Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar – School of Literature, Art and Media Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar – School of Literature, Art and Media

Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar

TaPS alumnae, Kath Bicknell and Justine Shih Pearson, return to present recent work that takes performance studies methods and frameworks into other disciplinary and interdisciplinary settings. Please check out below their brief bios and the super-enticing abstracts for their presentations. And get along this Friday for good victuals and vital conversations:

Bios for Kath Bicknell and Justine Shih Pearson

In the eight years since Kath and Justine delivered their PhD theses together on 14 October 2011, Kath has continued to explore sports and performance through ethnographic methods. She is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Cognitive Science at Macquarie University, where she is also an associate member of the Centre for Elite Performance, Expertise and Training (CEPET) and member of the Centre for Scaffolding the Ageing Mind (C-SAM). In that same eight years, Justine has continued a design practice while finally finishing her ten-year ethnographic project on global airports with the publication of Choreographing the Airport: Field Notes from the Transit Spaces of Global Travel (Palgrave 2018), and is now working on a new book manuscript, The Unkindness of Strangers, which revisits themes of global culture, public space and the city, social reliance and empathy across difference in a series of creative non-fiction essays. Justine is an Honorary Associate in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, a research affiliate of the Creative Research Interventions in Methods and Practice (CriMP) Lab at RMIT and a member of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. 

Abstract for Justine Shih Pearson

Writing with this body/ the performative accomplishment of writing

Earlier this year I led an experimental writing workshop with a group of choreographers based on my confession that I pretend to be other people when I write. Not all the time, just occasionally—or, if I’m totally honest—always, but incompletely. Fitting myself into that “skin,” I attempt to “speak” with that body. It is a kind of performative twinning; I “become” someone else in order to find the words but it is through the writing, the words, that I might achieve the becoming. 

I built myself the body of American humorist David Sedaris in order to pen a fan letter informing him that I named the tumour in my leg after him. I wrote a position statement about the embodied practice of interdisciplinary and intercultural scholarship, through the gymnastics of a trapeze artist with attitude and altitude. It’s really very liberating; I’m only, at most, half-responsible for what ends up on the page.

The creativity of authorial style is discussed rarely in relation to academic writing. My methods stem from concurrent theoretical work on the spatio-kinaesthetic importance of cultural life, and the embodied aspects of empathy. In my work I want to call attention to the bodily labour of subjectivity, of collective being, and even of thinking and writing, and so am attempting to use my writing to “perform” argument across academic writing, writing for performance, and creative writing. In this presentation, I outline the choreographic strategies I call upon from dance studies to experiment with writing style; and by way of illustration, read from a new essay in progress titled “Hogwash” about the realness of fake meat, among other things.


Abstract for Kath Bicknell

Thinking while moving and the highly context-sensitive nature of affordances

In this seminar, I will share a paper on affordance perception and selection I am in the final stages of writing up for publication with long-term collaborator Wayne Christensen (University of Warwick). This research, which has recently returned from its first European tour, challenges interdisciplinary scholars with a shared interest in cognition and movement to think with their bodies as well as their minds, and to (re)consider the context-sensitive nature of expert performance processes. We make our key points through a case study of a joint mountain bike ride by the two authors. We use this to unpack the relationship between abstract notions of affordance perception in psychological literature and embodied experiences of affordance perception in complex, socially-mediated, real-world scenarios.[1] In doing so, we critique the predominant focus of affordance research on relatively simple skills and simplified experimental examples. We suggest that serious consideration of complex cases of skilled performance raises issues that don’t appear as pressing or as salient in simple cases.

The bulk of the written paper will carefully step through five areas where affordance theories need further development. During this seminar, and the discussion afterwards, I will also emphasise and explore: 1) The phenomenological and ethnographically informed method that lead to these insights.; and 2) The value methods, skillsets and interests developed in performance studies have to some of the disciplines we commonly borrow from, or reach to, to answer questions of our own.

  • Friday 6th September, 3pm-5pm
  • Department of Theatre and Performance Studies
  • AV Room (S113), Level One, Woolley Building
  • Manning Road, University of Sydney



Sep 06 2019


3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


John Woolley Building (A20)
University of Sydney NSW 2006

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