Curated Panel

Extractivism in Canadian Performance Culture

Curated by Kimberly Richards, University of California-Berkeley

(from the original call for papers)


Canada’s settler colonial present is intimately tied to the toxic idea of extractivism in which the raw resources of the land are mined for capital accumulation. From petro-sponsorship of the arts to the frontier spectacle staged at the Calgary Stampede to performative acts of resistance against development staged by Indigenous and settler allies, it is clear that Canadian performance practices are being shaped by the raw commodities found in our resource-rich land, extractive industries, and a range of corporate and political entities with vested interests in resource development. As we “excavate” conversations, contestations, confluences, and exchange across the fields of theatre, dance, and performance studies, as the call for papers asks us to do, this panel asks scholars to probe the ways in which Canadian performance culture is sustained by extractivism. It asks, what is our role and responsibility to develop environmentally responsible performance practices and research methodologies? How has Canada’s economic dependence on staples—such as fish, fur, lumber, agricultural products, and minerals—informed Canadian performance practices? And how might we transition away from an extractivist mindset within performance studies in Canada—one that, as Stó:lō scholar Dylan Robinson has argued, often extracts and assimilates “useful” Indigenous ideas and traditions as a resource for the field without regard for what those ideas and practices do for Indigenous politics1?

Panelists will present a 20 minute conference paper followed by a question and answer period.

Possible topics include:

  • Performance in/and the hinterlands
  • Performing the frontier
  • The staples thesis and Canadian theatre history
  • Corporate sponsorship of the arts
  • Canadian oil dramas
  • Contrapuntal reading strategies in dramatic literature
  • Petro-protests and other embodied forms of resistance against development
  • Performance and land claims
  • Performance and dispossession
  • Indigenous resistance and resilience
  • Resource tourism
  • Performing politics and protest
  • Energy consumption and theatrical production
  • Spectacle, spectatorship and consumption

1 Dylan Robinson, “Enchantment’s Irreconcilable Connection: Listening to Anger, Being Idle No More,” Performance Studies in Canada, edited by Laura Levin and Marlis Schweitzer (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2017), 211- 35.