Working Group: American Society for Theatre Research
Object Lessons: Performances, Pedagogies, and Things (2 Hour Session)
Victorian “object lessons,” designed to teach children to make careful observations of discrete objects and their own surroundings through a language educed from the objects, act as the impetus for our working group. What lessons might we learn (as artists, scholars, educators) by closely attending to and following the paths of physical objects and how they shape theatre – and performance-making and research? Our session seeks participants with a diverse range of sites and research questions who are committed to investigating networks of, and relationships between, physical objects, technologies, natural and built environments, and/or human and nonhuman bodies. We draw on methodologies and theories within and beyond theatre and performance studies, including, but not limited to, actor-network theory, thing theory, object-oriented ontology, material culture, and “posthuman” studies in its various forms. Our group will serve as a dynamic hub for those tracing the vibrant and influential qualities of theatrical things and querying a subject-object or nature-culture binary in performance.
Papers might address the following questions:
What can a theatrical object’s production history and circulation teach us about the movements of ideas, languages, and bodies at specific times and places?
How does a thingcentric perspective challenge critical pedagogies within theatre and performance studies? What does it mean to learn from an object and how does this compare with using an object to teach? How might we incorporate forms of the “object lesson” into our classrooms?
How do things perform? What kinds of agencies, energies, and directions do objects enact on stages, in site-specific environments, during artistic events, behind the scenes, and in our research (archival, ethnographic, performance-led)?
What are the stakes of analyzing an object on its own (as a solo actor or single performance event) vs. as part of a larger network or collection (a stage, geographical site, festival, archive, etc.)? What are the benefits and limitations of each approach?
What theoretical frameworks and methodologies are theatre and performance scholars using when they look at things? How might we map the different genealogies that inform thingcentric scholarship today?
We invite 500-word proposals (as MS Word attachments) that include an abstract for your ASTR paper and how it relates to your broader creative and/or scholarly work. Include full contact information and organizational affiliation (if any) on both your proposal and your email—and send your proposal to both conveners by June 3, 2013. Following participant selection, conveners will circulate initial discussion questions and a working bibliography with which participants will be expected to engage. Full 10-12-page papers should be submitted to the conveners by October 1, 2013. Prior to our Dallas meeting, assigned small groups will interact with one another (via email) with the expectation that everyone will provide detailed feedback on each group member’s paper. Conveners will distribute a set of session discussion questions and tentative agenda by late October. We plan to stay in touch after Dallas to discuss future conference and publication opportunities, building a research network.
Conveners: Marlis Schweitzer, York University ( email@example.com) and Joanne Zerdy, Independent Scholar ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
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