ASTR Performance and Ecology Working Group

deadline for submissions: 
June 1, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
American Society for Theatre Research
contact email: 

Ecology & Performance Working Session


Climate change and other large-scale ecological disasters arouse many different responses. These anthropogenic dilemmas have the potential to arouse action, awareness, and radical hope, but also intense despair and helplessness.  As Catriona Sandilands states, “If we take seriously the argument that the ecological crisis is, even in small part, a problem of desire - specifically, of its narrowing, regulations, erasure, ordering, atomization and homogenization - then, I think queer theory has a great deal to offer environmental ethics and vice verse” (188). Following this line of thought, pursuing arousal – by growing, consuming, taming, killing, dominating, and copulating – is the root of the world’s ecological disasters. And yet, in reorienting our pursuit of arousal, desire may indeed be the Anthropocene’s only hope.


Growing out of the performance and ecology seminar at ASTR 2005/Toronto, and continuing as a research group at ASTR's 2010/Seattle, 2012/Nashville, 2014/Baltimore, 2015/Portland, 2016/Minneapolis, and 2017/Atlanta conferences, this research group has been at the forefront of the emergent field of performance and ecology. Responding to this year’s theme of Arousal: Theatre, Performance, Embodiment, the Ecology & Performance working group will concentrate on the intersection of ecology and desire, pleasure and exposure in a bodily sense. In her recent book, Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times, Stacy Alaimo posits that “pleasure, desire, sensuality, and eroticism can pulse through the human exposed to place, permeating environmentalist ethics and politics as inspiration, catalyst, and energy” (5). We are interested in exploring how “arousal” might act as a catalyst to understand complex ecological issues.


We welcome proposals for both traditional and creative/artistic scholarship (performative writing, practice-as-research documentation, etc). Specifically, paper proposals might relate to following key themes:


  • Queer ecology and the “queering” of performance and ecological discourses and Sandilands claim, “Desire . . . and pleasure. . . has the potential to reorient sexuality away from both ecologically and sexually destructive relations” (188).

  • Ecofeminisms and intersectional environmentalism: What kind of arousal is excluded and/or disempowering? How do different identities and privileges create and sanction arousal?

  • Vital materiality and the performativity of nonhuman “matter,” including postcolonial perspectives. The stakes of acknowledging more-than-human “bodies” in performance. “Can exposing human flesh while making space for multispecies liveliness disperse and displace human exceptionalism?” (Alaimo 1).

  • Arousal, privilege, and bodies. What bodies are disproportionately affected by ecological consequences? What bodies are expendable or exposed to toxins and contaminated?

  • Performance and ecosexuality: What does “circulating erotic energy with the earth” (Sprinkle and Stephens) through performance practices do to the concept of “arousal” or “pleasure”?


In advance of the conference, session participants will exchange papers and engage in peer review of one another's work in order to raise key questions around the threads of the intersection of ecology and desire, pleasure and exposure, and transdisciplinary practice/thinking/activism. We will hold online discussions around these themes. During our working session, we will be undertaking small group discussion with in-depth analysis and critical review of papers/ideas by sub-sets of participants. This will be followed by a plenary discussion in which the sub-groups share the key connections and conundrums emerging from their joint discussion of research and propose new areas of research development.


Please submit a 250 word paper proposal and short bio. We welcome proposals from scholars at all levels (including independent scholars), as well as artists, and those who have been traditionally underrepresented in the academy. For specific questions please contact working group conveners at,, and



Angenette Spalink, Weber State University (

Jonah Winn-Lenetsky,Institute of American Indian Arts (

Lisa Woynarski, University of Reading (