School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA), Seattle, Washington, USA
Bio: Ian is a research practitioner, creator and social circus program director at the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) in Seattle. He spent last year as a program quality evaluator, visiting social circus organizations around the United States on behalf of AYCO and the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality in order to contribute to the first longitudinal, evidence-based study of the effects of social circus on socio-emotional learning in the United States. Ian has completed multiple social circus trainings from Cirque du Monde and received physical theatre training from l’Ecole Internationale du Théâtre Jacques Lecoq.
Title: Social Circus: Specters, Spectacle, Methexis
Abstract: As practitioners and researchers race to extoll the manifold benefits of social circus in the United States, there exists a suspicious absence of public critical discourse examining the exploitative potential of the field and its problematic dependence on a neoliberal economic reality. Similar to the opportunistic vanguardism characteristic of a gold rush, in an attempt to be among the first to cultivate valuable material, individuals risk turning a blind eye to the negative environmental impact of the extraction. The predominant discourse surrounding social circus in the United States must face vital questions: How are power and material resources distributed in social circus work? How do we reconcile the specter of colonialism inherent in working outside of one’s culture? Are social circus instructors and organizations truly equipped to work with the complex challenges they face? To what degree are social circus instructors and administrators actually carpetbagging under the pretense of working to engender positive social change? How does the prevailing system of philanthropy that supports social circus in the United States oppress those it claims to benefit through the victimization and “poverty pimping” of the Other? What potential is there for social change as a result of social circus work, and on what scale can this social change manifest?