Affect and the City : Remapping Theatrical and Social Movements

Conveners: Brenda Werth and Paola Hernández


This work group builds on themes of affect, performance, and the city explored during the São Paulo Encuentro, where we focused on affect as a “force of encounter and belonging”[1] in the mediation of the fluid engagement between the lived and imagined city. In this second work group we will shift our attention to consider the choreography of affective energies into movements, images, and encounters, and the ways in which these affective manifestations, when enacted in city space, provide new vantage points for examining the intersection between art and politics. We employ the paradigm of affect to discuss the ways in which performances and social movements engage the political, aesthetic, and biographical dimensions of the city, and to pose the following questions: In what ways do artists and activists create their own vision of urban space, document their lives and memories, and, assert their “right to the city”[2] through theatre, performative acts, social practices, and everyday behavior? And what does the autobiographical nature of many of these performative interactions with the city reveal about the politics of self, place, and identity in 21st century cities of the Americas?

[1] Gregg, Melissa and Gregory Seigworth. The Affect Theory Reader, 2.

[2] Term adapted from Henri Lefebvre’s The Right to the City.


This session is based on our first work group “Affect and the City and its Double” directed in São Paulo. While we hope to have some of our participants from our previous session, this work group is also open to new individuals who are in the process of writing on themes and issues central to this session’s rationale and focus. We envision the session as having a joint research/reading focus. In order to achieve optimal results, we will request participants to circulate their papers (10 - 15 pages plus bibliography) ahead of time. At the meeting we will spend the first two days of the session in small groups discussing papers. During the last three days of the session, we will open up discussion to the whole group to address the broader questions put forth in the call, both drawing from participants’ individual papers and from the critical bibliography the session leaders will provide ahead of time. Ideally, we would like the group to have approximately 10 participants. The ultimate goal of our research/reading group is to facilitate collaborative scholarship, improve the quality of our research and writing, and develop new hypotheses and approaches to the relationship between theater, performance, and urban studies.


Applicants should submit a 200-word abstract of the text they would like to share with the group. Once accepted, they should become familiar with the bibliography that will be supplied by the conveners in early January 2014, and submit the 10-15 page paper they will be presenting. Materials should be uploaded via the online application form before October 9th, 2013.

This working group will be limited to 8-12 participants.

Convener Biographies:

Paola S. Hernández is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She is the author of El teatro de Argentina y Chile: Globalización, resistencia y desencanto (Corregidor, 2009), and most recently she is a co-editor (with Brenda Werth and Florian Becker) of Imagining Human Rights in Twenty-First-Century Theater: Global Perpectives (Palgrave, 2013). Her areas of research and teaching focus on theatre, performance, memory politics, urban studies, sites of memory, and human rights. Her current project examines the role of the "real" in theatre and visual arts with an emphasis on contemporary documentary theatre and urban ethnography in Argentina, Colombia, and Peru.

Brenda Werth is Associate Professor of Latin American Studies at the American University in Washington, D.C. Her areas of interest include performance, urban, and memory studies, documentary theatre, and film. Her book Theatre, Performance, and Memory Politics in Argentina examines the intersection of theatre, memory, and human rights discourse in post-dictatorial Argentina (Palgrave, 2010). Her future project investigates emerging forms of autobiography in twenty-first-century Argentine documentary theater, film, and performance. Professor Werth teaches special topics courses on Latin American theatre and diverse aspects of the Southern Cone, including post-dictatorial literature, performance, and human rights.

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