Research: Rachel Hann to explore Trans Performance


We are pleased to announce that performace and scenography scholar Rachel Hann, previously visiting researcher at the University of Gothenburg and its Centre for Critical Heritage Studies, has secured funding for an urgent and timely AHRC fellowship. 

Hann's project Trans Performance Now: Glitching Cisgenderism will be conducted during 2024 and 2025 including paid artistic commissions, academic support activities for trans and nonbinary scholars, and events in Glasgow, Newcastle and London. 

ABSTRACT: This fellowship will provide the foundational infrastructure for a new wave of trans-led research investigating the cultural tensions between cis (non-trans) regulation (otherwise termed 'cisgenderism') and trans self-determinism. The PI, as a trans woman and leading performance scholar, will provide the first major study of how the UK and Scottish government's Gender Recognition Act (GRA) consultations in 2017-20 impacted the commissioning, production, and reception of trans-led cultural practices. As one of many 'trans cultures', trans performance makers have been celebrated over the last decade for interrogating trans lived experiences through autobiographical works. Yet, many of these artists have noted a need to move beyond venue programming cultures that frame trans performance as principally educational (for cis people to learn about trans personal trauma). In response to this need, this fellowship asks what is 'transness' in performance beyond personal testimony? What makes a stage design 'trans-informed'? What does 'transness' afford as a cultural/political standpoint beyond gender identity? In investigating these positions, this fellowship will provide the foundational infrastructure for a 5-year legacy plan that centres trans and nonbinary experiences as vital to a fair and just society.

In terms of timeliness, in the 20th anniversary year of the GRA this fellowship will assess the cultural impact of this legislation. Namely, the fellowship cites the Council of Europe (2021) report on combating hate against LGBTI people and its urgent call for trans-led creative practices in an era when - what the report describes as - 'anti-trans' policies are supported by the UK government. To investigate this critical period in UK political history, the first stage of the project will deliver new primary research on how trans artists have reacted to this shift. This will include interviews as well as commissioning new works to study how trans-led works are produced. The second stage will provide the PI with a mentoring programme from leading trans artists and academics to change how trans cultures are conceptualised in theatre and performance studies. The third stage will be to host public events and develop publications that platform 'glitch feminism' as one way of centring lived experiences that exceed strict categorization (such as race, gender, class, and sexuality).
The project has been developed in collaboration with our partners Kings Head Theatre (KHT) (London), Tron Theatre (Glasgow) and Live Theatre (Newcastle) along with the Trans Learning Partnership (TLP) and Curious Arts. These partners are uniquely positioned to provide high impact routes to different regions of the UK for collecting and disseminating the project findings. The KHT has committed to a programme of queer and trans-led projects over the next 5-years. Their Associate Artists include The Queer House, which is the UK's leading queer only casting agency. Live Theatre is a leading producing theatre, and the Tron Theatre is a hub of experimental theatre. The TLP brings together the UK organisations at the forefront of trans wellbeing - Gendered Intelligence (GI), Mermaids, and the LGBT Foundation - and will connect the project with trans audiences interested in trans-led creativity. Curious Arts are a charity that champions LGBTQ+ cultures in the North East and leads the Queer Arts North Network, which brings together similar partners across the North of England including Trans Creative (Manchester) and Homotopia (Liverpool). The TLP and Curious will offer routes to impact LGBTQ+ orgs across the UK.
Consequently, this project will deliver the first major study on the creative methods and techniques of glitching cis legal and social preferences that regulate trans self-determinism. The PI will collaborate with venues, work with trans and nonbinary artists, and host new events to develop new critical resources for artists and researchers.