CALL FOR PAPERS: Performing ethics in political transition
I am coordinating a panel or a roundtable (depending on the number of submissions) for the Annual Meeting of the Oral History Association.
The title of the meeting is:
"Bearing Public Witness: Documenting Memories of Struggle and Resistance"
and will be held at the
The Regal Riverfront Hotel
St. Louis, Missouri
October 16-21, 2001
The aim of this roundtable would be to explore the ethical potential of performance in the process of social and political transformation, recuperation, and democratization in the aftermath of authoritarian rule. By performance, I refer to a wide range of public acts including, but not limited to, Truth Commissions, political speeches, theatre, tourist performances, popular music, cyber performance, site-specific art, performance art, and participatory performance. For the purposes of this conference, we will consider performance as oral history and the performer as an oral historian who collects and re-presents previously performed oral histories. While many scholars have written on resistance theatre movements engaged in struggles against authoritarian rule, there has been much less attention given to the role of performance in elucidating and intervening in the complex processes of political transformation and historical and psychological recovery. The ethical concerns inherent in such processes might include: the contradictory imperatives of reconciling with the past and articulating new democratic freedoms; globalization and the commodification of history and memory; the role of the media in the implementation of national ritual and nation-building; the moral economy of "the past"; how difference interrogates democratic citizenship; individual and collective responses to testimony; the dynamics of public and private; and the ethical concerns embedded in the discursive and practical relationships between victims, perpetrators and bystanders, remembering, forgetting and healing; and truth, justice, and reconciliation.
I would also welcome any other interpretations of the aims of the conference with a focus on ethics and performance. Here is the description of the conference:
The Oral History Association recognizes that documenting historical and
cultural memory brings with it questions, debates and responsibilities
regarding process, standards and ethics. In focusing on these themes, the Association welcomes presentations that consider the challenges of
collecting and documenting memories and histories that reflect trauma,
genocide, violence, or social/political disorder. Specifically, what
are the philosophical and practical strategies for documenting
individual and collective memories: especially those that are in danger
of being ignored, erased, or forgotten because of silence or denial? How
might we document stories of action and reaction, survival and loss,
perseverance and endurance, dislocation and migration, advocacy and
justice, perpetrators and victims? Can public discourse and personal
experience be transformed by the collective memory of struggle, once
made visible? What role should oral historians play in these processes?
The rapidly changing worlds of media and technology bring another set of
questions for historians. Do historians face new or different sets of
ethical issues in new environments when confronting stories and memories
of trauma, violence, or disorder? How might oral history and oral
historians participate in setting standards for the collection and
dissemination of narratives of trauma, oppression and genocide in
digital environments? What kinds of distinctions should be drawn between
public and private narratives? What is the role of visual oral history,
including still and moving photography, in performing documentary work
in the 21st century? Finally, how should oral historians respond to the
new challenges of accessibility, collection, and cataloguing brought by
a digital age? How will dissemination be affected by understanding the
users and their needs? How will the uses of oral history change with new
To facilitate a broad discussion of these important issues, the Oral
History Association encourages students and faculty from the arts, the
humanities and the social sciences - along with independent scholars,
activists, museum professionals, filmmakers, radio documentarians,
photographers and journalists - to submit proposals for panels,
plenaries, workshops, roundtables and media- and performance-oriented
sessions. We encourage participants to focus on ethical and
methodological issues in collecting, producing, disseminating and using
this genre of work. We particularly encourage presentations and panels
that cross disciplines, cultures, nationalities and institutions. We
welcome proposals from other professional organizations, particularly
those dealing with the themes of the meeting.
Please submit five copies of proposals. For full sessions, submit an
abstract of no more than two pages and a one page vitae for each
participant. For individual proposals, submit a one page abstract and a
one-page vitae or resume of the presenter. In all cases, please include
the full name, mailing address, institutional affiliation, phone number
and e-mail address for each session participant.
Participation in this session is not limited to academics. Ideally, I would like to put together a roundtable made up of artists, activists, and academics and allow plenty of time for discussion and collaboration on ideas. My hope is for the panel to reflect research and practice in a wide range of countries and historical periods. My own research has been on cultural responses to truth and reconciliation in South Africa.
The conference organizers have already expressed a keen interest in this session. Please send abstracts to me by December 1 so I can assemble a proposal by the December 15 deadline. Please follow the requirements given in the last paragraph of the conference call by sending me a one-page vitae, along with your abstract. Be sure, also to include all your contact information: full name, mailing address, institutional affiliation, phone number and e-mail address.
Ultimately, I would like to form a working group around the political and ethical role of performance in dealing with the past, present, and future in countries recovering from widespread victimization of its own people and transitioning to democracy-- so if you cannot make this conference but are still interested in being included in future projects, please get in touch with me anyway.
Department of Performance Studies
New York University
Department of Performance Studies
New York University
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