Intersections 2017 – Panel 6

Panel 6: “Taking Research Personally”

Friday 20th January – 14:30-16:00 – Embassy Theatre


  1. No Wire Hangers: Drag Performance, Learning my Queerness, and Getting the Reference (Joe Parslow)


This paper starts from the premise that queer performance practices such as drag are the site at which many queer people learn their histories, and even their queerness. Tracing an autoethnographic narrative of learning how to do my queerness through the particular performativity of the one-liner, alongside a critical exploration of a particular moment of drag performance, I want to explore the implications of what it means to get the reference when watching and making performance.
How did I learn not to use wire hangers or to fuck with her (fella’s!)? How did I learn that on Wednesday’s we wear pink? And that I shouldn’t put a bra in the dryer (IT WARPS!)? And how did I learn these as cultural texts that tell me about my identity and my history? What do these one-liners, these epigram’s, tell me about myself? And why am I so drawn to them?
Alongside these autoethnographic questions, I want to interrogate a performance by drag mother and daughter, Meth and Ruby Wednesday, as they perform their on-stage relationship through popular cultural references including Mommie Dearest (1981), Addams Family Values (1993) and Mean Girls (2004). Reading this performance moment as both a performance and a performative enactment of queer identification, I want to explore how the cultural texts employed in drag performance come to have a queer energy to them, and what the implication of using these texts in performance has for the development of queer cultural codes, languages and histories. Who gets the (queer) reference? And what is it about these references, these epigrams, these one-liners, which speak to my queerness and to broader practices of queer identification, performance, and history?


Joe Parslow is a PhD Candidate at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and a visiting lecturer teaching across the fields of drama, theatre and performance at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Their research focuses around drag performance, and the potential ways in which queer communities can and do emerge in contemporary London, particularly around performance. Alongside their research, Joe is the co-Director of a queer performance and bar space in Camden, London, called Her Upstairs, a space which houses performance events from across the drag, queer and cabaret performance scene in London.


  1. (Dis) Proposing References in the ‘First Trimester’ of my PhD Research (Cathy Sloan)

Three months into my PhD, my daily life is now composed of a new reality, an unfolding of new knowledge and theoretical discourse. Initial reference points of a thesis on shame bound identity has grown into an embryonic development of an entirely new reference system for my work, involving affect and potentiality.


How do these new reference points impact upon my journey? What does this mean for my research proposal, its revision and re-birth?


The dis-proposing and re-proposing of references has led to a ‘turn to affect’ (Ruth Leys 2011) and in this paper I intend to explore the implications of this ‘turn’ on the way in which I do – and articulate – my research. In particular, I wish to problematise how theory on affect, founded on abstract concepts such as ‘becoming’ or ‘the virtual’ (Massumi 2010) can be applied to the ‘lived realities’ of the quotidian, situated experience of my research participants – and on myself as I reach the end of my first trimester.


A graduate from MA in Applied Theatre at the Central School of Speech and Drama, Cathy has worked as a teacher, facilitator and director/theatre-maker.
Most recently, she was Associate and later Artistic Director of Outside Edge Theatre Company, specialising in performance work with and by people in recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction.
Currently she is a PhD research candidate at RCSSD, exploring the renegotiation of shame through participatory theatre practice with people in recovery from addiction.



  1. Gossip, anecdote and shorthand: towards a tentative dissident citation practice (Harriet Plewis)


There are many rules and standards which govern citation practices within the Academy and print publication. Some are explicit but others are implied and could be said to take the form of a totalising pressure or an obligatory act of faith.

In this performed paper, I will look at the context in which academic citation currently operates and make the case for the inclusion of more ‘informal’ practices, such as gossip, lived experience and anecdote. I will also look at how and why the act of referring can often be reduced to a shorthand and the ways in which this process might be exclusionary. I will put forward some methods I have been developing to combat this narrowing of access to the academic research field and elaborate upon my practice-based investigation into feminist approaches to citation. This includes processes I have begun to call ‘body-citation’, ‘practical homage’ and ‘embedded referencing’.

Drawing on (and referencing) the work of Sara Ahmed, Ann Cvetkovich, Chris Kraus and my own collaborative research with artist Nicola Singh, I will question the historical exclusion of gossip and anecdote from research discourse and wonder aloud whether it is time for an atypical approach to citation practice in order to broaden and evolve who gets mentioned, why they get mentioned and, perhaps most importantly, how they get mentioned.


Harriet Plewis is an interdisciplinary artist based in London. Her activity is rooted in feminist pedagogies, performance and the moving image. Her work looks at the mechanics of co-authorship and how theory intersects with practice. It is often made in collaboration with specific groups, be they schoolchildren, residents of a particular area or members of enthusiast organisations. She has an AHRC funded MFA from Newcastle University and sits on the advisory board of Platform North East, an organisation that develops and promotes live art in the North East of England. She is currently a funded PhD researcher in Visual Arts and Performance at Northumbria University.


  1. Performance, Photography, Performativity: the queer ‘doing’ of the fall in the still image (Allan Taylor)


Auslander (2006) supposes that documentation of performance can be seen to be performative if it is documented as such, but does not contextualise performativity in a wider academic frame. If we look at photography as being a performative practice rather than being ‘performance-like’ we must also look at what it ‘does’ (as set out by Austin (1953), Derrida (1981) and Butler (1993)) and the social and cultural performatives it points towards. Von Hantelman (2011) talks of this as a ‘reality-producing’ effect: something that occurs ‘in actuality’.

In this performance-led heuristic investigation, I look the idea of the instantaneous image and, in particular, falling in the still image. Through a series of falls and falling objects, I started to recognise both the studio space and the objects I was using as transitional phenomena (Winnicott, 1971; Kuhn 2013) that invoked and questioned the phenomenological idea of the body-object relationship (Merleau-Ponty, 1971; Bryant, 2014). Further to this I discuss the constant ‘failure’ of the performed fall (Harvey, 2013) that starts to take on a queerness of its own. Ahmed (2006) describes ‘orientation’ as not just a way to describe sexuality, but a way of being directed towards and that by being ‘disoriented’ we start to queer the space we are in and question the world’s involvement in our body.
The images reveal a sense of alternative, so-called ‘failure’ of masculinity that questions our traditional relationship with everyday objects and how the idea of a ‘performed fall’ performatively cites queerness as a failure to ‘behave appropriately’ or ‘remain upright’ and therefore fail to be ‘upright normative citizens’ that are involved in the world and its context.


Allan Taylor is an academic and artist interested in the time-based tensions between performance, photography and performativity, and lectures in media and visual culture at the University of East London.