TaPRA 2022, 12–14 September, University of Essex, Bodies and Performance Working Group CfP: Bodies Beyond the Archive: Traces, temporalities, and disruptions

Deadline: Friday 1 April 2022

Bodies and archives occupy significant space in the conceptual and practical approaches to performance studies. From Diana Taylor’s (2003) The Archive and the Repertoire to Rebecca Schneider’s (2016) Archives Performance Remains, scholars have explored how archives and processes of reenactment and re-membering function and the ideologies supporting them. In Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (2012), Mel Y. Chen expands notions of animacies to conceptualise ‘the shifting archive’ (p. 16). By adopting a fluid approach to transgressing the borders of animate and inanimate, life and death, Chen’s writing embraces a postcolonial lens, giving voice to views that have historically been subject to denials and erasures. Drawing on indigenous approaches, such as the writings of Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller and Noenoe K. Silva (2011), Chen evolves concepts of animacy which are less characterized by a categorical, stringent attachment to human exclusivity but instead embrace the notion of having many bodies, human and nonhuman across many temporalities. Intertwined with these approaches to decolonising the archive, is the need to contextualise systems of oppression in order to understand embodied racial trauma and enable the process of collective healing. Thus, the archive is a source of politics and power with the potential to impact present perceptions and future imaginings of historically oppressed groups/communities. How might performance disrupt or reinforce the logics of value which underpin existing approaches to bodies and archives? How can performance function as a praxis to body forth the archives of the future? In 2014 two important bodies of work sought to engage with archival practices and human bodies as exhibits. Matt Fraser’s Cabinet of Curiosities: How Disability Was Kept in a Box reassessed the ways in which disability and disabled people are portrayed in museums. Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B embarked upon a reenactment of colonial exhibitions to offer a critique of nineteenth-century ‘human zoos’. The two performances, whilst very different in nature and the way in which they were received, addressed the notion of power and privilege within archives; specifically what bodies are archived and how. This dynamic of power and privilege has been similarly evident in the online materials available during the pandemic. While online content sharing, which often bypasses industry gatekeepers, is often understood to be more democratic, egalitarian and accessible than in-person performance, the initial un/availability of professionally filmed performances revealed systemic exclusions from the archive. For example, an email request to Digital Theatre+ in June 2020 for filmed theatrical work by Black British playwrights was answered with a list of Shakespeare productions from Black and Asian theatre companies (email correspondence). While certain exclusions were attended to in the desperate institutional scrambling that followed the May 2020 BLM protests, there remain significant historiographic questions about the value systems and attendant material conditions that underpin practices of video and digital archiving of performance. In conceptualising disruptive approaches to archives, Prarthana Purkayastha (2019) examines the structural limitations of contemporary practices, advocating for the foregrounding of moving bodies and historical functions as potential anti-racist strategies. This call for papers invites responses (in the form of traditional papers, workshops, performative practices) that critically reconsider the problems and possibilities (current and future) of performance archives and the bodies represented within and moving beyond them. These responses might offer strategies for the development of counter and ‘shifting’ archives. Possible themes include, but are not limited to:

  • Bodies as archives for racialised trauma
  • Performing training as an unmarked archive of ‘standard’ bodies
  • Archives in flux
  • Archives and erasure: bodies removed, overwritten or overlooked
  • Bodily remains and the archive
  • Decentering the archive
  • Queering ‘the archive: queer archives, counter archives and subcultures
  • Bodies in digital archives
  • Bodies at risk in archives/Archives at risk as bodies of work
  • Future imaginings of postcolonial archives
References Chen, Y, M (2012) Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect. Duke University Press. Durham. Goldberg-Hiller, J and Silva, N (2011) Sharks and Pigs: Animating Hawaiian Sovereignty against the Anthropological Machine. South Atlantic Quarterly Volume 110 Issue 2: pp.429–446. Schneider, R (2016) Archives Performance Remains: ​​Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment. Routledge. London. Taylor, D (2003) The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Duke University Press. Durham.

Conference structure

The 2022 annual TaPRA conference at the University of Essex will be a hybrid event, facilitating participation by online delegates alongside those attending in-person. The 2021 TaPRA conference demonstrated the many benefits of online conferencing; increased opportunity for international presenters, lower financial costs to participate, greater accessibility for those with caring responsibilities etc. The 2022 conference at Essex aims to retain the wider opportunities for engagement that online platforms offer, whilst also creating a space for in-person engagement and social interaction. In the event of a cancellation of in-person conference activities due to, for instance, COVID restrictions, the event would run entirely online and all registered in person delegates would be offered the opportunity to attend as online delegates, with the difference between in-person and online registration fees refunded.

Process for submitting a proposal

Please email abstracts (no more than 300 words in length), and an additional few sentences of biographical information to the Working Group Convenors (bodiesandperf@tapra.org) by 23.59 on 1 April 2022. IMPORTANT: Please indicate at the point of submission if you intend to attend the conference in person or online. This information is vital so that the conference organisers can effectively plan the infrastructure for the event and Working Group Convenors can schedule panel sessions effectively. You should also indicate if you have any specific requirements relating to space or AV technology as part of this submission. 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.


Working Group Convenors will inform you whether or not your proposal has been accepted as quickly as possible and by no later than 22nd April 2022. Convenors will offer brief summary feedback to all proposals that could not be accommodated. ​​Please note that putting together a full draft schedule for the conference is a complex process, particularly as all sessions will need to be accessible to delegates attending in person and online. Therefore your patience while this process is ongoing, and prompt responses to acceptances, are much appreciated. Convenors will have completed their draft schedules by the end of May 2022.

Conference costs

The early bird registration fee will be: £220 – standard in person attendance £120 – concession in person attendance £88 – online attendance £48 – online concession attendance Prices will increase to the following after 24th June 2022: £250 – standard in person attendance £150 – concession in person attendance £100 – online attendance £60 – online concession attendance All of the above conference fees include TaPRA membership for one year (£35 standard / £17 concession) starting 12th September 2022. ​On-campus ​conference accommodation will cost no more than £55 per night. The conference dinner will cost £45. There will also be an opportunity to donate towards a conference dinner fund for unwaged/unaffiliated colleagues and postgraduate researchers. Please note: All presenters must be registered for the conference by 15th July 2022; this includes those presenting online. Numbers for in-person attendance will be more limited in 2022 than previous years so we advise early booking. If you have registered for in person attendance and find yourself unable to attend you will be able to access the conference as an online delegate but will not be eligible for a refund. Concession definition: Concession rates apply to all postgraduate researchers, unwaged, unaffiliated, and retired researchers, and staff on contracts of either less than 0.6FTE 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 14 bursaries (one per working group) 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 expenses and access costs such as travel, accommodation, digital access, childcare and so forth up to a maximum of £300 (justified and costed) per applicant. 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 outline of any expenses/access needs for which you would like to apply to the discretionary fund: what they are and costs
Decisions about bursaries will be made by 6th May and notifications will be issued 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). Conveners in each working group will consider applications according to the criteria above and will nominate one applicant to put forward for a bursary. Final decisions about awards, including requests for expenses and access costs, will be made by the TaPRA Executive Committee.

TaPRA at the University of Essex

For the 2022 conference, the Working Group sessions and Keynote talks will be located in the Essex Business School (EBS) on the Colchester campus; the UK’s first zero-carbon business school building, which features an indoor winter garden (https://www.eventessex.co.uk/portfolio/the-essex-business-school/). Working Group sessions will take place in Zoom-enabled lecture-room and classroom spaces in EBS, with live-streamed keynotes delivered from two large cutting edge Lecture Auditoriums. Live performance will be hosted at Essex’s on-campus Lakeside Theatre (https://lakesidetheatre.org.uk), which also has facilities to stream performances for those attending online. While the Practice-as-Research Gallery will be hosted in Essex’s iconic brutalist building, The Hexagon (https://www.eventessex.co.uk/portfolio/the-hexagon/), which sits in the heart of the University’s Green Flag Award-winning campus (https://www.essex.ac.uk/news/2021/10/13/green-flag-award-2021). The conference will have technical support from Essex’s AVS team, with training sessions provided for Working Group convenors in advance of the conference to support the delivery of blended WG sessions to mixed rooms of in-person/online delegates. For those in-person delegates who wish to attend the conference meal, food will be served in the Garden Suite of Wivenhoe House, a beautiful 18th Century four-star hotel on campus (in walking distance of the Essex Business School). This hotel/restaurant is near the quayside village of Wivenhoe, and minutes away from Britain’s oldest recorded town, Colchester (https://www.wivenhoehouse.co.uk). The meal will be followed by a live DJ set after dinner.

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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