2018 ASEEES President, Julie A. Cassiday, Williams College
The Oxford English Dictionary lists no fewer than thirteen different meanings for the word “performance,” which refers to everything from the execution of a play or musical score to the profitability of an investment. Used in myriad expressions, such as performance anxiety, performance-enhancing, performance review, and sexual performance, the term has come to play a central role in how we understand human identity and interaction, inspiring a “performative turn” in the Humanities and Social Sciences. It has also given rise to the discipline of Performance Studies, which unites artists, anthropologists, sociologists, historians, political scientists, and linguists in a shared quest to understand and to express phenomenological complexity. The heuristic power of the concept of performance is not exclusive to English, since the words “performance,” “performative,” and “performativity” have migrated into other idioms, including many Slavic, Eastern European, and Eurasian languages.
But what precisely do we mean when we talk and write about performance? The performing arts of drama, music, and dance? Bodily practices of health, hygiene, gender, and sexuality? Performative utterances that change the social reality they describe? The rituals that constitute and legitimate political power? The flow of inanimate objects in circuits of production, distribution, and consumption? The narrative framing of events in the media? As Richard Schechner, a leading scholar of Performance Studies, has pointed out, the astonishing semantic breadth of the word “performance” links that which clearly “is” a performance in a given time and place to that which functions “as” performance due to our perception of its performativity, that is, the idea that our actions, behaviors, and gestures are not caused by, but in fact the cause of our identities.
Members of ASEEES are invited to develop papers, panels, and roundtables for the organization’s 50th Annual Convention that explore the meanings of performance in and for the regions we study. Presentations that consider performance and performativity from an interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary perspective are especially welcome, as is work addressing the following topics, among others:
• the formation, consolidation, and transformation of identity for individuals, societies, and nations
• gender and sexuality
• diversity, equity, and inclusion
• local vs. global stages
• political performativity
• performance technologies
• events in the regions we study whose anniversaries happen in 2018, as well as their memory and commemoration; for example, the Revolutions of 1848, the end of World War I in 1918, the 1948 Blockade of Berlin, the Prague Spring of 1968, and the 1988 Moscow Summit
• the distinctive contributions that the regions we study can make and have already made to theorizing and understanding performance in the broadest sense.
In addition to the organization’s 50th Annual Convention, 2018 will mark 70 years since the founding of ASEEES as a scholarly society. This anniversary invites us to consider our past performance, as individual scholars and an organization devoted to Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, as well as the roles we can and should perform in the future. Accordingly, proposals from all perspectives and historical periods are welcome, as are those that reflect on our scholarly responsibilities and offer performances of their own.