CFP: Performance as Research: Knowledge, Methods, Impact

30 October, 2014

Performance as Research Working Group
International Federation for Theatre Research

Essay Collection Call for Proposals
Performance as Research: Knowledge, Methods, Impact
Editors: Annette Arlander, Bruce Barton, Melanie Dreyer-Lude, and Ben Spatz

The Performance as Research (PaR) Working Group of IFTR invites proposals for an essay collection that will bring new critical insights to fundamental questions about PaR.

While there has been considerable discussion of PaR methods and documentation over the past decade, the status of methodology within PaR, and of PaR within a broader spectrum of methodologies, remains contested (see Allegue, Jones, Kershaw & Piccini 2009; Riley & Hunter 2009; Smith & Dean 2009; Barrett & Bolt 2010 [2007]; Freeman 2010; Biggs & Karlsson 2010; Kershaw & Nicholson 2011; Borgdorff 2012; Nelson 2013). Arguably, less attention has been paid to the results produced by this kind of research. Debate has been ongoing for years as to whether artworks and/or ‘art working’ (the processes that produce artworks) may serve as 1) data for the research; 2) a method of research; or 3) a crucial part of the research outcomes. By extension, the relationships between PaR and approaches such as practice-lead research, artistic research, and qualitative research more broadly remain topics of negotiation. The case for PaR as a legitimate component of mixed-method research designs is now familiar. More controversial is the assertion of PaR as a distinct methodological approach, and for the validity of “the research findings as presentational forms” in which “the symbolic data works performatively” and “not only expresses the research, but in that expression becomes the research itself” (Haseman 2006).

In order to make meaningful contributions to an academic environment that increasingly prioritizes interdisciplinary social and political inquiry, does PaR need to demonstrate not only rigorous application of methodologies and documentation strategies, but also substantive results? What form might these results take? Beyond performative “symbolic data”—which only increases in artistic value through ambiguity and openness to interpretation—must PaR generate more conventionally accessible and less ambiguous results? Must these results satisfy the criteria more commonly associated with other forms of research activity, such as outcomes, impact, utility, circulation, transmissibility, and transferability? To what degree, and in what ways, should the established criteria of knowledge production determine and shape the potential of PaR activity, currently and in the coming decades? How might PaR practitioners advocate for expanded and refined engagement with a diverse range of fields of knowledge—somatic, kinesthetic, and phenomenological, in addition to more traditional analytical and empirical models—as a means of extending the potential of PaR validity and relevance?

We welcome proposals addressing PaR processes and projects drawn from a broad, thoroughly interdisciplinary spectrum, and from both academic and non-institutional contexts. All proposals should be grounded in specific creative, artistic, and/or embodied practices. Further, all proposals should reflect the authors’ careful and explicit reflection on the key considerations detailed above: 1) contextual disciplines or fields of knowledge; 2) methods and/or methodologies; and 3) results of the research.

 Contributors are also encouraged consider, but not be restricted by, the following questions in framing their submissions:

·      Does PaR produce generalizable or transmissible outcomes of the kind so prized in other fields?

·      Which PaR methods are most likely to produce knowledge or insight that serves the needs of humanity and the planet in the twenty-first century?

·      What kinds of knowledge or insight does PaR produce that might contribute to the greater social or public good?

·      Are these kinds of goals applicable to the work we do? If not, why insist that academia is an appropriate location for such work?

·      What does PaR suggest about the future structure of academia and the university?

·      In what ways do methodologies and results differ when PaR is practiced outside the academy? What can be learned through this comparison?

·      What roles do language and distinct cultural traditions play in the practices of PaR and, in particular, in the shaping of PaR methodologies and results? How do processes of translation figure in these equations?

·      What kinds of responsibilities does the doing of PaR entail?
We welcome detailed proposals (400 – 500 words) on a broad range of approaches to these and related questions. Proposals are to be submitted no later than February 28th, 2015. First drafts will be due no later than June 30th, 2015, and final versions of the essays will be due no later than January 1st, 2016.

Send submissions or any questions to

Note: a separate Call for Proposals will be distributed related to the 2015 gathering of the Performance as Research Working Group at the 2015 IFTR/FIRT conference in Hyderabad, India.

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