Publication Date

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Connections Grant Program

Principal Organizer
Charles Batson, associate professor of French

Project Summary
From Pink and Britney Spears’ stage shows to American Horror Story to Cirque du Soleil’s status as the world’s most successful live performing arts company, circus in the early 21st century has undeniably gone mainstream.  This positive news for circus companies, artists, and audiences with a taste for thrilling entertainment also raises questions about circus’s historic status as a site for the celebration and exploitation of differences, from stagings of exceptional performing bodies to the display of “freakery.”  This project addresses these questions, focusing on what and who has been targeted as different (as “Other”) in contemporary circus practice. Within “differences,” we include questions of gender, sexuality, embodiment, ability/disability, ethnicity, class, and species.

The SSHRC-funded project is led by Principal Investigator Karen Fricker of Brock University, in collaboration with Union’s faculty-scholar Charles Batson and other partners. Encounters with Circus and Its Others proposes extended and multi-faceted engagement via exchanges between scholars, circus artists and workers, and the public.

The Encounters will be divided into three parts, all to take place in connection with the July 2016 iteration of the Montréal Complètement Cirque (MCC) festival, whose collaboration, along with the participation of other major Montréal circus institutions including Cirque du Soleil and the National Circus School, will bring these conversations to a broad public audience.

Part I. Pre-performance Festival Encounters:  Members of the Circus and Its Others project will organize and facilitate pre-performance discussions about select productions in the 2016 MCC program.

Part II. Circus and Its Others Scholarly Encounters: A scholarly conference taking place July 15-17, 2016 builds on the exchanges established in the Festival Encounters, linking those discussions to new academic research around our central questions.

Part III. Encounter with Québec’s Social Circus: This broad, largely practice-based forum looks at Social Circus in the Québec context and will involve practitioners and organizers in the field from across the province.