Writing Theater – qualitative methods, situated knowledge, and the making of performance

Munich, July 5-7, 2023

Conference organized by Ulf Otto, Anna Raisich, Luise Barsch

The production of performance has gained renewed attention in recent years. Artistic processes in theaters have come into focus, as well as their social foundations, institutional frameworks and material entanglements.
This has led to an increased adaptation of methodologies from the social sciences. In particular, qualitative methods, most prominently praxeological and ethnographical approaches, have opened up new ways of engaging with theater.
But the expansion of the methodological toolbox is not just that. It reinvents epistemological relations and has lasting repercussions for the subjects and objects of research. While traditionally theater scholars found themselves within the dispositive of theater, as spectators confronting the performance, the move backstage and elsewhere equates to a loss of this privileged position and inevitably leads to an epistemological decentering of performance.
And this in turn provokes a closer look at the practices of research: techniques of description (protocols) and inscription (photographs, recordings) come to the fore, as do the diverse social and material agents that are mobilized to turn fleeting observations into reliably defined and delimited subjects of knowledge.
Accordingly, the aim of the conference is on the one hand, to discuss ethnographical strategies in the domain of theater studies, including their epistemological repercussions – and on the other hand, to take a look back at established writing strategies, taking inspiration from the rich body of critical self-reflection in ethnography: What happens to theater when scholars move backstage, and what can we learn from there about our scholarly selves?

We welcome contributions from scholars from all career stages – both, full length papers of about 20 minutes as well as poster-style presentations of early stage projects within a 10 minute time-frame will be considered. We are committed to opening an inclusive space for productive exchanges, in-depth discussions, and joint perspectives.

Please hand in short abstracts + bio (300 words max. both).
Deadline for abstracts: 15.12.2022
Notification of acceptance by: 15.1.2023
Contact: gewerke@lrz.uni-muenchen.de

The conference will primarily take place on site in Munich, but we will offer streaming and fully online panels for participants unable to attend in person. Travel and accommodation will be covered for presenters. A subsequent publication is planned.

The conference is part of the research project The Art of Crafts. A Praxeography of the Theater Apparatus funded by

“Rethinking Theater and Technology” [11.11.]- Presentation at the conference Diffractive World-Making (Bloomington)

Diffractive World-Making: Theatre & Science Beyond the Capitalocene

Indiana University Bloomington, Cook Center

November 10-12, 2022

Conference Organizers: Teresa Kovacs & Kevin Rittberger

Diffractive World-Making: Theatre & Science Beyond the Capitalocene starts from the smallest possible constellation: one playwright, one philosopher. Berlin-based playwright Kevin Rittberger meets feminist and philosopher of science Karen Barad. On the basis of Barad’s book Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning and subsequent works, Rittberger explores the potential of a ‘diffractive theatre’ for our technoscientific age. At the same time, Barad explores our ‘troubled time/s’ and offers a queer, postcolonial critique that gives the impulse for our discussions on aesthetics and ethics. The initial encounter provides an opening through which to engage with concepts like response-ability and multi-species aesthetics, as well as with issues like colonialism, shrinking population, reproductive justice, and a critical theory for a damaged planet.

The conference itself takes up Barad’s method of diffraction and expands to an exceptional international cast of leading critics, artists, and theorists that think-with and nearby Barad and Rittberger, including McKenzie Wark, Rebecca Schneider, Tavia Nyong’o, Karin Harrasser, Ulf Otto, Bini Adamczak, Alison Calhoun, Penda Diouf, Luiza Prado, and Tzveta Kassabova.

Aim is not just to shed light on the entanglement of the sciences and aesthetics, but to demonstrate how productive it can be to read them through each other. In so doing, we can investigate their potential to radically rework established Western concepts and categories of causality, time, and space, and contribute to rethinking the troubled times in which we live.

Conference Program


Cook Center, IU Bloomington


Introduction by the conference organizers Teresa Kovacs and Kevin Rittberger

Entangled Lecture

Karen Barad:

Troubling Time/s. Undoing the Future.

Kevin Rittberger:

breaking through the fourth, fifth, sixth wall…? on diffractive theatre



Cook Center, IU Bloomington



Rebecca Schneider:

Gesture, Redaction, Diffraction, and Flight: Arts of the Interstice


Alison Calhoun and Ulf Otto:

Rethinking Theater and Technology: Early, Late and Never Have Been Moderns


Talk (via zoom)

Bini Adamczak:

Fractional Relationality


Tavia Nyong’o:

Relationality? No Thanks! On Black Performance and its Critical Refusal



Penda Diouf:

colonial stories: from France to Namibia. Read by Eboni Edwards


McKenzie Wark:

Dysphoric Planet


FAR Arts Center


Tzveta Kassabova:

Prometheus. Beginnings. Based on plays by Kevin Rittberger


Cook Center, IU Bloomington



Karin Harrasser:

Violence and the Care for Images: Doing History with Strangers


Art and Agency: On Mind, Matter, and Media

with Karen Barad, Karin Harrasser, Tavia Nyong’o, McKenzie Wark moderated by Rebekah Sheldon


Reading and Workshop:

Penda Diouf, Kevin Rittberger:

„Blackout White Noise.“ On ‘ethico-onto-epistem-ological’ writing


Luiza Prado:




Luiza Prado:

The Sermon of the Weeds

This conference is supported by the following Indiana University’s departments and programs: Germanic Studies, Presidential Arts and Humanities Program, The Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, the Cultural Studies Program, Art History, French and Italian, Theatre & Dance, Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media Studies

This conference is held in person. However, we are happy to share a zoom link with those who cannot travel to Bloomington but would still like to attend the conference. To receive a link and for any other information regarding the conference, please contact Teresa Kovacs (tekovacs@iu.edu)

“Aesthetic dimensions of (post-)digital interaction spaces” [30.8.] – panel at the conference Conspiracy, Fake and Certainties at ZHdK

Conspiracy, Fake, and Certainties. Questions about the contribution of the arts and their theories in times of social change.

Annual Conference of the PhD Program “Epistemologies of Aesthetic Practices,” Fri, Oct 28 – Sun, Oct 30, 2022

Panel 5: Aesthetic Dimensions of (Post-)Digital Spaces of Interaction

Media Studies Perspectives, Sun. Oct. 30, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. 

Social networks and smartphone applications manage to capture the attention of users through their interactive design and the constant availability of new content. The digital content presented to users depends heavily on the sometimes opaque algorithms of the digital platforms and also on the personal data stored by the applications. In addition to the algorithmic components, the aesthetic dimension also seems to play a decisive role in the area of communication and interaction in digital spaces. How is aesthetic sensibility controlled by digital content and what interdependencies open up in the power structure between data-driven algorithmicity and (post-)digital interaction?

Ulf Otto, Sabine Himmelsbach, Anna Lisa Martin-Niedecken