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Affective movements, methods and pedagogies: Introduction

Stacy Holman Jones and Anne Harris

While affect theory has been applied across disciplines since the work of Silvan Tompkins (1962), it now intersects with increasingly diverse theoretic frameworks including posthuman, new materialist and feminist approaches. However, the possibilities afforded by non-dualistic, inchoate, and unforeclosed models of thinking-doing leave the work of methodological innovation—with a few notable exceptions (e.g. Knudsen & Stage, 2015; Myers 2015, Jackson & Mazzei, 2011)— largely under-explored. For example, Britta Timm Knudsen and Carsten Stage’s (2015) edited collection Affective Methodologies proposes inventive research strategies for the study of the affective and fluctuating dimensions of cultural life, providing usefully broad and diverse applications of affect theoretics in different disciplines. It redefines and extends the work that affect theory can do in methodological ways. Likewise, Antje Kahl’s (2019) work innovative and emergent affective qualitative and post-qualitative methods offers new ways of considering the value of different kinds of data ‘lives’, as well as the differing ways in which data performs itself (Kahl 2019).

This volume contributes to affect studies by weaving together affective methods, pedagogies and movements across multiple spheres, offering readers examples of affective approaches to research. Specifically, the volume focuses attention on documenting performance-based approaches to methodological innovation, addressing the dearth of print scholarship that de-centres constructivist notions of human agency (and exceptionalism) and cultural production, despite the abiding commitments of theatre and performance to foregrounding materiality, bodies, and situated knowledges in our methods (Brisini & Simmons, 2016). In addition, we have paid special attention to diverse global perspectives, drawing from seven countries across both the global north and south. Elin Diamond, Denise Varney and Candice Amich do similar work in taking a global approach to scholarship on performance and affect, though here we more direcdy address the need for inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to performance and other arts-driven work and research-creation (Diamond el al., 2017).

Erin Manning traces the provenance of the term ‘research-creation’ as a call to new onto-epistemologies in academic labour. In Against Method, she advances its contribution beyond its instrumental Canadian funding scheme origins, into what she calls an ‘inherent transversality’ (Manning, 2016, p. 27). For Manning, ‘making multiple sense is research-creation at work’ (p. 27). Research-creation is the opposite of the demand for singularity, codification, and relentless intelligibility that stultifies imaginative education or research. Manning challenges the academy’s long-held interest in dividing our labour (in this case, once again, between ‘theory’/‘practice’, or academic/‘art’) while also looking beyond that critique to wonder about the dynamism of creation itself. She asks us to consider how ‘method’ and ‘ology’ might work together, taking us to new places, and to ask what happens when we refuse to foreclose meaning as a form of play. We know that play, slippage and its performative embodiments are also frequently relational and spiritual practices. In this volume we collectively wonder about how these playful, corporeal and risky practices can be re-turned to academic work, relationships, and research-creation commitments.

Building on the belief that the power of theatre and performance lies in its ability to ‘address something beyond the form itself (Ackroyd, 2000, p. 2), this volume is concerned with the methods-and-theoretics of affect and performance together, and its attendant pedagogical power. Where Judith Ackroyd has argued that the uniting element of applied theatre, drama, and performance studies is its intentionality (in McCammon, 2007, p. 949), we argue that theory can expand the traditional ways in which theatrical making has been understood and performed. The work in this collection is ‘projective’, rather than descriptive, enacting a practice that disrupts modernist and humanist ideologies and their attendant rationalist and anthropocentric logics (Brisini & Simmons, 2016, p. 192). The chapters include work that models theoretical practices in the writing, and demonstrates how theorising affect and its methods is itself a performative practice. Authors focus their attention on performance events or intra-actions (Barad, 2007) as the expressive and affective engagement of bodies both human and more-than-human in relationship and, at times, in conflict. This book explores the following questions:

  • • What every day or extraordinary practices might shift collective or individual attention to/through affect theory, especially in relation to performance and its role in social life and learning?
  • • How is affect theory uniquely positioned to expand methods, disciplines, and to explore the body’s capacity to ‘move and afifect other people and other things’ (Vannini, 2015, p. 9)?
  • • How might diverse theorisations of affect intersect with applied theatre, performance studies and drama research and be newly imagined through performing theoretical work?

Affective Movements, Methods and Pedagogies is structured and curated along the three titular explorations: movements, methods and pedagogies. Part I, ‘Affective movements’, focuses on how affect theory offers new considerations of movement and mobilities, in both applied and theoretical contexts. In this section, the body moves, and is moved, through sensory and collective ‘fields of experience’ (Manning, 2016). The essays in this section problematise human experiences in the context of the non-human world that surrounds and intersects with them. From activist performances to anti-oppressive education, this section leverages affect theory in order to find the performative in everyday movements, charting the relationship between bodies and affect, and the ways in which bodies produce affects, and affects produce bodies. In Chapter 1, Holman Jones and Harris explore the capacity of performance to affectively lean into (and lean away from) non-dualist and posthuman constructions of bodies, minds, feelings and politics. In proximity to an ‘audience’, embodied performance experiences can be shared, for those willing to 'lean in’ to the precarity and thrill of performance. Leaning in to fear, to improvisation, to the pulsing preacceleration (Manning, 2016, p. 13) of the body doing its thing in relation to other bodies causes binaries fall away: no longer are ‘they’ out there while ‘I’ am inside the blinding light, no longer are they are relaxed while I am tense, no longer are they watching my internal struggle from the outside.

Chapters by both Jess Allen (Chapter 2) and Sarah Walker and Fleur Kilpatrick (Chapter 3) explore the power of performance to affectively motivate audiences toward action/activism regarding the climate crisis. For Walker and Kilpatrick, this is focused on South Pacific islands and the affective distancing made possible by (often globally northern) perceptions that the ocean-based climate crisis is happening ‘over there’. Their audience-implicating climate fable demands that spectators become uncomfortably involved and implicated. Jess Allen’s Drop in the Ocean, a six-day walking performance in six widening, concentric circles, also demands engagement from strangers who are invited to engage with water, memory and sensory-driven affective responses.

The next two chapters, Pam Baer's (Chapter 3) and Alys Longley's (Chapter 4) both explore the corporeal aspects of text-based performance in different geopolitical contexts. For Baer, it is in an urban Canadian context working with LGBTIQ+ young people and voguing their performative way into relational encounter with ‘the other’. Longley’s examination of the Chilean protests of 2019 uses Kathleen Stewart’s evocative, fragmentary approach to non-fiction, Erin Manning’s event score, Lisa Robertson’s poetic evocations of texture and space, and Claire MacDonald’s writing in the expanded field, to make sense of performative activist engagements in a larger social movement.

Part II, ‘Affective methods’, explores the ability of an affective lens to expand the processes of performance and other body-based methodologies in contemporary' performance. In ‘Affect and audiencing Rimini Protokoll’s win > < win’ (Chapter 6), Joanne ‘Bob’ Whalley and Lee Miller explore how affective exchanges function in co-creative or co-constitutive processes in live performance.

Through a consideration of Jacques Ranciere’s emancipated spectatorship, Karen Barad’s intra-action, and John Fiske’s notion of audiencing, they navigate the messy entanglement of audience and performer as co-‘prosumers’, no longer the binarised passive and active participants in performance events.

In ‘Devising creativity in Hong Kong: an affective performance methodology’ (Chapter 7), Anne Harris and Kelly McConville look through the lens of inter- cultural performance devising drawing on a collaborative devised theatre project in Hong Kong as a case study. They remind us that while creating place-based performance works in research contexts may be nothing new, doing so in ways that attend to the affective dimensions are. This chapter shares Harris’s study on culturally-specific forms of creativity—its practices and discourses—across higher education, and creative and cultural industries, throughout East Asia and Australia, offering possibilities for expanding the depth, relationships and affective resonance of large-scale international research projects.

Chapters by Maybritt Jensen (Chapter 8), Vahri McKenzie and Kathy Boxall (Chapter 9), and Anna Hickey-Moody (Chapter 11) all use case studies of performances in which the affective impact is particularly felt through the specifics of place , time and bodies. Maybritt Jensen, in ‘Dramaturgy and entanglement with children 0-3 in theatre’, invites readers into the world of performance with/for young children, and the nonhuman collaborators in those works. She explores how human and non-human elements can be given equal attention and can by that be considered as active parts in the artistic event and open for other readings than representation and symbolisation. Props, costumes, audience seats as well as audience practices and concepts of children are elements in theatre for young children that are often overlooked, and here Jensen brings into focus this affective communication present in such performances.

In “‘Come all savage creatures”: becoming Bakkliai in Western Australia’, Vahri McKenzie and Kathy Boxall track the affective dimensions of participation in an applied theatre version of Euripides’ Bakkhai, developed collaboratively with artists and a community ensemble in the south west of Western Australia. Their analysis shows how Bakkhai s corporeal and sensual studio methods established affective relations between participants, the play-world, and the proximate more- than-human world.

In ‘Silting with it: Liveness and embodiment’, Anna Hickey-Moody discusses the Back to Back theatre production I he Shadow Whose Prey The Hunter Becomes (2019), arguing that through affects of everydayness, performance reminds viewers that human life is set to a time that is uncontrollable, ultimately rendering all people—like ensemble members with intellectual disabilities—vulnerable.

Finally, Tony Perucci’s ‘The six viewpoints and the art of waiting (to become art)’ (Chapter 10) considers Mary Overlie’s six viewpoints through six ‘hands’ as occasions for thinking through The Viewpoints. Here viewpoints are not method, but are instead an approach for what Erin Manning terms, 'the affective tonality of nonconscious resonance and moving it toward the articulation, edging into consciousness, of new modes of existence’ (Manning, 2016, p. 7). Following Gilles

Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s theorisation of ‘minor’ languages, literatures and sciences that unsettle the force and fixity of ‘major’ forms from within, Manning calls this movement between affective tonality and articulation a ‘minor gesture’ Manning, 2016). Through this theoretical lens, Perucci posits The Viewpoints approach as both a theory and practice of the minor gesture, one that holds anarchic and liveness possibilities for all.

Lastly, Part III turns our attention to ‘Affective pedagogies’, considering the ways affect is present in both formal and informal pedagogical settings, encounters, and atmospheres. The chapters in this section move between diverse classroom experiences, geopolitical contexts, and approaches to acknowledging and indeed leveraging the affective power of bodies learning together, and the radical potential embodied there.

Two chapters address head-on the pervasive racism that continues to impact students and teachers in toxic affective circulations, in classrooms as well as through curricular reification of dominant whiteness. In ‘A First Nations history curriculum: performatively unsilencing Australian history’ (Chapter 12), Kathryn Gilbey and Rob McCormack draw on their experiences with a unit of study- developed by a team of First Nations and Western academics and senior students at the turn of the 21st century for Indigenous students transitioning into higher education studies. The chapter highlights what a ‘performative contradiction’ it is to attempt to develop curricula that is both affectively liveable yet academically effective for First Nations students within a settler colonial education system. Importantly, First Nations staff and students found these performatively grounded units so compelling they managed to keep them alive for well over a decade.

Alison Grove O’Grady and Thomas De Angelis, in ‘Etudes and empathy: towards a pedagogy of empathy’ (Chapter 15), discuss a funded project entitled ‘The Huddle’, that offered new ways for pre-service teachers to engage students in more humane relationships and encounters in classrooms. The original remit for ‘The Huddle’ was a response to increasing incidents of racism in Australian schools that had been identified by the Human Rights Commissioner in 2017, Professor Gillian Triggs, in the wake of a recent scandal involving Indigenous footballer Adam Goodes, and the widespread cultural, political, and educational repercussions that followed.

In ‘The point of creativity: transformative moments of confrontation in performative pedagogies’ (Chapter 13), Mary-Rose McLaren and Scott Welsh employ the form of a play to structure their chapter, drawing on journals, reflections and performances of over six hundred students in a Diploma of Education Studies course, and on their own reflective notes. Building on a range of performance theories, the authors invite their students to devise an ethnographic performance that tells the story of their class. The power of affect, as a corporeal and emotional sensory experience, to shift the ways in which students view themselves, others and the world, is related by the authors.

The collectively written “‘They call teachers by their first names!” An ethno- drama of pre-service teachers visiting innovative schools’ (Chapter 14) represents the kind of multidisciplinary and multi-perspectival knowledge creation that both performance studies and affect theory invite us into. Here, Alys Mendus, Michael Kamen, Adaire Kamen, Sarah Buchanan, Abigail Earle, Abigail Luna and Kelli McLaughlin share a tour around several New York City ‘innovative’ schools. The authors frame an ethnodrama collaboratively created by several pre-service teachers at Southwestern University (Texas), a New York playwright, and two academics, through Brian Massumi’s articulation of affect as a two-way relationship, in which one simultaneously has an ability to begin ‘opening yourself up to be affected in turn’ (Massumi, 2015, p. 4). This chapter argues that the co-creative work of visiting the schools, working together, writing and performing an ethnodrama, those involved are ‘becoming teachers’ in a different capacity.

Finally, in ‘The dramaturgy of spaces in the post laboratory’ (Chapter 16), Tatiana Chemi looks at the pedagogical practice of theatremaker Eugenio Barba’s long-term theatre laboratory Odin Teatret, which offers opportunities to redefine artistic practices as complex epistemological undertakings and to rethink pedagogical ‘studio’ practices in embodied, affective, and collective sensor)’ ways.

Taken together, these sixteen chapters represent diverse perspectives and understandings from seven different countries, and from a wide range of disciplinary enmeshments. By bringing together bodies of knowledge in affect theory and performance and theatre studies, we hope you find new ways of thinking with both practices and doing with these theoretics that urge you on toward deeper, and more sustained, engagements in global research work, which our precarious and performative time so desperately needs.


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Brisini, T. & Simmons, J. (2016). Posthuman relations in performance studies. Text and Performance Quarterly 36 (4), 191-199.

Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Coleman, R. (2017). A sensory sociolog)’ of the future: Affect, hope and inventive methodologies. The Sociological Reiiew, 65(3), 525-543. doi: 10.1111/1467-954X. 12445.

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Manning, E. (2016). 'The minor gesture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Wyatt, J. (2019). Therapy, stand-up, and the gesture of writing. New York: Routledge.

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