Defiant Embodiments in Theatre, Sport, and Performance / TaPRA Performance and the Body WG Interim Event

deadline for submissions: 
March 20, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Brunel University London / Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA)

Call for Proposals: 

Defiant Embodiments in Theatre, Sport, and Performance

A One-Day Symposium and Workshop / TaPRA Performance and the Body Working Group Interim Event, co-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

29 April 2017, Brunel University London, Indoor Athletic Centre 

Call Deadline: 20 March 2017

Keynote Presentation: Kira O’Reilly, live artist and Lecturer in Ecology and Contemporary Performance, Theatre Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki.

Workshop: Kristian McPhee, 2016 British Champion Olympic Weightlifter (77kg), BWL Level 2 Qualified Weightlifting Coach

In Iris Marion Young’s seminal essay ‘Throwing Like a Girl’, Young argues that the cultural conditioning of female bodies is at the heart of the gendered gestural statement of the title. She suggests that female bodies are conditioned to experience space differently from bodies gendered male, and thus, underestimate their abilities to fill space, including, for example, the force required to throw a ball (Young 1990: 148). ‘Throwing like a girl’ is thus a gestural chain, involving arm, shoulder, and core, which marks bodies whether they are supposed ‘female’ bodies assumed to throw in that way, or ‘male’ bodies for whom ‘throwing like a girl’ becomes a form of gendered and homophobic abuse. 

As Carrie Noland reminds us, however, ‘most subjects who “throw like a girl,” while still retaining other attributes gendered female […] can indeed learn to “throw like a boy.” A female subject can learn to imitate, and thus “cite,” in [Judith] Butler’s sense, the arm-shoulder-torso movements engaged by the normative boy in the act of throwing’ (Noland 2009: 174). Rejecting the paradigm of bodily inscription (a body constructed through discourse), Noland argues that the experience of the body moving is a site of agency, and thus through embodied acts the human subject can resist the gendered, racial, sexual, or class-based identities to which they are habitually positioned. 

This one-day symposium seeks to identify, explore, and encourage such ‘defiant embodiments’ (Franklin 2014) at the intersection of theatre, sport, and performance. It seeks to consider artistic interventions into the practices of sport and physical culture (Cassils Becoming an Image, PanicLab’s Rite of Spring, Franko B’s Milk+Blood) as well as performances of defiant embodiment in the world of sport (Caster Semenya’s record breaking speed, Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised-fist gesture at the 1968 Olympics, Colin Kaepernick’s sat protests against the Star-Spangled Banner). How might the multiple defiant embodiments in theatre, sport, and performance intervene in and challenge discourses of identity and value constructed through regimes of gesture and movement? What new and innovative research methods might we use to study such defiant embodiments? And what are the dangers and threats encountered by those who pursue defiant embodiments (after all, as the controversy over Semenya’s record-breaking speed reminds us, defiant embodiments are often subject to significant and sometimes violent policing)?

Taking place at Brunel University London’s Indoor Athletic Centre, Defiant Embodiments will explore research at the intersection of practice and theory. The symposium schedule will include:

·       Paper presentations from working group members

·       Round-table discussions

·       An introductory workshop in weightlifting/strength and conditioning with 2016 British Champion Weightlifter (77kg) Kristian McPhee, and an accompanying reflective discussion

·       A keynote presentation from Kira O’Reilly

Please send 300-word proposals for 20 minute papers or alternative proposals (performance-lectures, participatory activities that can take place within the 20 minute time frame) addressed to the symposium convenors at the following address: 

Deadline: Monday, 20 March 2017

This event is free for existing members of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA). Non-members may attend at the special interim event membership rate of £10. 

A limited number of travel bursaries of £50 each and accommodation subsidies of £25 each are available for postgraduate students and casualized lecturers and artists. Please enquire directly to the convenors if you wish to apply for a bursary. 

Organised by Broderick Chow ( and Claire Hampton (

The TaPRA Performance and the Body WG Convenors are: Dr Royona Mitra, Dr Patrick Duggan, and Claire Hampton. 

This event is supported by the Theatre and Performance Research Association; Brunel University London; and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and is a part of the Dynamic Tensions Research Network for Theatre, Performance, Sport, and Physical Culture. More information on: