Conveners: Arseli Dokumacı and Kim Sawchuk


Performance and disability have been in close conversation since their concurrent emergence in the second half of the twentieth century. Touching upon themes common to performance studies and disability studies, such as embodiment, subjectivity and the politics of movement, this working group focuses on the interface of performance and disability. It invites artists, academics, theorists, and activists to explore, through haptic and kinaesthetic means, how the two paradigms might challenge and productively inform each other.

Enabling performance
In what ways might critical perspectives on disability, disease and health enhance current understandings of performance and performativity? How do disabled bodies challenge conventions of representation in art and in everyday life? How might disability redefine the conditions of acting, seeing, hearing, and engaging in performance? What new perspectives can critical disability research, including “crip theory” bring to discussions on the tensions between lived experience, the physical “realities” of the body, social constructions of disability and systemic forms of discrimination?

Performing disability
In an era of chronic illness and ageing populations where the acronym TAB (Temporarily Able-Bodied) is replacing the term able-bodied (see Davis 2002: 36), what is the legacy of the term disability and how might performance help situate that legacy? How might performance and performance studies energize and animate tired debates, such as the impairment and disability divide? How could performance – as a mode of inquiry – be used to represent pain and convey extremely embodied experiences of disability? What are the ways in which disability connects with and diverges from oft-used paradigms in performance studies such as gender, sex, queer, ethnicity, and post-colonialism?

Davis, Lennard (2002) Bending over Backwards: Disability, Dismodernism, and Other Difficult Positions, New York: NYU Press.

Performing Disability Work Group Statement
(French, Spanish, and Portuguese Translations Pending)

We, the disability performance working group, are deeply grateful for the conversation that has emerged since our action at the Sala Rosa. We would like to acknowledge the commitment of the organizers to dialogue and the solidarity of the artists involved in the Trasnocheos and other Encuentro participants.

The first day we met we were shocked that one of the major venues of Encuentro was inaccessible and furthermore this was not communicated through the program. In response several members of our group climbed the stairs of the Sala Rosa to make evident and unavoidable the inaccessibility of the space. Inaccessibility is a daily violence, supported by a culture of ableism, encountered by people experiencing disability and their allies, particularly in Montreal.

As part of the action an ironic ‘elevator fund’ was presented, and to our surprise participants generously donated a total of $158.45. We will, in turn, donate this money to local Montreal activists doing important work around creating a more accessible Montreal. In solidarity with this work we will be circulating a petition targeted at the municipal and provincial authorities, calling for a more accessible Montreal.

Of the Encuentro Organizers, we strongly advise:

  • — Immediate communication and transparency to all participants about the inaccessibility of any remaining events in the festival.
  • —An official statement at the closing ceremonies with a formal commitment to disability accessibility and engagement at future festivals.
  • —Presentation of a statement and petition around Montreal accessibility to appropriate municipal and provincial authorities.
  • —Designation of an accessibility officer on all future Festival organizing Committees, with specific accessibility knowledge. They would not only ensure the accessibility of venues but also ensure the clear communication of any remaining barriers.
  • —We insist that disability should not be treated as a personal deficit to be accommodated, but as systemically marginalized communities with rich performance and political histories. As such, future performance programming should include explicitly political disability performance.

We invite all Encuentro organizers and participants to consider this moment as a point of learning and take radical access principles back to their communities of practice and accountability. Back-stories about this action, contacts, photos, and resources are available are at: under ‘Manifest’.

Translations of this text forthcoming. For further information please contact Danielle Peers (, Baraka de Soleil ( or Laurence Parent (

Authored by:
The Disability Performance Working Group

Format of the Working Group:

The working group accepts papers, performances, experimental work, videos, etc. Session presentations and discussions will be in the form of a dialogue rather than standard conference format. The final session of the group will be a think-tank practice where participants will collaboratively: a. discuss the issues that have emerged out of previous sessions, b. bullet point the current interface of performance and disability and think of ways to diversify this interface, c. reflect on the gathering of the work group itself, the practical issues involved, and contemplate on alternative conference formats.


A 500-word proposal explaining the presentation should be uploaded via the online application form before October 9th, 2013.

This working group will be limited to 10-12 participants.

Convener Biographies:

Arseli Dokumacı completed her PhD in performance studies at Aberystwyth University and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at Concordia University’s Mobile Media Lab. Her research explores everyday performances and disability through ethnographic documentary and has appeared in Disability in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (2011) and Performance Research Journal (August, 2013). Arseli is the current chair of Emerging Scholars Committee at Performance Studies international.

Kim Sawchuk is a Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University and Concordia University Research Chair in Mobile Media Studies. She is a former editor of the Canadian Journal of Communication and a co-founder of the feminist media studio, studio XX. Currently, she is co-editor of Wi: Journal of Mobile Media. Her research in mobile media studies focuses on geo-locational media, ageing and digital technologies, and the intersections between mobility studies and critical disability studies.