Seeing Like A City: A Symposium (QMU of London, June 6-7, 2014)


A Symposium

Queen Mary University of London

Keynote Address: Professor Mariana Valverde (University of Toronto) and Michael McKinnie (Queen Mary University of London)*

Keynote: Friday 6th June 6pm (open to the public)

Symposium: Saturday 7th June (all day)

 Deadline for abstracts: Monday 7th April

How have infrastructures of performance shaped civic ideas and ideals in mundane and spectacular ways? How are these ideas and ideals contained, contaminated, revealed and concealed spatially, temporally, legally and historically through cultural activity? How does cultural activity shape and see the city?

Seeing Like a City is an interdisciplinary symposium centred on the relationships between theatre, performance and urbanism.  In the past, theatre and performance scholars including Marvin Carlson, Jen Harvie, D.J. Hopkins, Ric Knowles, Kim Solga, have seen the city as a fertile site for considering a range of urban performances. Seeing Like a City builds on this work; it invites researchers to take up the challenge of accounting for contemporary urban performance.

This event is inspired by Mariana Valverde’s article ‘Seeing Like a City’ (2009), which offers a reading of the urban that acknowledges the influence historically distinct ways of seeing contribute temporally and spatially to the negotiation of property, land and its uses in the contemporary moment. More recently, theatre studies scholar Michael McKinnie reconfigured Valverde’s ‘seeing like a city’ as ‘performing like a city’ in his analysis of London’s South Bank Centre (2013). McKinnie argues that the entrepreneurial performance of today’s South Bank relies on the performance of the building as a national and social welfare project. The Seeing Like a City symposium aims to provoke analysis and discussion that extends and challenges approaches by theatre and performance studies to ‘seeing’ and ‘performing’ the city as a complex and contingent entity.

Seeing Like a City encourages presentations from researchers at all levels of study and academia. We are delighted that legal scholar Professor Mariana Valverde (University of Toronto) and theatre scholar Michael McKinnie (Queen Mary University of London) will be delivering a keynote presentation on the eve of the symposium.

Some of the overarching themes that may guide your proposal include:


·      (Re)claiming the city: governance, control and conduct

·      Planning the city: boundaries, zoning, access, property

·      Histories of the city: documenting, producing and curating

·      Living like a city: tourism, labour and migration.

·      The palliative city: regeneration, resilience, waste

·      Feeling like a city: senses, languages, intimacies

·      Activating the city: protest, spectacle, activism

We invite proposals for 15-minute papers in all formats. Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words and a biography of no more than 50 words. Alternative presentations are welcome, however please include an additional 100 words on presentation methods and technical needs.

The keynote is free and will be followed by a reception. The symposium runs from 10am-6pm and carries a booking fee of £5, which includes lunch and refreshments.

Four travel bursaries to the value of £25 are available for postgraduate scholars with priority given to those travelling farthest. Please indicate if you would like to be considered for a bursary when you submit your abstract.


Please return abstracts, identifying your email with the subject “SUBMISSION: Seeing Like a City’, by 7th of April to:

[click here to see email addresses on original website]

*Mariana Valverde researches the sociology of law. She is the author of Everyday Law on the Street: City Governance and the Challenges of Diversity (2012). Michael McKinnie researches urban governance and performance, and is the author of the monograph City Stages: Theatre and Urban Space in a Global City (2007).

This event is produced with support from Hayley Peacock (QMUL). This event is funded by Queen Mary Postgraduate Research Initiative Fund; Queen Mary Arts and Culture Fund; Drama Department at Queen Mary University of London; the Geography Department at Queen Mary University of London.

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