CFP ASTR 2015 Portland, November 5-8: Reclaiming the "F" Word: Historical and Contemporary Performance as Theatrical Activism

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Reclaiming the "F" Word: Historical and Contemporary Feminist Performance as Theatrical Activism

Conveners: Victoria P. Lantz (Sam Houston State University) and Angela Sweigart-Gallagher (Northeastern Illinois University)

On November 12, 2014, Nancy Gibbs of TIME Magazine released this statement: "TIME apologizes for the execution of this [Banned Words for 2015] poll; the word 'feminist' should not have been included in a list of words to ban […] we regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice." The politicking and policing of women's bodies and position in society is an old trope in American culture, and asking women the gotcha question of "do you consider yourself a feminist" is now standard for public figures, especially young women. Many people run away from the term, and those who do not are often cast as die-hard, in-your-face "femi-nazis" (to borrow an old term from Rush Limbaugh). Considering the 2015 theme of what is at stake when creating theatre of activism, urgency, conviction, etc., this working group seeks to explore the nuances of in-your-face performance by women who have championed the term feminism.

The focus of this session is to engage with the concept of feminist performance as a platform for political activism and debate the following: 1) the effectiveness of un-subtle performance; 2) whether overt feminism has/can have mainstream appeal; and 3) how have different performance groups articulated, challenged, or reconstructed the nature of feminism. As mainstream culture continues to deride the idea of being a feminist, it is vital for scholars to debate and challenge what is at stake when women (and men) identify as feminists and how the landscape of feminist scholarship is reflected in or affected by historical or contemporary performance practice.

Papers might address the following:

How have historical feminist movements utilized theatre as a platform for activism?
How are contemporary playwrights, performers, and theatres staging feminism or feminist activism?
How have historical and/or contemporary feminist protests incorporated theatricality/performance?
How have feminist performance artists explored, exposed, or manipulated the body on stage?
How does the male feminist perform feminism? How is the male feminist staged?
How do issues of intersectionality inform feminist performance or activism?
What is the relationship between the label "feminist" and the performance or staging of gender?
How are feminist artists and scholars positioned and taught in academic institutions?
By mid-October, participants will submit their papers (10-15 pages). Leading up to the conference, participants will be divided into smaller groups, for feedback and discussions on themes. At ASTR, we will break up the two-hour session into three sections. First, we will talk as one large group introducing the work and the major concepts at play in the papers. Then, we will have break-out sessions where participants work in different small groups with specific questions developed by the session conveners. Finally, we will reconvene together to hear from the small groups and take questions. Inquiries may be directed to

Please send a 250-word abstract along with a brief bio by May 31, 2015 to the conveners at:

Members will be notified by the end of June whether their proposals have been accepted for the working group.