This interdisciplinary conference explores the role of performance and performativity in the mediation of traumatic effects. With a view to interrogating traditional conceptions of traumatic unrepresentability, it invites papers that explore the potential of performance for altering perceptions of space, time and causality, particularly through the materiality of the audience-artwork encounter. In addition, the conference will ask how victim identities are actively constructed, and ways in which enactments of suffering and victimhood might unsettle or incite unsustainable identifications of the reader/viewer. It also invites participants to address how personal histories and traumatic memory are performed in the medical encounter, and in public narratives surrounding medicine and psychiatry.

Contributions may include, but need not be limited to, the following themes:

  • The unspeakable/unrepresentable in theatre and performance art
  • Traumatic spaces and sites in performance and/or installation
  • The politics of spectatorship in performance and visual art, and ways in which injustices are registered (or fail to be registered)
  • Performing narratives of trauma and victimhood in popular culture
  • Speaking the unspeakable (for example the role of poetry readings, support groups etc.)
  • Traumatic narratives as self-performance
  • Trauma and comedy, satire and/or parody
  • Perspectives from victimhood and vulnerability studies
  • Issues surrounding trauma and/or vulnerability in practise-as-research

The conference will take place at UCL on 26th April 2018, and is supported by the UCL Institute of Advance Studies, Birkbeck, and the Wellcome Trust. It will also feature a curated creative panel and a practise-as-research contribution in collaboration with the Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre.

Travel bursaries are available for those giving papers.

Please send abstracts of 250 words (for 20 minute research papers), accompanied by a 100 word bio, to Leah Sidi (Birkbeck) and Natasha Silver (UCL) at by 31st January.

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