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HomePerformance in the Americas from 1950 to today

Performance in the Americas from 1950 to today

La performance dans les Amériques : de 1950 à nos jours

La Performance en las Américas desde 1950 hasta la actualidad

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Published on Wednesday, March 24, 2021


This international conference aims to explore notions of “performance” and “performativity” (body and gender performativity as well as performative utterances) in their social, gendered, linguistic and economic dimensions in the contemporary and ultra-contemporary Americas. 


International Conference, La Rochelle University - 18-19 November 2021 


The international conference Performance in the Americas aims to explore notions of “performance” and “performativity” (body and gender performativity as well as performative utterances) in their social, gendered, linguistic and economic dimensions in the contemporary and ultra-contemporary Americas. Both notions have been used extensively, taking on multiple meanings which cut across the boundaries of subject areas.

The first notion, often equated with the artistic avant-garde and the performative arts of the 1960s, has progressively replaced words such as “représentation théâtrale” or “scénique” in France. It is now used to define any interpersonal dynamics that involve the staging or mise en scène of “actors/actresses,” “performers,” in front of an audience/a spectator in a place/site/space and pre-determined situation, be it a stage, street performance or social interaction. The combination of both terms, especially in the cultural and linguistic area of the Americas, enables us to unfold their semiotic potential and to go beyond the only field of performative art. Firstly, one can tackle performance as the art and mastery of self-presentation (Goffman) or as the staging of social and political protests and claims (as in performative environmentalism). Performance is also related to performative speech, a verbal or non-verbal “discourse” which has an effect on someone and triggers a reaction while being uttered (see Austin’s theory on performative utterances or the concept of re-enactment in contemporary art). All the elements at stake in the speech act (speaker, receiver, environment and objects in which the act is “performed”) contribute to changing the reality that is being uttered, played/acted, or perceived.

In the fields of the (performing) arts, performance has undergone a variety of changes thanks to new technologies such as interactive installations, digital performances and projections and immersive environments which have leveraged the “effects of presence” and “reality” (Féral) and of “derealization” and “depersonalization”: “pixelized” and “technologized” bodies now coalesce with real bodies on stage and on-site, blurring the boundaries between the physical and the technological, augmented body.

The cross-breeding between fashion, performative arts and new technology also brings its share of questions. Since the 1990s, the fashion or catwalk show has been built and construed as a performance or as an immersive experience in which clothing creates or takes on meanings from being shown (off) and commented upon while going live (see the live comments on YouTube during the Marc Jacobs SS2020 runway on YouTube). Through live threads and new textualities, online audiences are co-creating textiles which become works-in-progress and performative tools, ways of dressing and of addressing at the same time. Designer or street clothes are made sense of by being in contact with a body, a place and an audience. Furthermore, clothing allows us to perform our gender and identity or, on the contrary, to go gender and identity neutral (e.g. inclusive clothing). Clothing is thus a site where “political identities, power and authority, but also that of the persons who are subjected or victims of those powers” are performed (Behnke).

More generally speaking, performance refers to any kind of achievement, or, in less glorious terms, to any act aimed at seeking attention. In this respect, it relates to the “highly sought after” performative effect, quantitatively and qualitatively measurable: in the USA, sport is a performance embedded within a mythography and a “liturgy” (Novak) which moves and enthralls massive audiences, both live or on screen, through the spectacle and spectacular of its staging and results, the latter being non-material (victory, record), or materialized in an object (a medal, trophy, etc.). In the economic and managerial fields, performance quality and efficiency are measured through figures, percentages, productivity rates, prices (employee and organizational performance, managerial performance, corporate social responsibility, environmental performance…). and they usually entail social recognition or, on the contrary, the absence of recognition.

Needless to say, that the association of performance and performativity goes over the boundaries that “avant avant-garde” artists (Godlberg) had previously fixed. If performance still offers constants such as its “anti-conformist” stance, the desire to “break the boundaries” and entice the audiences to “reconsider their position on arts and culture” (Godlberg), it also presents a set of variables and, in an ever-moving and shifting context of circulating cultural objects and practices, it is constantly on the move.

As cognitive theories have shown, and more especially the socio-material approach, knowledge, representations and perceptions are not purely rational but are the products of an interaction, a sort of in-between involving a speaker, a listener, and the environments and objects that surround them that modify them and that they modify in return (see Suchman’s situated action theory, Francesco Varela’s concept of enaction, or Gibson’s theory on affordances etc.).

The conference seeks to put forward all these elements in order to establish a transmedial grid of performance in the Americas which, from a socio-historical viewpoint, have been leading the way forward. If the artistic technique of expression originated with the European avant-garde (Goldberg), it has been part of an interdisciplinary stance and posture which have contributed to renewing the so-called performative arts (dance, music, theater) since the 1930s. In North America, the trend can be associated with the emergence of abstract expressionism and one of its related artistic movement, Action Painting, which, broadly speaking, values the act of painting over the final work. Born in the 1940s, abstract expressionism has had a determining and ongoing influence on outstanding 20th century artists and art movements, such as the interdisciplinary group Fluxus, dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, and more generally, on Performative arts. Nevertheless, in Latin America which underwent several political, economic and social crises from the 1930s on, performance is to be seen as a deliberate and explicit political gesture aimed at criticizing the successive governments whose policy left Arts and culture aside. As a reminder, if the current pandemic of COVID has impacted performative artists worldwide, it has also been a catalyst to “digit(al)ized” performances (Arancibia), which can be construed as alternative modes of address and promotion worldwide. The conference finally aims to raise the issue of transnationalism and transculturalism: how is a performance curated, defined, perceived and received according to the geographical and cultural area, media and objects? How does a performance travel and does the level of performativity change accordingly?

Main topics

Proposals should be related – but are not limited to – the following topics:

  • Visual culture
  • Material culture
  • Performing and performative arts and the mimetic theory of art: music, dance, theatre, painting, etc.
  • Fashion, clothing and costume history and theory, fashion shows
  • Performance and performative environmentalism
  • Performance, economy and the workplace
  • Transmedia culture, transnationalism and transculturalism

At the crossroads between various subject areas and theoretical approaches, this conference invites researchers and scholars to rethink performance in light of the contemporary and ultra-contemporary socio-economic and cultural issues at stake in the Americas.

The conference will be organized as a “conference-performance” (Athanassopoulos) and will take place in a range of venues (amphitheaters, classrooms and virtual rooms, theaters or performance hall). It invites speakers to innovate in their approach to communication in an academic conference: the diversity of formats is encouraged. Artists will also be invited and will do a joint performance.

There will be conference proceedings.

Submission guidelines

Proposals (400 words) and a short biography (250 words) should be sent in a single mail to Elodie Chazalon (elodie.chazalon@univ-lr.fr), Cécile Chantraine-Braillon (cecile.chantraine_braillon@univ-lr.fr) and Mélanie Barlot (melanie.barlot@etudiant.univ-lr.fr)

before June 30 2021.

Keynote speakers

  • Jorge Dubatti, Universidad de Buenos Aires
  • Janet McCabe, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Ellen McCracken, University of Santa Barbara

Scientific commitee

  • Kim Akass, Rowan University, USA
  • Cécile Chantraine-Braillon, La Rochelle Université 
  • Elodie Chazalon, La Rochelle Université
  • Jocelyn Dupont, Université de Perpignan
  • Georges-Claude Guilbert, Université Le Havre-Normandie 
  • Fatiha Idmhand, Université de Poitiers
  • Jeanne Lallement, Université de La Rochelle 
  • Ellen McCracken, University of Santa Barbara 
  • Eric Monteiro, Université de La Rochelle 
  • Mario Županović, University of Zadar
  • Clara Bonet, Universidad Católica de Valencia



Institut des Amériques, La Rochelle Université, Maison des Etudiants (Espace Culture), UFR FLASH, Licence et Master LEA, Licence Lettres, IUT de La Rochelle, Projet région ESNA, CRHIA (Centre de Recherche en Histoire Internationale et Atlantique), Fédération du Numérique, CIEL, SPI (Service des Pédagogies Innovantes)



  • 1 parvis Fernand Braudel
    La Rochelle, France (17)


  • Wednesday, June 30, 2021


  • amériques, americas, américas, performance, performativité, performativity, performatividad, art, arts, artes, arts performatifs, performing arts, artes performativas, sociologie, sociology, sociología, études culturelles, cultural s


  • Elodie Chazalon
    courriel : elodie [dot] chazalon [at] univ-lr [dot] fr
  • Cécile Chantraine Braillon
    courriel : cecile [dot] chantraine_braillon [at] univ-lr [dot] fr

Information source

  • Mélanie Barlot
    courriel : melanie [dot] barlot [at] etudiant [dot] univ-lr [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Performance in the Americas from 1950 to today », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, https://calenda.org/858508

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