In a return to form for the conference itself and a first for Colombian circademics, the fourth Circus and Its Others conference will be held live in Bogotá in 2024 as a platform to amplify and present diverse research in the field of circus studies… and they’re calling on researchers from around the globe to showcase work. Keep reading to learn more about the event details—and how you can take part in it.
Circus and its Others (CaiO) is an international, cross-disciplinary research initiative that explores the ways in which contemporary circus artists and companies relate to the concept of difference in their practice. Since its launch with a study day in 2014, the initiative has generated three international conferences (Montréal, 2016; Prague, 2018; Davis, 2021) and a double issue of the peer-reviewed journal Performance Matters (Vol 4., nos. 1-2, 2018). Along the way, this ever-blossoming inquiry has started to feel like a movement in that the scholars and artist-researchers involved are united by more than the same research interests. CaiO participants share the desire to continue to establish circus studies as a field while at the same time resisting its full institutionalization, engaging in an ongoing reflexive inquiry that allows itself to query its own inclusions and exclusions.
The fourth Circus and its Others conference will be held in Bogotá, Colombia, on February 28 – March 3, 2024, and will be the first international circus studies conference ever held in Colombia. As such, the conference is intended to catalyze the development of circus studies as an academic discipline in Colombia and the Latin American region. As with each of our previous conferences, our gathering will take place alongside a festival, this one at the newly re-imagined National Centre for the Arts Teatro Colón. This festival, co-curated by the CaiO academic and creative committee along with Artemotion and the National Centre for the Arts, involves multiple components, including street and ritual performances, in celebration and recognition of contemporary circus’s multiplicity and differences. These combined activities will explore Colombia’s status as a meeting point between North and South America, and a continued key site of movements of people and ideas within and beyond Latin America. Our current plans target a fully in-person conference, that will be free of charge to all.
In this context, CaiO IV proposes a focus on themes of social movements, mobilities, and “the difference that difference makes” (Gaztambide-Fernández 42). Professor Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, who will be a keynote speaker at the conference, depicts the present era of global mobilizations as “neither spontaneous nor natural, but [as] the outcome of complex dynamics of colonization; a moment that confronts us with both the challenge and the opportunity of actively rethinking modes for human interaction” (42). He explores solidarity (an under-theorized concept, in his argument) within the early 21st-century context in which processes of decolonization, anti-racism, and Indigenous resurgence unfold alongside climate emergency, far-right populism, and ever-surging neoliberal capitalism. Reconsidering solidarity in relationship to decolonization allows us to challenge categories of human/more than human and Global South/Global North, and logics of inclusion and exclusion: “It is about imagining human relations that are premised on the relationship between difference and interdependency, rather than similarity and a rational calculation of self-interests” (49).
We extend Gaztambide-Fernández’s call for a pedagogy of solidarity towards an exploration of creative practices of solidarity, with a focus on the work of circus artists, companies, and theorists. What possibilities emerge when we come together to make and study circus committed to an ongoing, reflexive process of decolonization that recognizes difference as a uniting principle?
Our emphasis on decoloniality extends a current of thought that critically engages with power dynamics inherited from colonial times, to embrace activism, performances, and social practices from around the globe and across eras that demonstrate multiple forms of being in the world. We advocate and call for an understanding of decoloniality beyond geographical divisions and a specific time and space, joining visual artist, scholar, and activist Nicholas Mirzoeff (2020) who explains decoloniality in terms of “devisualizing,” that is, of “undoing the processes of classification, separation and aestheticization formed under settler colonialism” (13). According to Mirzoeff, devisualising requires “decolonizing past and present formations,” claiming the possibility of another history, or rather, “herstory, transtory and/or ourstories” (13, 14).
Our invitation is to reimagine individual and collective existence and to challenge patriarchy, capitalism, and the nation-state as natural forms of social organization. How to re-configure our world from diverse and interconnected perspectives? When referring to the Global North and South, then, we follow Connell’s approach to connote not bounded categories of states and societies, but rather to emphasize “relations of authority, exclusion and inclusion, hegemony, partnerships, sponsorships, or appropriation” between theories, praxes and aesthetics produced in the metropole and those in the so-called world periphery, including so-called pre-modern times (2007 ix).
The conference theme is further informed by its location in Colombia, which is currently a site of extreme internal and external displacement as an estimated 1.7 million refugees from Venezuela have settled in the country since 2016 (Migración Colombia, Turkewitcz). As well, the Darien jungle pathway has turned Colombia’s northern border with Panama into a perilous but highly trafficked zone for migrants making their way to the United States (ACAPS).
The situation in Colombia reflects the current stage of globalization, in which mobility is increasingly normalized and the concepts of local and global are shifting; but unequal power relations between Global North and South, global majority and minority, former colonial powers, and Indigenous peoples persist. How is this playing out in circus practices, networks, and studies, and how in particular in Latin American circus, where the supposed divide between professional and social (politically-engaged, social justice-focused) circus is revealed to be a Western construct (Sorzano 2018)? How is this playing out in a region where artistic mobilizations are helping to transform and reconfigure political power (Pinochet-Cobos 2021; Sorzano 2022)? How are circus practices and performances offering alternative forms to reconfigure and reimagine human and environmental relationships?
We invite proposals for research talks and/or panels that address these themes of circus, solidarity, difference, and/or mobility, and particularly welcome proposals about circus in Colombia and Latin America. We further invite proposals for papers/panels that address other questions of difference and otherness in the context of traditional, new, and contemporary circus from across the Global North and South. We also make explicit invitations for presentations in a diverse range of formats from artists and practitioners who address such questions in their work, practice, and/or research-creation (our conference venue includes some spaces for performances, screenings, and workshops).
Some of the themes of discussion may include, but are not restricted to:
- Human/post-human explorations in circus
- Exploring decoloniality in circus performances, practices, and bodies
- Circus bodies and mobility in post-pandemic times and the metaverse
- Histories of circus mobility
- Circus in sites and times of conflict
- Diverse and intercultural bodies in circus: individual and collective interactions
- Social and economic modes of organization in circus
- Human-animal-environment relationships across circus movements and times
- Circus, activism, social mobilizations, and protest: climate change, Black Lives Matters, migration, political crises, feminist and queer mobilizations
- Circus history/herstory/transtory/ourstory
We invite 300- to 400-word proposals for 20-minute presentations or hour-long themed panels. Please send proposals in English, Spanish, or Portuguese by March 15, 2023, to [email protected]. 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. Presentations will be mainly in English and Spanish; Portuguese is also welcome. We will contact those who want to present in Portuguese for translation arrangements and possibilities. We hope to reply to all applicants by the beginning of April 2023. The organizers are applying for financial support for the conference, but we regret that we cannot promise bursaries or travel grants at this time.
The Circus and Its Others IV Academic and Creative Committee is headed by Charles Batson, Union College, NY, USA; Karen Fricker, Brock University, Ontario, Canada; Aastha Gandhi, independent scholar, New Delhi, India; Julieta Infantino, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Olga Sorzano, Artemotion, Colombia.
Partners and Allies CaiO 2024 include Artemotion (Colombia); National Centre for the Arts Teatro Colón (Colombia); Ciclo de Estudios sobre Historia do Circo (Brazil, Latin America); and Esta Pasando (Latin America).
Works cited ACAPS. “Colombia-Panama Border. Migration crisis.” https://reliefweb.int/report/panama/acaps-thematic-report-colombia-panama-bordermmigratio n-crisis-03-november-2022. Connell, Raewyn. Southern Theory: The global dynamics of knowledge in social science. Routledge, 2020. Gaztambide-Fernández, Rubén. “Decolonization and the pedagogy of solidarity.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society, vol. 1, no. 1, 2012, pp. 41-67 Migración Colombia. “Más de un millón setecientos setenta y un mil venezolanos están radicados en Colombia,” 27 Februray, 2020. https://migracioncolombia.gov.co/noticias/mas-de-un-millon-setecientos-setenta-y-un-mil-vene zolanos-estan-radicados-en-colombia-migracion-colombia. Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “Preface: Devisualize.” The Aesthetics of Global Protest. Visual Culture and Communication, edited by Aidan McGarry, Itir Erhart, Hande Eslen-Ziya, Olu Jenzen, and Umut Korkut, Amsterdam University Press, 2020, pp. 11-14. Pinochet-Cobos, Carla. “Disrupting normalcy. Artistic interventions and political mobilisation against the neoliberal city.” Social Identities, vol. 27, no. 5, 2021, pp. 538-554. Sorzano, Olga Lucia. “Is Social Circus the ‘Other’ of Professional Circus?” Performance Matters, vol. 4, nos. 1-2, 2018, pp. 116-133. —. “Colombia’s Cultural Explosion: Vivir Sabroso and Ollas Communitarias as Pedagogies of Solidarity.” Educational Studies, 2022, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00131946.2022.2132395. Accessed 4 Dec. 2022. Turkewitz, Julie. “Colombia Makes ‘Historic’ Decision to Grant Legal Status to 1.7 Million Venezuelan Migrants.” New York Times, 8 Feb 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/08/world/americas/colombia-venezuela-migrants-duque.ht ml. Photo: Alejandro Ardila. "Mamá Medea" (Teatro del Embuste). Circus artists: Milena Pardo Beltrán, Jonathan Cuero, Julio Adrian Yanes. Bogotá, Colombia 2021.
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