Dance and Disruption: Science and Body in the Long Nineteenth Century - Call for Papers

Due April 30, 2020

A Working Symposium hosted by the Dance Studies Association Working Group, Dancing the Long Nineteenth Century 

Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, USA

NEW DATES: August 8-9, 2020

*NOTE: As of this time, given that the possibility to travel and gather in August looks unlikely, we are considering hosting an online event, and will make final decisions about the status and format of the symposium at the end of May. Please feel free to get in touch with the committee members directly if you have any thoughts about the nature or format of an online symposium. In the meantime, we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well.

The nineteenth century was a time of change in the European-American scientific world, a time that brought about the creation of modern disciplines in general and the differentiation of individual scientific fields in particular, including those focusing on the human body and on human “others,” as understood by researchers engaged in these studies. This gradual isolation of disciplines from one another shaped and constrained individual fields of knowledge, while also creating potential venues for increasingly focused research within specific domains. Such studies also served as justifications for different, even inhumane, treatment of some subjects of study as compared with others. In the context of this new lens for approaching the world, dance could be considered both a means to form, control, understand, or civilize the body, and a manifestation of bodily failure or excess. Some fundamental questions, to which other perspectives are welcome, follow: 

  • To what ends were scientific ideas and language used in the worlds of dance and performance?
    • Teaching
    • Criticism
    • Performance styles
    • Themes
  • How did developments in various science fields affect reception and readings of dance?
    • Emerging theories of evolution
    • Formulation of the field of psychology
    • Awareness of the world’s breadth and variety, through longstanding trade routes and increased circulation of published reports
    • Attention to women’s status, education, and perceived roles
    • Articulation of theories of health and physical education
  • How did emerging technologies allow new effects?
    • In performance 
    • In staging
    • In publicity
  • Did competing perspectives challenge scientific assertions, as evidenced in dance and other bodily expressions and practices, in Europe, the Americas, or elsewhere?
    • Romanticism
    • Religion
    • Race
    • Abolitionism
    • Women’s rights
    • Independence and other resistance movements 

We welcome proposals, on these or other theme-appropriate topics, for individual papers, pre-formed roundtables, performances, or lecture-demonstrations. Interested participants should submit an abstract of no more than 250 words and a biography of approximately 100 words by April 30, 2020, to

 Notifications will be sent out to applicants by May 31st.

 For queries regarding programming, please contact Lynn Matluck Brooks ( or Cara Gargano (

For queries regarding logistics, please contact Olivia Sabee (

 Symposium registration fees will be kept as low as possible, between $50 and $100, to be determined closer to the meeting date.