Economies of Belonging: MIgration and Performance- ASTR Working Group

full name / name of organization: 
American Society for Theatre Research

American Society for Theatre Research
Montreal, CA
November 17-20, 2011

Conveners: Charlotte McIvor (University of California-Berkeley) and Emine Fisek (Johns Hopkins University)

This working session will investigate how theatre and performance aid in locating and understanding experiences of migration in a global context. Migration describes the movement of diverse groups of people ranging from guest workers to immigrants to asylum seekers and refugees. In the wake of a global economic meltdown, the question of how economies of capitalism and violence drive bodies between nations becomes more urgent than ever from both historical and contemporary standpoints. Ric Knowles argues that: "as human traffic between nations and cultures (both willing and unwilling) increases… it becomes imperative that the ways in which cultural performance is performed be critically re-examined" (Theatre & Interculturalism, 3). We ask: In a rapidly shifting and globalized economy where citizenship and its attendant rights and responsibilities remain tied to the sovereignty of nation-states, how do moving bodies experience the self and identity through the experience of migration? Where do migration and performance intersect? Can theatre and performance offer a space for staging acts of "cultural citizenship" following anthropologist Renato Rosaldo that use "cultural expression to claim public rights and recognition"? Conversely, what can public rights and recognition mean apart from the protection of citizenship, unavailable to many migrants, asylum seekers and refugees? How do neoliberal economic policies drive the contemporary movement of peoples and what role then must neoliberalism play in reshaping theories of cultural performance? 15 years after the publication of Arjun Appadurai's Modernity at Large, which offered "scapes" as a mode for analyzing the globalized attachment of migrants and others in diverse national spaces, what new paradigms in theatre and performance studies build on this work? How are the differing experiences of migrants, immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees represented onstage by others and by themselves?


Participants in the working session will contribute in a variety of ways. During summer 2011, we will read a selection of common texts including excerpts from May Joseph's "Nomadic Identities: The Performance of Citizenship," Ric Knowles' "Theatre & Interculturalism" and Helen Gilbert and Jacqueline Lo's "Cosmopolitical Performance." Prior to the meeting in Montreal, group members will circulate 6-8 page papers that respond to the common readings in order to develop the theoretical framework of their own research projects. Participants will then be placed in smaller groups according to the intersection of their research interests to comment in depth on each other's work prior to our larger group meeting. Additionally, our goal throughout will be to compile a group bibliography that expands upon our common references and to think towards an edited collection of work proceeding from this conference.

Please submit an abstract outlining research interests (500 words) and a brief bio (200 words) to Charlotte McIvor ( and Emine Fisek ( by Monday, May 30th, 2011.