Theatre studies of the University of Tartu, together with the Association of Nordic Theatre Scholars and the Union of Estonian Theatre Researchers and Critics invite contributions and participants to the conference “Performativity and Transgression” that takes place 13-15 October 2022 in Tartu, Estonia. 

The conference invites theatre and dance scholars, as well as researchers in other specialities to discuss performativity and transgression in performing arts and in the public sphere. Since the public sphere has become increasingly more performative, even theatrical, during the last decades, drawing a clear division between it and the realms of performing arts can sometimes prove to be quite difficult.

Performativity has become one of the key notions in theatre and performance studies. The notion first emerged in different disciplines of the humanities and social sciences in the late 1950s and gained ground with the rise of poststructuralism and postmodernism in the second half of the 20th century. Despite major differences in the perspectives from which it is seen, performativity is usually rooted in performance and action. Thus, the meaning of the notion is highly dependent on the particular context or theoretical framework in which it is used. Generally, performativity might denote either certain characteristics of theatre and performance, or an efficiency of tools of expression. As regards efficiency, performance as such includes a potential of transgression or might be perceived or interpreted as transgressive.

In the context of the conference, transgression is broadly understood as crossing of boundaries, breaking physical or mental, aesthetic, social or political norms and restrictions. Nevertheless, not all instances of boundary crossing are transgressive, but only those that are perceived or interpreted as physically, psychologically or socially subversive, since they deconstruct the habitual order. For example, in the history of the arts, naturalism and modernist avant-garde movements have been met with accusations of transgression. Blurring the boundaries between art and life has always been a dangerous business as well. Throughout history, certain forms of bodily exposure and the use of indecent language on stage have been considered scandalous and disturbing. In addition to these phenomena that may seem rather conventional today, some types of performances or performative acts are capable of disturbing social norms and taboos that are dependent on the particular cultural context.

We invite the speakers at the conference to approach the topic with theoretical as well as analytical tools, for example by addressing questions such as: Why does performativity make certain issues, styles or tools transgressive? What are the strategies, processes and consequences of transgressions? Who has established the restrictions that performative transgressions are trying to overcome, and why?

Submit your proposal for the conference!

We welcome papers relating to the topic of performativity and transgression that may address the issue in terms of the following themes:

 • The performative potential of performing arts

• Transgressive performativity

• Debated boundaries, norms, conventions and traditions in performing arts

• Strategies and functions of transgression in performing arts

• The historical dimension of performative transgressions

• Cultural, social, political and religious contexts of transgressions

• Perception and reception of transgressions

• Transgressive performative practices in the public sphere

• Transgression of boundaries between theatre/performance and everyday life

Please send your abstract submission (200–300 words) and a short bio to the email address ants2022@ut.ee by 30 April 2022.