Theatre Journal 

Call for Papers

Special Issue for September 2021: AI

From the formal inception of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with individuals like computer scientist and mathematician Alan Turing, AI technologies have often been measured first in their ability to mimic human performance, such as translation, and then to surpass them. For example, in an AI subfield like natural language processing, the technology has developed for machines to mimic human capacity to learn language and then to exceed normative human abilities by increasing the scale of data analyzed and the speed of output. The developments of machine learning and deep neural networks are altering the fields of theater and performance studies and have (arguably) the potential to surrender active human control of the machine to the algorithm.

The implications of this shift have yet to be fully understood. For example, in an interview in Wired, France’s President Macron mentioned healthcare and mobility (autonomous driving and such) to be two of the primary fields in which AI might significantly enhance social wellness. At the same time, he has expressed concern over the risk involved, noting that the collection and instrumentalization of big data threatens national ideals; technology is thus intertwined with politics. Such potential and actual dangers have, of course, been noted along with the inherent biases in the algorithms that organize large data sets (Safiya Noble, Algorithms of Oppression). At the same time, numerous possibilities to utilize such technologies in unanticipated ways have emerged, as has occurred in the formulation of what Abigail de Kosnik calls in her eponymous book "rogue archives."

This special issue will attend to AI in its many manifestations from bioinformatics to data mining to pattern recognition to robots. Contributors are welcome to submit essays comparing theatrical examples such as Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. to that of directors like Oriza Hirata and Julian Hetzel. Other approaches might consider how theatricality informs touchstones of AI discourse such as Masahiro Mori’s “Uncanny Valley” or the ways in which new media installations draw on AI to alter or shape forms of human (and potentially) non-human interaction.

This issue takes as an opening premise that AI is always embedded in socio-political structures. In this vein and especially in this moment, contributors are encouraged to consider how AI supports existing racial hierarchies and also how those same technologies might be used to destabilize or even explode them. How might existing technologies be used differently to understand the construction and impact of racial categorization on and for racialized communities? What are the possibilities for understanding human categorization available through what has been called mediascapes and technoscapes (that is, how does race filter through both representation and the material means—in this case, the hardware and software—of social reproduction)? How do we describe the impact of digital technologies on the various publics addressed by and, in the case of on-line communities, constructed through technological platforms?

This special issue will be edited by Theatre Journal coeditor Sean Metzger. We will consider both full length essays for the print edition (6,000-9,000 words) as well as proposals for short provocations, video and/or photo essays, and other creative, multimedia material for our on-line platform (500-2,500 words). For information about submission, visit:

Submissions for the print journal (6,000-9,000 words) and for the online platform (500-2,500 words) should reach us no later than 1 December 2020.

Submit via ScholarOne:

Feel free to contact the editors with questions or inquiries:

Sean Metzger, Coeditor at

Margherita Laera, Online Editor at



Call for Papers

Special Issue for December 2021: Shooting

In 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement was born out of despair after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot and murdered Trayvon Martin. Since then, the of murder of black people by police and white vigilantes has continued unabated. FBI data shows that white officers are three times more likely to use a gun in a black neighborhood than in a white neighborhood, and the rate of police shootings of people of color is five times the rate of police shootings of white people. The ensuing protests over the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor poured over into every city in the U.S. and cities around the world. In response, police and federal troops shot at protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, most notoriously in Washington, D.C. to clear the way for Trump’s photo shoot.

The Democratic and Republican national conventions have both featured guns in dueling political narratives. Each featured a parent of a murdered Stoneman Douglas High School student. The Democratic convention highlighted the protests, the fight for racial justice, and the need for gun control. The Republican convention, by contrast, celebrated gun ownership and the stressed the importance of protecting the Second Amendment. Nowhere was the contrast more apparent than in the appearance at the RNC of Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the white couple who pointed guns at black protesters in St. Louis.

One third of people in the U.S. own guns, and both the pandemic and the protests saw marked increases in gun sales. The U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership and gun deaths of any nation in the world. In a comparative study, political analyst Dylan McLean notes that, “the gun serves as a symbol of freedom, independence, and individual liberty for American shooters and the regulatory environment illustrates that Americans have had little willingness to trade-in this liberty for order.”[1] A culture built on rebellion and individualism operates in stark contrast to other developed nations, where gun control is viewed as necessary for the common good. But gun violence also echoes the legacy of slavery, as militias (and the Second Amendment) were viewed as essential to maintaining the oppressive order.

The 2021 December special issue focuses on “shooting,” broadly construed. While guns are inextricably bound to the history and identity of the United States, the act of shooting (via duels or gun shows) constitutes a performance of its own throughout the world. Shooting features prominently in opera, plays, and musicals, from Wilhelm Tell and Eugene Onegin, to Hamilton and Blue. Performances of warfare present narratives of people preparing themselves for shooting at others and dealing with its psychic aftermath. Veterans engage in virtual reality patrol sessions in order to process events at the root of trauma. Possible submissions might deal with dueling, outdoor historical pageants, Annie Oakley, the history of theatrical gun wranglers, archery contests, and video games. How is shooting performed? What narratives are constructed of shooting in its varied contexts? What is at stake, physically and psychically, for the protagonists in scenes that involve shooting? What ideologies are reified and what ideologies are challenged?

This special issue will be edited by E.J. Westlake. We will consider both full length essays for the print edition (6,000-9,000 words) as well as short provocations, video and/or photo essays, and other creative, multimedia material for our on-line platform (500-2,500 words), edited by Margherita Laera. For information about submission, visit our website:

Print submissions and online submissions should submitted no later than 1 February 2021.

Submissions should be uploaded through our ScholarOne portal:

Feel free to contact the editors with questions or inquiries:

E.J. Westlake, Editor at

Margherita Laera, Online Editor at


Dylan S. McLean (2015) “Guns in the Anglo-American democracies: explaining an American exception,” Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 53:3, 233-252, DOI: 10.1080/14662043.2015.1051287