Sunday, 19 October 2008

CFP: Performing Lives, Kingston University


An International Conference hosted by the Centre for Life Narratives


6 - 8 July 2009

This international conference on ‘Performing Lives’ follows the inaugural conference of the Centre for Life Narratives, ‘The Spirit of the Age’, the focus of which was ‘Writing Lives’ (2007). Our second biennial conference ‘Performing Lives’ (2009) invites analysis and debate on the relationship between life histories and the ways in which they are embodied and enacted in performance, across a range of cultures and a variety of media: drama, dance, film, TV and video.

The performance of ‘real’ lives takes many forms. On the one hand, in commercial film and TV the traditional ‘biopic’ is an enduring favourite; on the other, autobiographical, verbatim and tribunal modes in theatre, docudramas and TV reality programmes, and more experimental approaches to autobiographical and documentary filmmaking, have challenged conventional forms through their emphasis on ‘ordinary’ lives, their incorporation of multiple perspectives and their interrogation of notions of reality and fiction. In dance, performers’ own lives have frequently served as source material for choreographers while the abstract, non-verbal nature of dance provokes alternative approaches to the representation and performance of lives.

Key questions include:

  • WHY LIFE? What do we aim to achieve in performing aspects of our own lives and those of others? What are the pleasures for the spectator/consumer of life narratives? How do the aims of film and TV makers, theatre-makers and dance-makers differ?

  • WHICH LIFE? What kinds of lives do different performance-makers find interesting and why? What is the relationship between the performer and the life performed, particularly in relation to star performances? What are the ideological messages inscribed in life histories in performance?
  • WHOSE LIFE? From whose perspective is the life being told or shown? What questions are raised about authority, authenticity and ownership? What are the moral and ethical implications of performing the lives of others?
  • REAL LIFE? How does the performance of life frame questions about the relationship between reality, fiction and audience? Given the impossibility of representing the whole of a life, what determines the choices made about what elements of a life to perform?
We welcome proposals in English (of not more than 250 words) from a range of critical perspectives in relation to a range of countries, cultures and historical periods. We are interested in the perspectives of performance and media-based practitioners as well as those of academics and thus invite proposals for performances and workshops as well as papers and panels.

Proposals should be submitted online via the following page: by 8 December 2008

Enquiries to


Adam Ainsworth, Dr Simon Brown, Mathew Melia, Trish Reid, Dr Carrie Tarr, Frank Whately

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