Winners and Losers: Competition, Athletics, and Performance
Curated by Christine Mazumdar and Kelsey Blair
(from the original call for papers)
The Toronto Blue Jays’ historic ALDS win in October 2015 is best remembered not by José Bautista’s winning homerun, but rather, the dramatic bat-flip that he punctuated it with. While the outcome of the game was not decided by the aesthetics of Bautista’s bat being ceremoniously thrown into the air, its lasting impression captures the inherent interconnectivity between athletic competition and performance studies. There is, perhaps, no better indication of the stakes of this interconnectivity than recent comments made by U.S. President Donald Trump about the NFL. In September 2017, Trump voiced his disdain for athletes who kneel during the American anthem—“get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired.” What does competition have the potential to enact aesthetically, socially, politically? How does determining winners and losers differ from other performative acts such as kneeling or bat-flipping? In western culture, where competition is an important component of the logic of neo-liberalism, can competition be transgressive?
Building on the Canadian Theatre Review special issue on sport and performance studies (2017), which emerged from the CATR seminar “Performance Studies and Contemporary Sports Seminar” (2013), this curated panel aims to not only advocate for the significance of athletics/sports in performance studies—a common goal of athletic/sport panels in such settings (see: ASTR 2016; ASTR 2017)—but to broadly conceptualize the terms “competition” and “athletics” as a means of stimulating cross-disciplinary exchanges.