Issue Editors: Noyale Colin (University of Winchester) and Stefanie Sachsenmaier (Middlesex University)
Among activist practices that seek social, political, economic or environmental change, the arts increasingly play a considerable role by crossing into areas of civic engagement, with artists seeking to enact solidarity through their work (Lichtenfels and Rouse 2013). The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, having amplified social division, present a pivotal moment to investigate the nature of solidarity in performance and its agency in contemporary life.
With its roots in Roman law obliging individual family members to pay common debts (Bayertz 1999; Roediger 2016), the concept and practice of solidarity gathered force with the development of labour movements throughout the nineteenth century. In his 1893 thesis The Division of Labour in Society, Emile Durkheim thematized the concept of ‘social solidarity’ as a property of modern society (Durkheim 1997; Stjernø 2004). Solidarity has since been conceived as common ground between individuals and as mutual obligations towards one another (Bayertz 1999). Brecht wrote a solidarity song (Solidaritätslied) in 1931, which also appeared in the 1932 film Kuhle Wampe, which dealt with social issues following the Great Depression and the First World War (Zaniello 2003). In 1983 Hans-Georg Gadamer, however, conceived of solidarity not as an expression of something that people have ‘in common’ but instead as bonds and encounters that allow for a remaining ‘other to each other’ (Gadamer 1983/1998; Walhof 2006).
More recently, Chandra Talpade Mohanty (2003) considers feminist and anticapitalist solidarity and calls for an antiracist feminist approach to dealing with issues of globalisation and capitalism affecting women. In response to developments following the COVID-19 pandemic, Denise Ferreira da Silva (2020) discusses issues of raciality in view of the ‘in/dignity (and the in/difference it supports)’, and she calls for ‘material and immaterial, presential and virtual, expressions of solidarity [to] multiply and last’.
Yet, as David Roediger (2016) reminds us, there are not only promises but also difficulties surrounding the idea of solidarity, and he asks us to consider ‘what and whom solidarity leaves out’ (224). Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (in Landry and McLean 1996) also argues that the idea of solidarity needs to be treated with caution, asking us to question how we can avoid repeating old models of subordination and counterproductive divisions of power. It also seems crucial to bear in mind that on a structural level solidarity models can be appropriated for all sorts of causes, with growing right-wing populism recently drawing on the idea of ‘European solidarity’, for instance in the context of the refugee crisis (Flecker 2019). Such an approach to solidarity operates as ‘an emergency management tool’ (Mitsilegas 2018) that is based on states or nations sharing the same interests and intensifying an oppositional model of ‘us’ versus ‘them’.
Contrastingly, a meaningful politics of solidarity, as Andrew Brooks (2020) argues in his recent sonic exploration of protests and riots, can be imagined as the expression of ‘a heterogeneous possibility’. As he suggests, we might borrow from Fred Moten’s reflections on protest to conceptualize models of solidarity as involving the ‘constant organization and disorganization of the demand that takes the form-in-deformation of a single voice consenting to and calling for its multiplication and division’ (Moten in Harney and Moten 2013: 133).
The current political environment reveals an acute need to foreground the potential of practices of solidarity in conceiving future ways of relating to ‘others’. In this context, performance practices play a crucial role, not least since many important issues facing contemporary performance are entangled with ideas of solidarity, such as questions regarding ethics, compromise and responsibility, alongside the pressing issues of precarity and inequality, specifically with regard to issues of race, class, ability and gender.
In performance practice, solidarity can be a mode of production that resists the meritocratic and competitive nature of the neo-liberal arts sector (Cruz 2016). Solidarity strategies are more often adopted by small arts organisations and in turn offer alternative ways to shape the distribution, circulation and audience’s experience of the work. Processes of forming solidarity often occur in communal, sometimes virtual, spaces in which artists and activists share responsibility for creating new ways of relating to each other. Alternative practices that emerge in these contexts might be seen as systems of possibilities rather than assertions of certainties. They might be bound to the ephemeral shape of encounters – as the act of performing itself is.
The aim of this special issue of Performance Research is to trace and critically reflect on practices of solidarity that emerge from and relate to the field of performance practice, exploring the ways that performance can intervene in or engage with civic action. We are particularly interested in interrogating how solidarity practices in performance participate in the construction of social justice arguments.
We invite contributions that consider the role and potential of solidarity as a relational quality to interrogate social relationships in performance and address the following questions: What creative methods and modes of solidarity practices are actioned in and through performance practice? Can performance practice offer specific models for organising solidarity to wider civil society? What forms of solidarity are practised in and through contemporary performance and what social justice arguments do they make? What are the challenges faced by a contemporary performance sector that is concerned with exercising solidarity, as well as in need of solidarity? What historical examples of solidarity practices in and through performance bear contemporary relevance?
Contributors may wish to draw on the following list of topics as a source of inspiration, although the list is not intended to be exhaustive or restrictive:
Diverse approaches to practising solidarity and performance
Solidarity and allyship
Solidarity and self-organization
Antagonism, dissent, indifference
Participatory performance, ethics and hierarchical relations
Solidarity, activism and the body (embodied democracy)
Solidarity economy and dominating capitalist currencies in performance
Migration and the potential to reconfigure solidarity
Privileges and resistances
Networks of solidarity between different social contexts
Solidarity and education
Performing solidarity during and after COVID-19
Expressions of solidarity for the arts and performance in critical times
We are interested in a range of approaches to the topic that foreground the intersection of practice and research, including artists’ contributions that combine words and images, as well as more conventional articles. In particular, we welcome submissions that share perspectives from people from Global Majority backgrounds, disabled and LGBTQ2+ people.
Proposals: 14 July 2021
First drafts: 15 October 2021
Final drafts: January 2022
Publication: May 2022
General Guidelines for Submissions:
Before submitting a proposal, we encourage you to visit our website (www.performance-research.org ) and familiarize yourself with the journal.
Proposals will be accepted by email (Microsoft Word or Rich Text Format (RTF)).
Proposals should not exceed one A4 side.
Please include your surname in the file name of the document you send.
Please include the issue title and issue number in the subject line of your email.
Submission of images and other visual material is welcome provided that all attachments do not exceed 5 MB, and there is a maximum of five images.
Submission of a proposal will be taken to imply that it presents original, unpublished work not under consideration for publication elsewhere.
If your proposal is accepted, you will be invited to submit an article in first draft by the deadline indicated above. On the final acceptance of a completed article you will be asked to sign an author agreement in order for your work to be published in Performance Research.