Redirections: capturing emergent research practices in response to precarity

TaPRA 2022 Postgraduate Event

Friday 24 June 2022, online (GMT)

‘And now with the pandemic … the world has changed again, and, it seems to us, everything we do as theatre artists and scholars must change in consequence … we ought to be on a “war footing,” transforming everything about the way we live in response not just to what is in evidence around us – although that is dire enough – but to what will arrive if business proceeds as usual and nothing is done.’

– Alexandrowicz, Conrad and Fancy, D. (2021) Theatre Pedagogy in the Era of Climate Crisis, Routledge: London.

‘There is no return to normal, the new “normal” will have to be constructed on the ruins of our old lives, or we will find ourselves in a new barbarism whose signs are already clearly discernible.’

– Žižek, Slavoj (2020) PANDEMIC!: COVID-19 Shakes the World, OR Books: New York and London.

This year’s TaPRA postgraduate event will be a little different.

We would like to take a moment to gather reflections, to pause, to collectively hold a beat across the postgraduate–early career researcher community and attune ourselves to the various changes that have affected current research cultures and performance practices. Rather than holding a conventional symposium with complete, academic papers, this event will merge both research and personal experience to make space for participants to share journeys, unpolished research and works in progress within a more informal setting. In a world currently governed by uncertainty with regards to the future format, methodologies and practices of research culture in theatre arts, what new directions are emerging in how we understand and capture the live artform? What can we learn from the strategies and insights developed within a time of precarity?

Although the pandemic has evidently caused uncertainties, the idea of ‘precarity’ can be understood in the wider context of unexpected conditions in which theatre scholarship and practices have had to adapt, be suspended, or (re)imagined in their focus and structures. Whether we consider ‘precarity’ in terms of postgraduate and ECR job security in the field, unknown academic futures, or personal, local and international contexts of socio-economic or political unpredictabilities, we are interested to hear about instances of unexpected fluctuations, deviations from intended objectives and the resulting, creative strategies that have emerged. What critical perspectives can we gain and what significance does a state of precarity have on how we approach research practices? Has precarity affected our engagement with – and possibly tolerance for – ‘unfinished’ or suspended research and practices?

Our shared one-day event will include various forms of presentations that may include, but are not limited to: short, ‘lightning’ papers (5–10 minutes), testimonials, sharing a section of a performance or work-in-progress (particularly those cancelled or postponed due to COVID), panels, or facilitated discussions. When sending your application, please clarify what format you wish to propose – you may, for instance, apply as a group, for a panel discussion or presentation.

Suggested topics may include or use as a starting point:

  • precarity as a new normal for theatre and research; creative research responses to the pandemic, ongoing casualisation, mounting crises;
  • critical perspectives on the future of performance, research, and practice-as-research (PAR) which might look to emergent practices, processes, and methodologies orientated towards a more sustainable creative economy;
  • reflections on the journeys of cancelled works of performance; redirection to the digital, outdoors or alternative media;
  • theatre and performance scholarship engaging with climate crisis;
  • social justice frameworks in theatre and performance research;
  • complicity in models of precarity;
  • the future of fringe and mid-scale performance work;
  • models of self-exploitation;
  • methodology: the evolution of theoretical frameworks applied in theatre research practices;
  • more than the pandemic: theatre research engaging with other social problems/important topics/phenomena except the pandemic;
  • before and after: a ‘comparative’ study of your own research; and
  • reflections on the critical role of performance and theatremakers.

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 live over Zoom. The symposium is free to attend and open to all postgraduates and early career researchers, based anywhere in the world (bearing in mind the symposium will take place in GMT). 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 history, performance, performance studies, formal and informal performer training, stagecraft and theatre/drama in education.

As part of the event we will have the opportunity for participants to network, enter in discussion and open debates, share and reflect on their work within a supportive and friendly environment. There will also be a workshop for attendees, title to be confirmed. Abstracts should be 300 words in length, and should include the intended presentation method. All abstracts should be sent to pgtapra@gmail.com. When submitting your abstract, please also include a short biography (no more than 50 words/person) in the same document. Please also let us know if there are any access provisions – for example, captioning – that would better enable you to participate.

Deadline: Friday 8 April, 5pm

Event organisers: Reka Polonyi, Susannah Henry, Yingnan Chu, Katie Paterson, Bryony Taylor, Adelina Ong

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