‘Performance and State Violence’ conference

15-16 June 2022 at Queen Mary University of London and Online

The discipline of theatre and performance studies has approached issues of state violence in myriad ways – prison drama projects, the performativity of military displays, and theatrical protests against certain laws, to name a few examples. While these topics come up frequently, the actual role of the state, and how its involvement in questions of performance and theatricality relate to its broader aims, interests, constitution, and reproduction, are often overlooked, sidestepped, and under-theorised. This conference invites responses which contextualise performance analysis within broader critical theories of the state.

For the purposes of this conference, we construe ‘state violence’ as broadly as possible, and invite submissions relating to law enforcement, the criminal justice system, the military, intelligence and surveillance programs, censorship, border and citizenship regimes, racialisation and the policing of gender by states, and punitive welfare systems. We take a similarly broad view of ‘performance’, and welcome work on theatre, live art, dance, drama, music, and performance in everyday life.

A consideration of state violence in its own right is timely. Countries around the world are seeing both an expansion of law enforcement, border policing, and the criminal justice system, and a concomitant proliferation of abolitionist and anti-carceral politics. Recent military and imperialist escalations have also been met with an activist resistance which put the question of state violence to the forefront of cultural production.

This two day conference will feature a mix of panels, keynotes, and performances. It will be a hybrid event, held in person at Queen Mary University of London and streamed online, and applications are invited for presentations which relate to the themes of the conference, for example:

  • Performance work depicting state violence
  • Performing arts programs within the carceral system
  • Work produced by subjects of state violence
  • Complicity between the performing arts sector and the state
  • The racial and colonial structure of state violence
  • Activist and/or community led performance projects
  • ‘Security theatre’ and other examples of the state’s performed or presentational activity
  • Academic scholarship and arts criticism’s relationship to state violence

This conference is free to attend. We invite proposals for 15-20 minute papers, or for other formats of presentation or performance. Proposals for online presentation are welcome. Please send a short abstract (max 200 words) and bio (max 50 words) to perfandstateviolence@gmail.com by Sunday April 17.

Details for general attendance will be circulated in due course.

This conference is organised by graduate students and doctoral graduates from Drama Department at Queen Mary University of London. The organisational committee includes Sam Čermák, Lucy Freedman, Gill Lamden, Hanife Schulte, Micaela Signorelli, Charlotte Young, and Martin Young.

Financially supported by London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP), QMUL Doctoral College, and QMUL School of English and Drama.

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