Absolutely Fabulist: Critical Fabulation towards the Ethical Empathic Encounter with Queer Trauma Onstage

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Marginalised artists are often saddled with extra-artistic concerns when telling stories about their communities. This ‘burden of representation’, as Kobena Mercer names it, sees artists primarily concern themselves with the political efficaciousness of their work; its reception, especially by the institutions that “allow” them to be heard (Mercer 62). This paper will use Queer theatre to explore how these concerns can lead playwrights to over invest in the non-Queer response to their work, even prioritising it over the Queer response. Queer visibility becomes the priority in these instances but without additional protection, or care, ‘heightened visibility is a trap’ (moore 29).

When representing the traumatic lived experiences of Queer folks onstage the need for care to accompany visibility becomes especially important. Playwrights experience a temptation to match the emotional intensity of the original trauma or to re-create it which Little writes can ‘promote uncritical empathic responses’ (47) in the vicarious-witness. In a Queer context this impulse also leads to the curation of unethical emotional encounters that have potential to leave the Queer survivor-witness retraumatised. This paper will argue to care more about the desirability of a work in the eyes of cisheteropatriarchy constitutes an act of neglect, if not violence. This act of neglect sees the Queer survivor-witness subjected to theatre that is about them rather than for them, or as Mercer would frame it speaks for them rather than to them (Mercer 73). This paper will explore the creative potential of what historian Saidiya Hartman calls ‘critical fabulation’ as a method through which playwrights can construct politically potent and ethical emotional encounters.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024
EventPerformance of the Real Conference 2024: Performing Care and Carelessness -
Duration: 14 Feb 202416 Feb 2024


ConferencePerformance of the Real Conference 2024


  • Trauma informed practice
  • Archive
  • queer methodologies
  • Playwriting


Dive into the research topics of 'Absolutely Fabulist: Critical Fabulation towards the Ethical Empathic Encounter with Queer Trauma Onstage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this