Interfaces of Performance and Disability in the Americas


Prof. Kim Sawchuk - Research Chair, Mobile Media Studies | Concordia University 

Primary  Researcher

Dr Arseli Dokumacı - Post-doctoral Researcher | CCCPA- Mobile Media Lab | Concordia University

Research Assistants

Marie-Hélène Lemieux - PhD Candidate, Communication Studies | Concordia University And Art Educator, DHC-Art, Montreal

 Antonia Hernández - PhD Candidate, Department of Communication Studies | Concordia University


Performance and disability, dealing with common subjects (body, politics, identity) and through similar methods, have been in close conversation since their concurrent emergence in the second half of the twentieth century. While this brief history has been the subject of recent publications (see Henderson and Ostrander 2007; Kuppers 2001; Kuppers 2003; Sandahl and Auslander 2005), the geographies of such anthologies have largely been limited to United States and Europe. The proposed case study aims to address this lacuna and investigate the intersections of performance and disability in the Americas through two interrelated research strands. 

Project 1: Everyday Performances, Disabilities and Emergent “Taskscapes”

 The first strand is a practice-based research that will explore everyday life performances in relation to the experiences of people with mobility-related and sensory impairments. The aim of the project is to develop a visual map of everyday “taskscapes” (Ingold: 2000) as they are being performed by three participant/collaborators (one participant with hearing impairment, one participant with mobility-related impairments and another participant in a wheelchair). Participants will be followed and videotaped throughout their daily lives (either at public or in private spaces) as they engage in various mundane practices (such as using transportation, cooking, interacting with others). The final outcome of the project is planned to be a series of 5-10 minute video capsules which will be broadcast on the project’s website. The research will be undertaken as Dr. Dokumaci’s postdoctoral project, which has been approved by the CCCPA. 

Project 2: Database on Performance and Disability in the Americas 

The project involves the creation of an online database about the history and current trends of the interactions between performance and disability in the Americas. The database will constitute the first of its kind, providing a thorough and rigorous review of the topic and serving as a source for future research and artistic practices.   

The time period that the inquiry will cover is from 1980 to present as both performance and disability have emerged as distinct research paradigms within this time-frame. Conceptually, the project will follow three main trajectories: a. aesthetic performances and disability (performance reviews, documentations, archival research), b. performative interventions and disability activism (archival research, interviews), c. academic research on disability in relation to performance (literature survey, interviews). 

The database will be based on a year-long study to be conducted by the following research team: Kim Sawchuk (director), Arseli Dokumaci (post-doctoral researcher), Marie-Hélène Lemieux (research assistant responsible for sources in French), Antonia Hernández (research assistant responsible for sources in Spanish). In the first 2-3 months, Dr. Dokumaci will conduct a review of the literature and identify researchers, activists, artists, institutions, research centers, archival resources and conferences that relate to the subject. In the next 6-8 months, researchers will travel to the identified locations in order to do the archival research and conduct interviews. In the last 2-4 months, the collected materials will be analyzed, processed, edited and the database will be developed.  


 Henderson, B. and Ostrander, R.N. (eds) (2007) “Special Issue: Disability Studies/Performance Studies,”Text and Performance Quarterly, 28 (1-2).

 Ingold, T. (2000) The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London: Routledge. 

 Kuppers, P. (2003) Disability and Contemporary Performance: Bodies on Edge. London and New York: Routledge.

 Kuppers, P. (ed) (2001) Special Issue, Contemporary Theatre Review, 11 (3-4).

Sandahl, C. and Auslander, P. (eds.) (2005) Bodies in Commotion: Disability and Performance. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.