CSGS Visiting Scholar: fall 2011/spring 2012
T.L. Cowan is an Assistant Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies program and the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan. T.L. holds a PhD from the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, and her first book, entitled Poetry’s Bastard: The Illegitimate Genealogies, Cultures and Politics of Spoken Word Performance in Canada and is forthcoming (2012) from Wilfrid Laurier UP.
My current research is preoccupied with the social life of grass-roots feminist and queer cultures, especially in the contexts of media and performance, as well as literary and anti-literary cultures and popular cultures. I am interested in the ways that public and private cultures merge in the scenes created and inhabited by radical feminists and queers, and in the ways that desire intersects with and informs transformational politics and vice versa. As a researcher I am profoundly interested in the aesthetics and epistemologies of activist cultural production, and this work is importantly influenced by my participation in feminist and queer grass-roots scenes as a writer, performer, critic, curator and activist.
During my time at the CSGS, I will be pursuing research for two chapters of my second book. This book, provisionally entitled Sliding Scale, studies and theorizes transnational cultures of feminist and queer cabaret and considers the ways that cabaret is not just a structure of entertainment (i.e. the variety show format), but also a “structure of feeling”: a mode of being and way of knowing that is both produced by, and in turn (re)produces, feminist and queer sensibilities and politics. These chapters will focus on, respectively, mid-century cabaret in New York City and on the WOW cabaret of the 1980s and 1990s; my research will consider these “historical” cabarets in the context of their contemporaries and will seek to develop my theory of “cabaret consciousness” across venues, historical moments and, ultimately, regional locales. I intend for this research to culminate in a transnational engagement of cabaret scenes in other North American cities including Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Mexico City. My broader research, entitled Viscera & Ephemera, is a large-scale, collaborative ethnography and historiography of feminist and queer grass-roots performance in Canada. Sliding Scale and Viscera & Ephemera merge in a third project, the Cabaret Commons. The Cabaret Commons, which I am developing as a speculative research-creation project in collaboration Jasmine Rault and Dayna McLeod, will be a user-generated archive and gossip rag for feminist and queer performance and media artists, audiences and researchers. This research is made possible by the generous support of a Standard Research Grant and an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).