Borders and Horizons: Performing and Collaging Disposability and Disappearance

Co-conveners: Leniqueca Welcome (University of Pennsylvania) and Shalon T. Webber-Heffernan (York University)

Abstract: Through the lens of performance and collage, this working group considers sites of disappearance and disposability as we explore some of the historical and socio-political conditions that make possible the eradication of particular configurations of life that transgress cis-hetero-ableist-white supremacist-patriarchal logics of who counts as human. We are particularly concerned with how spaces themselves, in conjunction with human actors, perform certain ‘border’ functions—how they produce, frame, enforce, and sustain boundaries of marked, knowable difference. 

Some of the questions that frame our thinking in this group are: Who is allowed to be disposable in our current world order? Who is deemed as “essential”? How do discourses of waste and degeneracy legitimate violence and disappearance in spaces assumed ‘empty’? What is gained by attending to space itself as performer—what can be learned from examining the structuring of space, the dramaturgy of presence and disappearance, and the more-than-human as constitutive elements of performance? How does it feel to live marked as disposable and in danger of disappearance? How might we rethink/expand/dismantle the border as spatial entity in the Americas? How might we bring about an otherwise where all life is treated as precious unconditionally? 

Using these questions as guides for our inquiry, we will explore as a group the potential of collage as a methodology for rendering the complex oscillation between visibility and disappearance; protection and disposability; and captivity and flight that define the landscape of the Americas. For purposes of this working group, we consider collage to be an assemblage formation—combining and layering different items in a single medium for creating new potentials. We merge various creative approaches including (but not limited to) photography, performance, curation, video, poetry, and mixed media. 

Participants will share research and produce a collage in the medium of their choice (performance, sound, photography, text, poetry, etc.) that speaks to the histories and experience of the disappearance/ disposability of particular populations, the ways people exceed the limits placed on their lives, and the ways we may transform our lifeworlds. Each contribution should be produced before the convening of the working group and should be rooted in a specific geography. The final product should be a digital file in the relevant format (.jpeg, .mp4, .mp3 or .doc) since the convergence will now take place virtually. During the workshop period, we will read, watch, listen, feel, and discuss the various collages together with the eventual aim of collating all the works in a single digital space (most likely in the form of a website) to form a greater collage—a multi-voiced sensory assemblage that bears witness to issues raised in this group.

Application: To apply to this working group, please complete the general application here