TaPRA 2021, 6-10 Sept, online & co-hosted by Liverpool Hope University, Documenting Performance Working Group CfP: Speculation and Fabulation

Deadline: Friday 9 April 2021

An important theme that emerged from contributions to the 2019 Documenting Performance WG presentations on ‘Wayward Temporalities’ was a focus on the complex evidentiary relations of performance and its documents – particularly in the production and representation of historicity, futurity, and contemporaneity. Continuing to think about ways in which the material, the real, the ‘truthful’, and the fictional might be problematised in relation to the performance document, this year’s Working Group shifts to focus on the theme of the speculative and the fabulative in performance documentation. In Tavia Nyong’o’s recent theory of ‘afro-fabulation’, fictions ‘do not simply attach themselves to moments of idle fantasy, play, instruction, or other socially acceptable occasions for storytelling’ (2019: 7), but are instead constitutive of a critical and tactical corrective current in Black representation. In such instances, as in Saidiya Hartman’s ‘critical fabulation’ (2008), and Donna Haraway’s ‘speculative fabulation’ (2016), fictionalising operates in terms of the insurgent interrogation of social and political reality, towards the production of different futures. Ana Vujanović speaks to ‘second-hand knowledge’ of the periphery as constituted by Western epistemologies in relation to speculation, mis-circulation and hyper-exchange (2013:123), pointing to the centrality of these embedded procedures. And Rey Chow expands on this through the notion of entanglements, as ‘linkages and enmeshments that keep things apart [and] voidings and uncoverings that hold things together’ (2012:12). Post-positivist approaches to the history of theatre and performance have long shown that reading the performance document can never be an uncomplicated act of extraction (i.e. of an essential truth), and the production of documentary evidence will always be partial and subjective. However, there is further work to be done in understanding the aesthetic and political dimensions of the speculative and the fabulative in and through performance documentation. In particular, the lingering threat posed by claims to so-called ‘post-truth’ or ‘alternative facts’ continues to demand the return to questions of the real and the factual, and may throw queer, feminist, Black, Asian, Indigenous, minority ethnic and crip speculative and fabulative tactics into further conflict. How do speculative or fabulative narratives function (and are they valued) in performance research and practice? What are their risks? How does fiction operate as a critical lens? How might artists and scholars account for the speculative and the fabulative in the aftermath of so-called ‘post-truth’ politics? How might the speculative and the fabulative be figured or theorised in relation to the performance archive? What are the sensitivities of appropriateness and/or appropriation in the speculative and the fabulative performance document? What might the relationships be between speculation and the improvised and/or anticipatory?

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Acts of speculation and fabulation in or through the performance document
  • Queer, feminist, Black, Asian, Indigenous, minority ethnic and crip theories of fabulation
  • Theorising the speculative in the performance archive
  • Interrelationships between fact and fiction in theatre, performance, live art, and visual culture
  • Fiction as critical intervention
  • Political reality and (il)legibility in documentary practice
  • Fictionalising and storytelling in performance documentation
  • Speculative and fabulative futurity and/or world-building
We invite proposals for a range of pre-recorded and/or synchronous presentations for this virtual gathering, including research papers, practice research demonstrations, workshop and discussion formats, and performances.

Process for submitting a proposal

Proposals must be submitted to documentingperf@tapra.org by 23.59 on 9th April 2021.

Please email all abstracts (no more than 300 words in length), an additional few sentences of biographical information and precise details of the audio-visual technology you will need to make your presentation.

Please include an optional 2nd choice of Working Group (this can also include the TaPRA Gallery, where appropriate). If we are unable to accept your proposal, we will then pass it on to your 2nd choice for consideration. Your proposal will not be less likely to be accepted by our Working Group if you indicate a 2nd choice.

Please note: You may only submit a proposal to one working group (or else the PaR Gallery) for this conference, proposals submitted after the deadline will not be considered.  


We will inform you whether or not your proposal has been accepted as quickly as possible, and will offer brief summary feedback to all proposals that could not be accommodated. If we have passed your proposal on to your 2nd choice of Working Group, we will let you know this as well. Please note that putting together a full draft schedule for the conference is a complex process, and therefore your patience while this process is ongoing, and prompt responses to acceptances are much appreciated. Convenors will have completed their draft schedules by 17th May 2021.

TaPRA Conference 2021 Registration Prices

Full Price Early Bird: £65 + £35 (TaPRA membership) = £100

Concession Early Bird: £33 + £17 (TaPRA membership) = £50

Full Price Standard: £85 + £35 (TaPRA membership) = £120

Concession Standard: £43 + £17 (TaPRA membership) = £60

The registration costs above will pay for digital infrastructure and administrative support for the conference, alongside fees for the keynote speaker and artists contributing to the programme.

Please note: All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the event.

Concession definition:

Concession rates apply to all postgraduate researchers, unwaged, unaffiliated, and retired researchers, and staff on contracts of either less than .6FTE or else fixed for less than 12 months. These categories apply to the attendee’s circumstances on the first day of the conference.


There will be up to 10 bursaries available for postgraduate researchers and unaffiliated presenters/contingent faculty. These are highly competitive and so we would encourage everyone who is able to secure institutional support where possible. Each bursary includes a conference fee waiver and one year of TaPRA membership. There is also a separate discretionary fund towards access costs such as digital access, key materials, childcare and so forth. You must submit your application for a bursary at the same time as your proposal to the Working Group (within the same document as your abstract/bio) If applying for a bursary, please include the following:
  • Whether you are applying as a postgraduate researcher OR unaffiliated presenter/contingent faculty
  • A statement of up to 100 words explaining why you are applying for the bursary
  • An indication of any access needs for which you would like to apply to the discretionary fund: what they are and an indication of costs
Decisions about bursaries will be made by Friday 7th May and notifications will be issued by this group shortly after. The criteria for awarding bursaries are:
  1. Quality and strength of submitted abstract.
  2. Strategic case made by the WG conveners outlining the significance of the applicant’s contribution to the WG sessions (connection to advertised theme, methodological approach, expected outcomes).

Please note: only one proposal may be submitted for a TaPRA event. It is not permitted to submit multiple proposals or submit the same proposal to several Calls for Participation. All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the event; this includes presentations given by Skype or other media broadcast even where the presenter may not physically attend the event venue.

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