Up close and personal:

Exploring the relationship between the researcher and their project

TaPRA 2023 postgraduate symposium

Thursday 22 June 2022, in person

Guildhall School, Barbican, London

It is usual to begin a research presentation by positioning yourself alongside your subject, but often these moments are brief and quickly eclipsed by the topic under discussion. For our first in-person postgraduate symposium since 2019, we would like to invite you to place this moment of context or positioning at the centre of the discussion of emergent research in theatre and performance.

How is the research shaped by the researcher themselves?

How does ‘who you are’ wrap around your research?

And how does this translate to how you research (and treat) the object of your study?

What was the spark that ignited your research project? How is this shaping the contribution you want to make to your discipline or areas of focus?

You might consider research as an act of becoming, which proposes (perhaps) that the researcher changes as their project develops or gathers momentum. It might be through the activities of your research project you are ‘becoming’ too, a process acknowledged by the author Rebecca Solnit: “… underneath the task of writing a particular piece is the general one of making a self who can make the work you are meant to make” (Solnit 2020).

Whether that act of becoming happens through writing, through arts practice, through data-gathering or engaging with the work of others, what we research undoubtedly has something to reveal about our values and responsibilities. Minna Salami proposes that “… acceptance of the pure, raw quality of interiority is essential to meaningful change” (Salami 2020), which highlights the potential role of self-reflection to underpin the eventual contribution we make to our field, or perhaps the way in which it might inspire positive change.

Beyond the aspirations for your research there is the practical matter of sustaining your relationship to it for the duration of the project: “You want to be sufficiently in love with your theme to have the will to complete it”, suggests former PhD student Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain (Russell 2008). The ‘love’ for your theme, territory or topic might have arrived in a different form – you may have been spurred to investigate something through anger or a sense of injustice, or it may have been a love story in the truest sense. However the connection to your research manifested itself and continues to burn, you might consider the relationship of your work to how you care for yourself, and for others within your research. Some of us are engaged in research in theatre and performance which challenges us on a personal or emotional level and raises questions about how we manage ourselves within the research process. Taking a cue from bell hooks, we might think about the extent to which “our capacity to be self-loving [is] shaped by the work we do and whether that work enhances our well-being” (hooks 2000).

Many of our number will have conducted most of their research presentation encounters in isolation and/or online, which makes our 2023 event special. Participants and attendees will have the opportunity to network, enter in discussion and open debates, share and reflect on their work (and themselves within their work) within a supportive and friendly environment of peers. There will also be a workshop for attendees, with a title to be confirmed.

The Theatre & Performance Research Association invites proposals relating to the theme from postgraduates at all levels of study (including MA students), postdoctoral researchers and early career academics to be delivered in-person. The symposium is free to attend and open to all postgraduates and early career researchers, based anywhere in the world. Please note that you do not have to be a member of TaPRA to apply/attend.

We invite presentations that relate to the theme in all forms of theatre practice, theatre histories, performance, performance studies, formal and informal performer training, stagecraft and theatre/drama in education.

We invite proposals for the following:

  • Panel – You and two peers exploring a theme (20min)
  • Paper – A solo or shared presentation (20min)
  • Provocation – A short offer or discussion point (5min)
  • Practice Sharing – A sharing of documentation or a live activity (20min)

Please include the intended contribution method in your 300-word abstract and send this to pgtapra@gmail.com with an additional short biography of no more than 50 words appended to this document. Please let us know in your covering email if there are access provisions that would better enable you to participate.

Deadline for abstracts: Monday 3 April, 5pm

Event organisers: Susannah Henry (Guildhall School) and Reka Polonyi (University of Manchester)


hooks, b. (2000) All about love: New Visions. William Morrow. New York.

Russell, L. (2008) Dr Dr I feel like doing a PhD. Continuum. London.

Salami, M. (2020) Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach for Everyone. Zed Books. London.

Solnit, R. (2020) Recollections of My Non-Existence. Granta Books. London.

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