Call for Proposals ~ ASTR 2015 Working Session: “Ecology and/of/in Performance”

Growing out of the performance and ecology seminar at ASTR 2005/Toronto, and continuing as a research group atASTR’s 2010/Seattle, 2012/Nashville, and 2014/Baltimore conferences, this research group has been at the fore of the emergent field of performance and ecology. In 2015, in response to ASTR’s theme “Debating the Stakes in Theatre and Performance Scholarship,” we turn our attention to the ecological stakes in performance, with particular focus on recent developments in postcolonial eco-theatre, environmental justice, eco-materialisms, and the anthropocene/climate change. Drawing together research and performance from the Global South and the Global North, and building on the anthologies (such as Readings in Performance and Ecology, edited by Theresa May and Wendy Arons, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), publications, and research-engaged performance spawned by this working group over the past decade, this session will forward the conversation by calling for inquiries into how theatre and artistic performances, in an age of intense climate change, engage/critique/reveal ecological discourses embedded in postcolonialism, eco-materialisms, and activism. 

Pursuing what May calls “ecodramaturgy” (2011), this year’s session will focus on how theatre and artistic performance engages four emerging threads (in anticipation of a second volume of essays on performance and ecology): 1) urgency and eco-theater and performance in the age of the anthropocene; 2) eco-materialisms, including the agency of/in material formation; 3) postcolonial eco-theater; and 4) environmental justice and activism. These threads have an uneasy relationship with one another: scholarship on the anthropocene has often fallen prey to an apocalypticism that erases postcolonial and class-based concerns, while much eco-activism has been accused of being so local in scope that it disregards trans-global environmental issues and effects. However, by putting these four recent trends in environmental scholarship in dialogue with one another, we propose to debate their interrelatedness and efficacy for and within theatre and performance. 

Specifically, papers might pursue the following questions: 

  • How does performance practice reveal, engage, and/or negotiate the urgent call to recognize human ecological influence in the age of the anthropocene? 
  • How do interpretations of climate change and other international ecological issues in performance contribute to a global understanding of human influence? Do these performance practices make geographical boundaries more or less permeable and/or political? 
  • How do ideas of eco-materiality inform ecological readings of performance and/or ecological meaning-making in performance? How might eco-materialist engagements in performance productively bring awareness of life, nature, and matter? How do these engagements deliberate related future possibilities in ways that also push ecology and performance scholarship in fresh directions? 
  • How might postcolonial and indigenous ecologies critique neoliberal approaches (such as resourcism and extractivism) to current ecological conditions? 
  • How does artistic performance intersect the concerns of social, political and ecological oppressions and/or exclusions in ways that advocate for environmental justice? In what ways does performance practice provoke ecological debate and/or facilitate community engagement in eco-activism? 

Other questions, approaches and topics that clearly address any of the four identified threads of inquiry. 

In advance of the conference, session participants will exchange papers and engage in peer review of one another’s work in order to raise key questions around the threads of:

  1. the anthropocene/climate change in/through performance;
  2. eco-materialisms;
  3. postcolonial eco-theater; and
  4. environmental justice and activism in performance.

We will be holding online discussions around these themes and relevant, related practice, through theASTR website Group function. At the conference, we will be meeting for three hours. Roughly, the first hour and a half will be dedicated to small group discussion around these threads by sub-sets of participants; the second hour and a half will include a round-table discussion in which the sub-groups share the key connections and conundrums emerging from their joint discussion of research and collectively outline a structure and timeline for the next volume of critical essays in this field. 

Please send an abstract of approximately 300 words along with a brief biographical note as a Word attachment to all three Working Session conveners below by May 31st: 

Karen O’Brien, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (obrien@unc.edu

Lisa Woynarski, Royal Central School of Speech & Drama (lisa.woynarski@cssd.ac.uk

Courtney Ryan, University of California, Los Angeles (crdram12@gmail.com

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