be used to support artistic work as well as self-understanding. We will draw on dance creation practice techniques (e.g. Forsythe) as well as ideas from performance studies, as well as different fields of somatic body knowledge, to enriched our movement explorations and research.
Arielle Estrada Sol
2018 summer research was a travel in the past. weaving pieces of brown cardboard
together to make a maxi dress, a top quimone, to elaborate a mandarin collar, uma
gola chinesa, un col mao, in a city where the streets hold the names of mao tsé-tung,
vladimir lenine, karl marx, julius nyerere, amilcar cabral, kenneth kaunda, and samora machel. encontrar amelia. ela esta em todas as ruas da minha infância. ser embrulhada numa capulana da josina
tracer des lignes, drawing lines : 9cm, 23, 46, 62. 1975. desenhar no papel, enquanto me lembrava de historias contadas sobre épocas míticas, e da sombra dessas que foram os meus anos noventa em maputo. it was a summer of reflections
around affective labor and craft. of listening to wistful memories, of a post-
independance utopic time in mozambique, quando os pais, sairam da casa.
The 2018 Summer Research Fellowship from PFS contributed to my labor teasing apart medical journals from 1978-1981 in order to engage with slow writing alongside slow reading Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals. The result is a modest collection of poems slowly assembled by shaking hands.
The funds were also utilized to contribute to travel to Serbia for the International Federation for the Research of Theatre’s annual conference. There, I participated in the Disability Studies working group presenting on slow methodologies as part of a conversation on disability and performance.
With this year’s PFS Summer grant I was able to participate at Circus and Its Others in Prague, a biannual conference dedicated to a critical, interdisciplinary approach towards circus. Circus studies is an emergent subfield of performance studies. As an academic discipline, it has gained some traction, drawing scholars from various fields in the humanities such as theater studies, critical theory, and science and technology studies. The conference Circus and Its Others has established itself as the major event for circus scholars, attracting international key thinkers to discuss, elaborate, and scrutinize the cultural work of modern circus in our contemporary political and economic conditions. During the conference, I hosted a panel and presented my latest paper titled “Approaching Limitrophy— Beastialities in Baro d’Evel Cirk’s Bestias.”
This gave me the opportunity to introduce my latest academic work in front of peers and further establish and deepen personal relations within the circus studies community.
I am thankful for the generous PFS Summer grant that my fellow PFS students and I have received to follow their academic and artistic pursuits.
Summer funds from PFS were used towards a forthcoming collaborative podcast episode that will be presented as part of a larger series called Nool (which translates as text and as thread in Tamil), being put together by radio host Preeti-Mangala Shekar, who curates and hosts the KPFA radio show APEX-Express (in Berkeley, CA). The project weaves together my work around the Ramayana tradition, a South Asian epic text that dates back to the 4th century BC, and Preeti’s journalistic work on how Hindu fundamentalism is shaping contemporary politics in India, and how that is being supported by an increasingly powerful Hindu lobby in the US.
The Ramayana itself is deeply entangled in the rise of fundamentalism in India, as the Hindu right claims a certain patriarchal, caste supremacist, imperial vision, as the authentic version of the tale. However, as Paula Richman (2000) demonstrates in her Questioning Ramayanas, this story-telling tradition has always been open to challenge and appropriation, thereby allowing normative versions to be subverted by subaltern retellings. Speaking with Sita, the female protagonist of the epic (and literally, a daughter of the earth), allows me to recenter the narrative from a feminist perspective. There is a long tradition of speaking with Sita, and this is the tradition of both dalit and indigenous retellings: the trials and tribulations that Sita undergoes mirrors the many violences committed on these communities.
In the podcast episode, Preeti and I examine the many ways in which the fundamentalist narrative enacts a monoculture of the mind, with consequences along vectors of gender, sexuality, caste, and ecology. We also examine our own responsibility, as recipients of these cultural stories, in speaking out against such singular and toxic narratives. The podcast ends with a question for further dialogue: Is it possible to imagine a progressive Hinduism, and what will it take to enact such a vision – not merely in terms of representation, but also in terms of relations and practice? The podcast is set to air on KPFA on October 25, 2018. It will be followed up with a series of community-based listening and discussions sessions in Spring 2019.
Emma Leigh Waldron
This summer, I used my PFS summer stipend to subsidize my travel to the affect studies conference — Capacious: Affect Inquiry/Making Space — at Millersville University in Lancaster, PA. This is the second national affect studies conference; I also attended the first one — Affect Theory: Worldings, Tensions, Futures — in 2015. At Capacious I presented my paper, “Playing Intimacy: Role-Playing Games as Affective Objects,” where I discussed the affordances of game mechanics designed for managing intimate affect in live-action role-playing games (larps). My paper also incorporated interludes of creative non-fiction writing in which I evocatively narrated my personal encounters with affectively charged larp experiences. This paper grew into a portion of my dissertation, which analyzes how intimacy is performed in the 21st century, through case studies of HBO television shows, ASMR videos on YouTube, and table-top and live-action role-playing games. The rest of the stipend money has supported my summer research as I work towards completion of my dissertation.
Please send a one-page description of your summer research project to Joe and me by April 17. Please include a budget. Qualified applicants will be awarded PFS fellowships by May 1. Awardees will be required to post a paragraph summary of their results by September 15 here on the PFS student blog under “Summer Research Projects.”