Circus and its Others is an international research project that explores how the mainstreaming of contemporary circus may be affecting the genre’s historic status as a site for the celebration and exploitation of differences, from stagings of exceptional performing bodies to the display of “freakery.” As researchers and practitioners, we ask in what ways contemporary circus artists and companies are embracing and exploiting (or not) difference in their practice. How do we discuss, stage, theorize, and practice such differences including questions of gender, sexuality, embodiment, ability/disability, ethnicity, class, and species?
Launched in 2014 by Charles R. Batson (Union College, New York) and Karen Fricker (Brock University, Ontario, Canada) under the aegis of the Montréal Working Group on Circus Research, the project hosted an international conference in 2016 in Montréal that resulted in a dedicated issue of the peer-reviewed journal Performance Matters (4.1), appearing in June 2018.
Strong interest in the Montréal conference and the journal issue made clear to the project’s founders that this question of circus and difference could benefit from further exploration. And indeed, the call for papers for Circus and its Others II received more than twice as many responses as for the first conference, and over 50 scholars and practitioners will present their research in Prague.
The setting of this conference in the context of the Letní Letná circus festival and CIRQUEON – Centre for Contemporary Circus and Charles University will create a highly conducive environment for exploration and will likely open up new directions for this inquiry. As in Montréal, where the 2016 conference took place in the context of that city’s Completèment Cirque festival, holding the conference during Letní Letná will bring researchers into the heart of circus practices in the Czech Republic and Europe, and allow for an exciting and constant movement between viewing productions and critically engaging with circus practice.