Performing Science and Scientific Performance (2 Hour Session)
American Society for Theatre Research Conference 2013
November 7-10, Dallas, Texas
Scientists have a long history of adopting performance practices as a means of manufacturing professional authority. The public dissection theatres of early modern Europe, the 18th-century parlor-room demonstrations of everything from air-pumps to phrenology, the spectacular electricity shows of Tesla and Edison, the performing hysterics in the Tuesday lectures of Freud’s teacher Charcot, and the contemporary phenomenon of the TED conference—all these are not simply entertainments with a scientific theme. Each event adjudicates between critical performance practices, scientific ideas, and cultural authorities, enacting embodied relationships between scientists and objects. Because the interdisciplinary field of science studies seeks a broad cultural understanding of how scientific knowledge is made, it has vigorously taken up performance as a new critical lens (as the 2010 special issue of the science history journal Isis demonstrates). However, we have observed that little of this valuable contemporary work on scientific performance has been written by scholars of performance, and that most of such scholarship tends to use performance as a metaphor, rather than as a methodology. In this working session, we will open up a space for performance scholars to critically assess and contribute to scholarship in this field. We invite papers that interrogate the relationship between the truth-making claims of science and performance, broadly understood. Possible topics for inquiry include:
- Historical scientific demonstrations
- Contemporary bioart
- Medical performance art and body art
- Plays that concern science and scientists
- “Performance” as a scientific virtue, a la Jon McKenzie
- Methodological inquiries into the forms of science as performance
- Science performance within specific spaces—museums, archives, universities
- Pedagogical performance of science within schools and universities
We invite 500-word proposals that include an abstract for your ASTR paper submission as well as a brief description of your current work. Please include full contact information and organizational affiliation (if any) on both your proposal and your email and send your proposal to both conveners by June 3, 2013.
Participants will submit a 10-12 (2,500-3,000 words) page draft of their paper by October 1 to the conveners. A bibliography will be circulated in the summer for the benefit of the participants; two small readings will be highly encouraged to establish common discussion points. Between October 1 and the ASTR conference, participants will be divided into small groups in which they will read each other papers and a forum will be set up for discussing major and minor themes within the works. Major edits and commentary will be discussed during the conference itself.
This working session seeks to address questions of science and performance through methodological lenses; therefore, the working group will be arranged around a two-hour format discussion format, dedicated to addressing issues and questions that arose within individual submissions. The first hour will incorporate introductions followed by a breakout session. In this session, previously arranged groups will discuss the larger issues raised at this meeting in relationship to their specific work and papers. The goal of the breakout session will be twofold: 1) to workshop/further troubleshoot individual papers; 2) to address questions and ideas pertinent to the larger interests of the group in a smaller setting. The final stage of the group will be a large group discussion forum, where questions of methodology, practice, and research can be productively followed.
Ph.D. Candidate, Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Theatre & Drama
Assistant Master, Shepard Residential College