Circus & Its Others II--A Call for Papers - CircusTalk

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Circus & Its Others II–A Call for Papers

The Montreal Working Group has recently announced via press release the details of their second conference on Circus & Its Others. Here are all the details for interested circademics:


Circus and its Others II

Conference, 27-29 August 2018, Prague

From powerhouse stage and television shows to Cirque du Soleil’s status as the world’s most successful live performing arts company, circus in the early 21st century has undeniably gone mainstream. While this is positive news for circus companies, artists, and audiences with a taste for thrilling, high-performance entertainment, it also raises questions about circus’s historic status as a site for the celebration and exploitation of differences. To what extent and in what ways is circus always-already different, and about difference? How does the mainstreaming of contemporary circus affect its status as a haven for the different, the outsider? In what ways are contemporary circus artists and companies embracing and exploiting (or not) difference in their practice? How do we discuss, stage, theorize, and practice such differences including questions of gender, sexuality, embodiment, ability/disability, ethnicity, class, and species?

The Circus and its Others research project was launched in 2014 under the aegis of the Montréal Working Group on Circus Research to explore these questions. The scholarship and conversation during our exciting conference in the context of the 2016 Montréal Complètement Cirque festival proved lively, provocative, and vital, with work showcased there being published in an upcoming issue of the peer-reviewed journal Performance Matters (May 2018, vol. 4.1).

We are thrilled to announce the expanded international exploration of these concerns with the organization of the second Circus and Its Others conference to be held in Prague, Czech Republic, 27-29 August 2018, during the Letní Letná circus festival, who joins us as a partner along with Cirqueon and Charles University.

We invite proposals for research talks that address questions of difference and otherness in the context of contemporary circus. We further make explicit invitation for presentations from artists and practitioners who address such questions in their work, practice, and/or research-creation (our conference venue also includes some space for performance).

Possible areas of inquiry might include, but need not be limited to:

Histories of circus and its others
  • What hidden histories of circus practice may be located in the visual archive?
  • What are the histories of areas of circus practice that today are considered other to the mainstream, such as the use and display of animals?
  • How do the histories of circus practice intersect with histories of colonialism and imperialism?
Periphery and center
  • What might the Czech context tell us about the place of circus and its others in European or global perspectives?
  • To what extent do hierarchies in academic research, funding practices, and artistic recognition affect the place and presence of “the other”?
  • How do differing regional or national practices affect recognition on the world’s stages?
Traveling otherness
  • What happens when circus talent and circus acts travel outside their cultures of origin and become “other”?
  • To what extent do circuses use their national/regional/linguistic/ethnic difference as branding to enable their circulation in the global entertainment market? What practices of exotification and self-exotification may be employed in this?
Circus bodies: Normal, extraordinary, other?
  • What are the implications of shifts in the mainstreaming of contemporary circus and related changes in skill, artistry, and training for circus artists including those who may carry historical baggage of “born otherness” with them?
  • What is required and expected of the bodies of today’s elite circus artists? With their toned, strong bodies do they now represent a societal ideal rather than society’s outsiders? How do circus trainers as well as circus artists deal with questions of body image?
Gender and queerness in contemporary circus
  • How are circus artists and companies resisting commodification and mainstreaming to keep the freak and queer in contemporary circus?
  • Are women circus’s perennial other?
  • What and where are queer circus performances?
Creation, pedagogy, and practice
  • What place is or should be granted “the other” in our schools and training facilities?
  • How are differences given space and form in creation and practice-based research, and what are the related roles of dramaturgies and direction?
  • How does doing the “business” of circus affect the role of difference in the art?
Social circus – the other of professional circus?
  • How are circus artists and researchers using the circus arts to intervene in the lives of, and support, those othered by mainstream society?
  • What are the power relations between social circus and professional circus, and how do questions of race/class/gender/ability figure in this?
  • If social circus has become a conduit for those still considered other from the largely white European talent base to enter professional contemporary circus, what is the relationship of this flow of bodies to historical and current power relations between Global North and South?

Please send 300-500 word proposals for 20-minute presentations to [email protected] by 15 December 2017. Please articulate clearly in your proposal if you plan to make a formal paper presentation or if as a practitioner/creator/researcher you wish to engage in a hybrid practice/talk/research/creation exploration. We hope to reply to all applicants in January 2018. The organizers are applying for financial support for the conference, but we regret that we cannot promise bursaries or travel grants at this time.

Circus and Its Others Prague Academic Committee / Comité scientifique:
Charles Batson, Union College, USA
Michael Eigtved, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Karen Fricker, Brock University, Canada
Louis Patrick Leroux, Concordia University, Canada
Martin Pšenička, Charles University, Czech Republic
Veronika Štefanová, Cirqueon, Czech Republic
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