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RE: ATHERe: - “Originally: in the matter of, referring to… Subsequently: about, concerning” (OED).
Referring to ATHE. Concerning ATHE. Our 2021 conference theme begins with a recognition and calls for a reckoning.
recognize that ATHE has work to do - in ATHE President Josh Abrams’ words, “to move both ATHE and the field forward towards a moment when ATHE will truly be an anti-racist organization.” Among the conference committee, describing these
actions generated multiple words with the prefix “Re.” Reclaim. Redesign. Revolt. Recover.
Re- the prefix complicates our reckoning. Its meanings include “back from a point reached” and “back to the original place or position.”
It risks nostalgia, a rootedness in what was, even as we seek to redesign something new. But nostalgia from whose perspective?
Suzan Lori-Parks reminds us that through theatre and performance, re- can call forth great change for
those whose histories have been suppressed.
“Since history is a recorded or remembered event, theatre, for me, is the perfect place to 'make' history--that is, because so much of African-American history has been unrecorded, dismembered,
washed out, one of my tasks as a playwright is to…locate the ancestral burial ground, dig for bones, find bones, hear the bones sing, write it down.” (The America Play and Other Works)
Additionally, many Indigenous peoples’ philosophies
do not cling to “progress” narratives or to linear notions of time + “achievement.” To remember is not nostalgic longing. Reclaiming stories and memory is affirming. Linda Tuhiwai Smith writes in Decolonizing Methodologies:
peoples want to tell our own stories, write our own versions, in our own ways, for our own purposes. It is not simply about giving an oral account or genealogical naming of the land and the events which raged over it, but a very powerful
need to give testimony to and restore a spirit, to bring back into existence a world fragmented and dying.
Our location, Austin, forces us to rethink our perceptions of the Lone Star State. Once known as the seat of power, the
city has reinvented itself into a center of arts, music and counterculture in the heart of Texas. Austin may represent the political and cultural changes coming to Texas, but it also reflects the racial, cultural, and economic issues of
other “liberal” hubs such as New York and San Francisco. A site of rebellion and resistance, Austin will help us reimagine new socio-cultural opportunities.
This moment finds us amid a global pandemic, growing climate concerns,
fascist political actions in the U.S., immigrant holding camps at its border, and theatre closures around the world. As the Black Lives Matter movement challenges not just police brutality but systemic racism more broadly, this moment
demands us to reconsider theatre and ATHE, to disrupt our previous practices, and reassemble new futures.
- How might ATHE be at the vanguard of what this moment requires?
- In confronting white supremacy and settler colonial privilege
in our classrooms, discipline, and institutions, how do we resist a simple return to the nostalgic “normal” without reinscribing losses of histories, languages, cultures, and lives?
- What can we remember, revive, reinterpret from theatre
and performance history to re-vision a more equitable, just, safe, and sustainable world?
- What reparations must our disciplines and institutions enact
- What transgressions, anxieties, and/or aspirations emerge with a reimagined anti-racist
- In what ways has theatre and performance been rewritten? What can be learned or gained from our migration to digital modes?
- How has the chaos, fear, and hope of this moment offered time to reflect on racist, sexist, classist
or homophobic practices in theatre making and the academy?
- How might this moment and its reverberations inform historiography? Like an echo, how might separate historical events, periods, and/or geographies connect and propel unforeseen
- How will performance assist communities to recover from this double pandemic?
2021 Conference Committee
Ann Haugo, Illinois State University, VP for Conferences 2021
Jane Barnette, University of Kansas
Browning, University of Texas – Austin
Veronda Carey, Oakton Community College
Theresa Dudeck, Independent Scholar
Le’Mil Eiland, University of Pittsburgh
David Jortner, Baylor University
Courtney Elkin Mohler, Butler University
Mitchell Ost, Indiana University – Bloomington
Travis Stern, Bradley University