Sunday, May 27, 2012

Contaminating Bodies, Infectious Spectacles, Troubling Histories:
Women on Performative Display

Working Session for the American Society for Theatre Research Conference
Nashville, 1-4 November 2012

How do female bodies in performance trouble historiographic processes of looking, spectating, recording, and (re)performing? In what ways does the liveness and/or presentness of female bodies in performance—especially bodies considered excessive or infectious—trouble how women are written into theatre histories and how affect circulates through those histories? Related to Joseph Roach’s notion of “deep skin,” how might historically situated ways of seeing and/or historiographic methods contaminate the record of female bodies on stage? How might theatre historians and artists overcome these obstacles in their own practices?

This session expands upon the work begun during our 2010 and 2011 “Contaminating Bodies” working sessions. There participants considered questions related to media, modes of circulation, and affective production in order to examine how performance cultures across time and space have perpetuated notions of the female body as infectious and contaminating. This 2012 session continues to interrogate that theme but with greater attention to historical processes and historiographic methodologies. Although we encourage members of our previous working sessions to submit proposals, we also invite new voices and perspectives into this conversation. We encourage work from a range of historical periods, geographies, and theoretical frameworks.

We will organize participants into smaller working groups that encourage dialogue across disciplinary, theoretical, and historical boundaries. Members of these smaller groups will share project ideas, challenges, and resources by email before the conference. By October 1st, participants will exchange short papers (8-10 pages) within these smaller groups. Each participant will prepare brief written feedback about the other members’ papers, which they will exchange and discuss at the beginning of the conference session. We will follow this small group work with a larger conversation about conclusions and connections that emerged from this discussion, and possibilities for further study.

Please submit a 200-word abstract and brief bio to both Jen-Scott Mobley ( and Jill Stevenson ( by Thursday, May 31st. Feel free to email Jill and Jen-Scott with questions before that deadline. For more information about the conference, please visit:

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