Corporate Cultures: Contemporary Economies of Cultural Performance--ASTR Working Group (11/17-11/20/2011)

full name / name of organization: 
American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR)

Corporate Cultures: Contemporary Economies of Cultural Performance

Conveners: Eero Laine, Carly Griffin Smith, Peter Zazzali

Corporate interest in the cultural marketplace has created a complex network of distribution and consumption in the global economy. This has become increasingly apparent in the fields of theatre and performance; from the Disneyfication of Broadway, to political rallies sponsored by media companies, to performances of individuality on social networking sites, live and mediatized corporate cultural performances are expanding the field of cultural production to accommodate increasingly diverse interests.

This working group focuses on the possibilities of collaboratively confronting the shifting roles of cultural production, distribution, and consumption as performance in an era of expanding neoliberal ideologies and globalization. How have contemporary conditions of global capitalism created new uses and valuations of cultural products, particularly theatre and live performance? How do theatrical and other performances mediate, symbolize, reify, resist, or otherwise operate within the context of neoliberal political, economic, and ideological frameworks throughout the world today? What social responsibilities--if any--befall participants in this new "culture industry"?

The organizers invite papers addressing questions and topics including but not limited to:

* The specific relations of production, distribution, and consumption of contemporary political events;

* Corporate investment in live entertainment;

* Performing identity through brand identification;

* Interactive social networks and performances of the personal and the political;

* The production of "economies of experience" (Pine and Gilmore) and performance as a commodity; and

* Marketing and branding of cultural products, events, and performances.

The organizers are especially interested in papers that engage theories, methods, and objects of study that contribute to the development of sociological approaches to theatre and performance in the Capitalist marketplace. This might include utilizing influential sociology-based methodologies and theories, such as those of the Frankfurt and Birmingham Schools, Raymond Williams, and Pierre Bourdieu, texts on the economics of the performing arts (such as Baumol and Bowen), and/or the work of contemporary Marxist or postcolonial theorists.


In an era of intensifying globalization, a diverse and plural analytical approach becomes not only useful, but necessary to contend with cultural products as complex as theatre and performance. Collaborative approaches offer an invaluable way to put a range of socioeconomic theories into practice.

Interested participants may apply individually or in groups of two to three by submitting a proposal of 200-300 words and a brief bio. The organizers will match individual applicants based on proposals that share common objects of study or theoretical lenses. Each group will write a single 8-10 page paper, and each participant will write a short response to the working process. Groups will have two goals: 1) to develop their own working method, and 2) to use that method to produce a single, unified paper that is at least a completed first draft. Groups will exchange papers and individual responses a week before the conference, where we will discuss the results of the research itself as well as the strengths, weaknesses, and implications of each group's collaborative methodology.

Email proposals by May 30th to:

Eero Laine,
Carly Griffin Smith,
Peter Zazzali,