Performing the Social, Texas Tech Annual Comparative Literature Symposium, April 10-11, 2015

full name / name of organization: 
Texas Tech University
contact email: 

Some would argue that performance has always been social. The origins of Western performance are often charted through rituals, liturgy, mysteries, and morality plays, and Eastern performance through folklore, poetry, music, and dance. The popularity of plays by Kalidasa, Gao Ming, Shakespeare, Moliere, and others, in their times and beyond it, has depended in part on their ability to represent the social in ways that resonate for audiences today.

In the twentieth and twenty first centuries, performance has been widely interpreted to include theatrical, cinematic, musical, speech, and gender acts. Following the work of Victor Turner and Richard Schechner, one branch of performance studies, deriving from anthropology and theatre, has examined the religious myths, beliefs, and rituals of Western and non-Western societies, including the continuation and relevance of these in contemporary social life. Some of these ideas have resulted in debates between those who view such studies as an example of cultural tourism versus those who believe that they offer us valuable insights about societies. In theatrical, cinematic, and dance productions where the body is often the cornerstone of performance, the social is invoked to deconstruct the alienated subject of liberalism. In of music and art, performance has often been linked to installations and ensemble productions, foregrounding bodies in relation to material objects and compositions. Of particular interest is contemporary work at the intersection of media, performance, and the social by the following artists: Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Pena from the Americas; William Kentridge, Jane Taylor, and Zanele Muholi from South Africa; Jason Lim and Inder Salim from Asia, among others.

Since the 1980s, the idea of performance and "performativity" has also been applied to gender and sexual identities to develop theories based on linguistic, literary, and philosophical insights by J.L. Austin, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault. As the work of Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, and others illustrates, the social involves political actions, affective relations, community formations, and pedagogic practices. Many of these paradigms have shifted and modified to encompass non-Western and variedly geographical, cultural, racial, and sexual experiences.

Encouraging participants to interpret the idea of "performance" and the "social" in broad, interdisciplinary, and innovative ways, Texas Tech University's Annual Comparative Literature Symposium invites papers on the theme Performing the Social. Conference presenters may explore any aspect of literary, expressive, pedagogic, or activist cultures in global, regional, or national contexts.

There are no registration fees for this conference.

Please submit 300-word abstracts by January 31st to Dr. Kanika Batra, Department of English, Texas Tech University at Paper presenters will be informed about the acceptance of their proposals by Feb 15th. The conference will take place on April 10-11, 2015 at Texas Tech University, Lubbock.