Call for Participants - Canadian Association for Theatre Research Conference

Conference Seminar — Performance Studies in Canada: Excavating Alternate Methodologies and Genealogies

Convenors: Susan Bennett, Laura Levin, Marlis Schweitzer
Date: Tuesday 29 May through Friday 1 June 2018
Location: The Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario

Submission Info: Please send a 250-word abstract and brief bio to Laura Levin ( by 15 January 2018.

More and more, researchers and academic programs situated within Canada are turning to performance studies to respond to a growing interest in performances that occur both in artistic venues and in the spaces of everyday life. Despite the uptake of performance studies, however, there have been relatively few sustained reflections on how this methodology is being taught, applied, and rethought in Canadian contexts. The recent publication of Performance Studies in Canada (McGill-Queen’s Press, 2017) brings together scholars who have attempted to push forward this conversation by tracing genealogies of performance studies scholarship in Canada and highlighting significant works of performance theory and history that are rooted in the analysis of Canadian culture. Importantly, the book appeared almost simultaneously with another major collection, Canadian Performance Histories (ed. Heather Davis-Fisch, Playwrights Canada Press), which reflects on “performances that have been excluded from mainstream theatre histories” – a project that has also raised questions about what counts as “performance” within dominant disciplinary frames.

This seminar aims to reflect on the kinds of “fieldwork” showcased in these recent publications, and to ask what further meta-disciplinary work is necessary to build a critical discourse around performance studies in Canada. Questions and issues that we plan to address include:

• What institutional, geographic, and cultural conditions have produced alternative articulations of performance in Canadian contexts?
• How have locally and culturally based histories—Indigenous, Québécois, multicultural, hemispheric, etc.—complicated traditional ideas of “performance” and “nation”?
• How does the term “performance” make visible and also obscure histories of embodied enactments in the territory now known as Canada? What colonial, Euro- and Anglocentric legacies does it reproduce?
• How have performance studies methodologies complicated dominant forms of knowledge production within Canadian universities?
• What performance-based genealogies and methodologies have not yet been fully represented in emerging meta-disciplinary scholarship about the field?

Our goal in tackling these questions is to develop a fuller picture of performance studies’ historical crossings with other fields in Canada (anthropology, intangible cultural heritage studies, communication studies, etc.), its promotion of alternative ways of “practicing” research, and its enactment of the discontinuous status of national and global performance knowledge.

Structure: Conveners will assign two readings on performance studies in Canada to circulate to the seminar members prior to the conference to provide a basis for conversation. Participants will share 8-10 page papers by May 1, which excavate alternate genealogies and methodologies of performance studies in Canada, and which point to “Next Steps” for work that needs to be done for developing a critical discourse on the field. Participants will be expected to read all papers in advance and contribute to the development of preliminary discussion questions within an assigned subset of 3-4 papers. At the CATR meeting, we will then take up these questions so as to identify key methodologies and genealogies traced in the papers and consider how they extend, revise, or respond to the fieldwork provocations in the readings.