Performance in the Age of Transparency: Biopoltics, Biotechnology and Biogenetics (ASTR 2016-WORKING GROUP)

Type: Call for Papers
Date: June 1, 2016
Location: Minnesota, United States
Subject Fields: Psychology, Popular Culture Studies, Philosophy, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Theatre & Performance History / Studies

This working session will explore intersections of performance and theatre with biopolitics, biotechnology, and biogenetics by looking at the ways in which life increasingly resides in a transversal realm of indistinction, which produces live (i.e. concrete and tangible) consequences within digital and embodied environments.  The working session seeks to understand what theatre and performance studies can learn from a critical inquiry into biopolitics, biotechnology, and biogenetics to examine ways in which contemporary ideology gravitates towards concerns regarding transparency.  By drawing on the etymology of transparency—from the Latin trans- “through” and parere “come in sight, appear”—we propose to investigate transparency and its absence as it occurs across wider areas of study which may include cinema, visual and performance arts, video gaming, and digital humanities.  
As contemporary philosopher Byung-Chul Han claims “such insistence on transparency is occurring in a society where the meaning of ‘trust’ has been massively compromised,” this working session invites participants that aim to untangle how transparent biopolitics permeate our everyday and how transparency has become a major political means of power, empowerment and disempowerment. From governmental performances to activism, from CCTV cameras to airport body-scans, from the online response of the Paris attacks to the propaganda of terrorist organisations such as ISIS, from Wikileaks to Vatileaks, from whistleblowers to Anonymous—what is at stake is the problematic issue of transparency, that is, of what our “right to know,” or “not to know” actually means. 
Further, for bio-transgenic corporealities—from biomaterial markets to Bodyworlds—the stakes of transparency are also rooted in the passage of biomaterials across, beyond, and outside of bodies in biotechnological transformations.  The trans-actions of power in the practices of biotechnology—including gene mapping, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and blood and tissue sample collection—are embedded in questions concerning transparency, namely the mapping of the human genome, the rights to biomaterials, the profits and markets associated with biomaterials and the apparent reduction of life to scientific codes of identification through information.
Through paradigms of transparency and opacity, the working session will aim to pose and examine questions concerning:
How are boundaries of bodies produced, contested, transformed, abstracted and managed?
How are the transpositions of power embedded in the blood, fat, tissues, cells, DNA, and other bio-materials moved through multiple performing embodiments and contexts?
How might the paradigms of transparency-opacity inform biopolitics of capitalist economies and definitions of value for bio-materials and bio-information?
The main aim of the working group is to further engage with the conference’s theme “trans-“ by proposing a close investigation of the critical concept of “transparency” through biopolitics, biotechnology and biogenetics.
How are the biological boundaries of bodies produced, contested, transformed, and managed in our biotech age; how might performance practices draw attention to and stimulate discussion around the ethics and politics of biotechnology; how does the technologically-enabled mobility of bio-materials participate in a capital economy; and how might performances reveal and/or conceal biotechnological transpositions of power embedded in the blood, fat, tissues, cells, DNA, and other bio-materials that move through multiple performing embodiments and performance contexts.  
In order to make more apparent some of the daily performances of transparency, group members will be invited to join a field trip to visit urban sites and architectures within Minneapolis’ design narrative of transparency: from the Minneapolis Central Library to the Weisman Art Museum, from the glass curtain wall of the IDS Center to its Crystal Court. Please note that it is likely that this activity will take place before registration, on the day that the conference begins, in order not to coincide with any of the scheduled panels of ASTR. 
In addition the working group welcomes participants from all disciplines, including (but not limited to) critical theory, political philosophy, performance studies, cultural studies, theater studies, anthropology, sociology, geography, visual culture and digital humanities. We would welcome proposals from established scholars, independent scholars, and post-graduate students.
Sharing the ethos of ASTR conference, this working group invites inter-disciplinary, cross-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches. For the working group we propose the following schedule:
1: Scholars submit up to 500-word abstracts. Interested participants will submit a 500-word abstract with a short bio.
2: Upon acceptance, scholars will develop 10-12 page papers, which will be circulated to the group.
3: All participants will read their colleagues’ papers.
4: Participants are grouped according to interests and to complement each other.
5: An online platform will be arranged for participants’ intellectual exchange throughout the process (i.e. from commenting on each other’s abstract to the paired dialogues ahead of the working session).
6: Interest groupings dialog about how the others’ work fit into the session’s theoretical framework.
7: The working session will focus on inciting theoretical dialogue amongst individuals’ research.
Hour one: Each participant of the working session will offer a short provocation of the main points of their papers to the group and open audience.
Hour two: Group discussion on the overall issue of transparency in the intertwining of biopolitics, biotechnology and biogenetics.
Hour three:  Workshop exploration and discussion of the field trip alongside evaluating potential publishing directions for the working group to consider.
Deadline for submissions: 1 June, 2016

Contact Info: 
Working Group Conveners:
Dr. Gabriella Calchi Novati - Training Candidate, ISAP ZURICH
Dr. Malin Palani - Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, Macalester College
Dr. Andrew Wilford - Senior Lecturer In Theatre, Theatre Department, University Of Chichester