[UPDATE] Props and Vessels: Pregnancy, Maternity, and Birth as Objectified Performance

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

When blogger Lady Goo Goo Gaga opened a Pottery Barn Kids catalog, she discovered that she is a "very, very bad mother...because I have not once shaped sandwiches into a tic-tac-toe game utilizing carrot shreds and pieces of grapes." The catalog's lunch boxes, displaying an idealized vision of mother's love in comestible form, highlight the way props become an intrinsic part of maternal performance.

This session will build on work begun in the Postpartum session at ASTR 2013 in Dallas and encourage participants to consider the non-human aspects of maternal performance before, during, and after birth: what props are necessary to perform "good" motherhood in a specific place and time, on and off stage? How has or does theatre reflect, refute, or help to script such performances?

We are also interested in how the maternal body itself has, historically or contemporarily, become objectified or dehumanized--how the body might legally, theologically, socially, or politically become a disembodied "vessel." Taking a performance studies approach, participants could consider women's legal status in relation to children and their fathers, the history of medicine, or social debates about access to and control over the gravid body. In considering the body as vessel, how is the body as vessel constructed socially and legally when filled, when emptied, when barren? What stigmas or virtues are connected to the disembodied vessel? We welcome papers from all periods, cultures, and theoretical approaches, particularly those which consider post-humanist or new materialist thought.

In addition to circulating a paper, participants will be asked to help create a performance component connected to the working session, the form and content of which will be decided by the group.

To submit, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words and a 100-word bio to phillips.960@osu.edu by June 1, 2014. Please be sure to include your full name, institutional affiliation, and preferred contact information.

Conveners: Judith Caballero (Millsaps College), Alicia Corts (University of Georgia), and Chelsea Phillips (Ohio State University)