The TaPRA Bodies and Performance Working Group and Brunel University London is pleased to announce a second workshop/interim event:

Agonistic politics in performance: practices of difference, disagreement, and respect in theatre, dance, and sport

24 March 2018, Brunel University London

Organized by Janet O’Shea (UCLA)
Keynote Presentation by Alex Channon (Brighton)

From John J O’Brien, “Jiu-Jitsu, by President Roosevelt’s Instructor” (Boston: The American College of Physical Culture, 1905). From the George Arents Collection, New York Public Library.

The global rise of right wing populism has fueled a politics of disrespect in which racism, misogyny, and xenophobia are celebrated as the counter-balance to political correctness, and callous disregard is taken as necessary in a time of precarity. In response to this valorization of vitriol, poster artist Shepard Fairey (2016) argues that the mechanisms of democracy and specifically the creation of public policy require a degree of civility. David Palumbo-Liu (2014), by contrast, maintains that civility can squash dissent, discourage debate, squelch non-mainstream political positions, and maintain the status quo. Indeed, Chantal Mouffe (2013) suggests that the path to true democracy is through agonistic politics, and philosopher Erin Manning (2006) argues for dissensus, rather than consensus, as the basis of cooperation.

This one-day workshop seeks to examine politics of disagreement, debate, and “agonistic respect” (Connolly 1993) in the context of theater, dance, sport, and other forms of performance. Performance, and artistic production more generally, has long been considered a site for dissent. However, most studies of dissent in theatre have investigated content rather than form. Does performance create particular opportunities for dissent and disagreement through its structures, codes, and conventions? And how might such structures act on or be enacted by moving bodies? How do performative practices, including sport, represent disagreement, enact debate, or allow us to rehearse alternative modes of being than the ones offered by mainstream politics? Does attending to a politics of dissent require innovative or alternative research methods?

The workshop will include a practical martial arts seminar that introduces participants to the practices of agonistic respect that are central to sport fighting. Martial arts are widely recognized as an arena in which agonism and civility exist side by side. Sport fighting, with its intense physicality and its literal exploration of conflict, is a particular fruitful means through which to consider the relationship between conflict and cooperation. This studio-based, physical exploration of dissent and civility exemplifies the non-traditional methods of scholarly engagement that are central to this interim event.

Taking place at Brunel University London, Agonistic Politics in Performance engages research at the intersection of performance and theory. The workshop will consist of:

  • Themed “cluster” discussions (see “Expressions of Interest” below);
  • An introductory practical martial arts seminar with reflective discussion;
  • A keynote presentation from Alex Channon, Senior Lecturer in Physical Education and Sport Studies at the University of Brighton. Alex’s research interests encompass various thematic issues within the sociology of sport and physical education, focusing primarily on martial arts and combat sports. Alex has explored the relationship between gender, sexuality and participation; the value of martial arts within physical education curricula; media representations of professional fighters; the construction of meaning around notions of ‘violence’ among martial artists; and most recently the provision of medical support in combat sports. He is co-editor of three academic books, including Global Perspectives on Women in Combat Sports: Women Warriors around the World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), and is the co-founder of the combat sports-based anti-violence initiative, Love Fighting Hate Violence. Alex currently sits on the editorial board of Sociology of Sport Journal and is a board member of the Martial Arts Studies Research Network.

Expressions of Interest: Interested participants should send, by 2 March 2018, a one-page “position paper” outlining a) current research interests; and b) their interest in the topic of the workshop. Position papers should be no more than 400 words. Participants then will be grouped into roundtable clusters by theme. During these cluster discussions participants will have the opportunity to informally present work-in-progress and to develop these ideas with other participants. The event will also provide opportunities for interdisciplinary research networking.

This event is intended to develop works-in-progress, and create opportunities for interdisciplinary research collaboration. Postgraduate students, as well as unaffiliated/casualised academics and practitioners are especially encouraged to apply, and four travel bursaries of £50 each will be made available (please indicate if you are eligible on your application).

Lunch and coffee/tea is included, along with a drinks reception to close the workshop.
Please send expressions of interest to both joshea@arts.ucla.edu and broderick.chow@brunel.ac.uk by 2 March 2018.

The cost of this workshop is £20 (free for postgraduate students, unaffiliated/casualised academics). Participants who are not current members of TaPRA will also be required to pay a discounted membership fee of £10.