We are proud to announce details of our upcoming annual symposium, to be held at the Shard on 19th June 2015. Please share this widely with your networks and contacts.
The Society for Theatre Research
New Researchers’ Network
Second Annual Symposium
Call for Papers:
“Dumb objects, spoken for”? On Performance Archives and Documentation
Friday 19th June 2015
17th Floor, Warwick Business School
32 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9SG
The Society for Theatre Research’s (STR) New Researchers’ Network (NRN) is pleased to announce their second annual symposium, which will centre on the theme of Archives and Documentation.
In recent years scholars have taken greater interest in the documentation of live performance and the construction and curation of archives. The foundations of these ideas can be found in Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge (1969) and Derrida’s Archive Fever (1995), as well as more recent texts by Carolyn Steedman (Dust, 2001) and Helen Freshwater (‘The Allure of the Archive,’ 2003). Matthew Reason (‘Archive or Memory,’ 2003) suggests that a more nuanced understanding of human memory may offer ways to further explore the relationship between the live performance and its documents, and argues that an honest assessment of the archive must overtly perform the fact that it consists of ‘dumb objects not allowed to speak for themselves, but spoken for’.
These discussions have been recurring themes at the NRN’s events this year, in part due to the development of new technologies which simplify both the archiving and accessing of material. As new researchers, we are at the forefront of the developing field of new and exciting archival technologies, and whilst these new ways of archiving can bring exciting discoveries and increased accessibility, they also bring new challenges and difficulties. For example, digitisation is an expensive and time-consuming process, and as a result, which archives are catalogued, searchable, and accessible online is an increasingly political matter.
Other questions, raised at an NRN study day at the Live Art Development Agency, relate to the relationship between live performance and the ‘mad fragmentations’ (Steedman 2001) which form the collections of theatre archives. What does it mean to intentionally document a performance? How much can we really learn about past performance through the ephemera (flyers, prompt-scripts, photographs) which somehow, against all odds, now possess call numbers and item descriptions in our archives? How do those who curate theatre collections decide which of these scraps of paper merit preservation? What does it mean for those of us researching past performance that these processes of selection remain largely opaque?
In a recent talk as part of the STR’s Annual Lecture Series, Prof. Heike Roms acknowledged the trend for theatre and performance historians to abandon the archive in favour of more performative methods of research. While Jacky Bratton has used walking as a research tool in her book The Making of the West End Stage, others have used reenactment or reconstruction as part of their methodology to answer questions about theatre and performance. As a result, Roms asked ‘what is at stake in approaching historical evidence as event?’.
We invite proposals for papers that may consider, but are not limited to, the following topics:
The NRN Committee welcomes proposals for papers of up to fifteen minutes from new scholars, postgraduates, and early career researchers, on any aspect of the conference theme, broadly interpreted. Abstracts of up to 250 words should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by 20th March 2015. Successful applicants will be contacted by 20th April. The papers will be arranged into panel groups sharing a common theme; although we anticipate receiving a majority of proposals as single papers, we will also accept proposals for three-paper curated panels.
For queries, please contact Claire Read and Nora Williams on behalf of the NRN Committee: email@example.com
For more details on the NRN, see http://www.strnrn.org
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Twitter: @nrn_str and @TheSTR