CFP Special Issue ADS #85: Aroha atu, Aroha mai: Performing Love, Compassion, and Decolonisation.

11 March, 2024 by Rand Hazou | 0 comments

Guest Editors Nicola Hyland and Rand Hazou. Please submit a one-page proposal (500 words maximum) to by April 29, 2024.

Special Issue ADS #85:
Aroha atu, Aroha mai: Performing Love, Compassion, and Decolonisation.
Guest Editors Nicola Hyland and Rand Hazou

The whakatataukī (proverb) ‘Aroha atu, Aroha mai’ (Love received, Love returned) reinforces the importance of reciprocity, care, and compassion within te ao Māori (the Māori world). ‘Aroha’ is a term which is always active and inclusive; as well as love and compassion, it also denotes respect and reverence, concern and hospitality. To demonstrate te aroha ki te tāngata – a respect for the people – is to participate in what Fiona Cram (Ngāti Pahauwera) describes as the “economy of affection” which defined relationships in pre-colonial Māori society (2021: 358). Decolonisation can be understood as actions to reclaim love: of culture, identity, stories and homelands. Revered scholar Moana Jackson (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungungu) spoke of decolonisation as a process of restoring relationships: “part political judgement and partly an expression of aroha — only through mutual respect and affection could balance and whakapapa be maintained"(2020: 141). If colonisation reduces human beings to an abstraction, decolonisation pursues re-humanising: an acknowledgement of personhood. While recent scholarship has explored the importance of care as an aesthetics and practice, This special issue focuses on the myriad of ways love and compassion might be employed through performative means to address, challenge and redress structural inequalities and legacies of colonialism.

In Western philosophy compassion is derived from the Latin ‘cum’ and ‘patior’ which can be literally translated as ‘to suffer with’. For philosopher Drew Leder, compassion refers to an ‘experiencing-with’ whereby ‘we enter into the experience of others through a process of empathetic identification’ (1990, 162). Yet compassion need not lead to appropriation of another’s pain. Martha Nussbaum (1996, 35) contends that compassion involves empathetic identification, where ‘one is always aware of one’s own separateness from the sufferer’. Rather than simply focusing on compassion as empathic identification, this special issue is interested in the radical and political potential of compassion. This issue invites submissions exploring the political ramifications of compassion and performance as highlighted by Elizabeth Porter’s suggestion that the compassionate person is ‘pained by another’s distinctive pain and acts to relieve it’ (2006, 101).

The understanding of aroha as a demonstration of love also connects to bell hooks’ notion of love as a spiritual practice and as an act of liberation. For hooks, ‘the moment we choose to love we begin to move toward freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others’ (hooks 1994, 298). Given the arguable desensitisation to the violence and suffering of others filtered through both popular and mainstream media, what role does performance play in endearing love and compassion as a precursor to political and social change?

For those communities impacted by marginalisation and precarity, love and compassion may be useful concepts for understanding an artful and affective approach to liberation and justice. This special issue invites critical and creative submissions that reflect on love, compassion and decolonisation within artistic practice/s and performance. The special issue invites submissions that do not only explore how love or compassion is performed, but which ask critical questions about how this is connected to ideas of justice, liberation and decolonisation. Key questions that submissions might respond to include but are not limited to:

  • How do artists create work, or engage with creative materials and audiences guided by notions of love or compassion? What impact does this focus have on participants, audiences, and communities?
  • How can demonstrations or performances of love, both within and for marginalised communities, operate as radical acts of resistance or liberation?
  • How can love and compassion be strategically deployed by scholars and artists to decolonise their practices to enhance the dignity of their subjects, collaborators, or colleagues?
  • In what ways does love feature within artworks that aim to resolve conflict and build bridges?
  • How can scholars and practitioners show compassion for the cultural and creative practices of artists within mutual spaces? What happens when cultural practices are ‘un-loved’?
  • How is ‘showing’ compassion or respect more than a performative gesture, for example, in land acknowledgements, in pōwhiri or other rites of welcome?
  • How might explorations of love and compassion support a decolonised teaching approach? In what ways can creative methods in teaching address the lack of love and compassion in our educational institutions?
  • In what ways do ‘economies of affection’ (Cram 2021) feature as part of performance practices? And in what ways do they restore relationships and personhood?
  • What are the affordances of theorising through compassion within performances of restorative justice? What role does compassion play in affective representations of both perpetrators and survivors of crime in artistic forms?

Please submit a one-page proposal (500 words maximum) to by April 29, 2024. For Early Career Researchers, we also request a sample of previous work in addition to your proposal. We especially welcome submissions by Indigenous and First Nation creatives and those working in, and writing from, the margins.

Cram, Fiona (2021) Mahi aroha: Māori work in times of trouble and disaster as an expression of a love for the people, Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online, 16:2, pp. 356-370.
hooks, bell (1994) Love as the practice of freedom. In Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations, 289-298. New York: 713 Routledge.
Leder, Drew (1990) The Absent Body, Chicago and New York: University of Chicago Press.
Jackson, M. 2020 ‘Where to next? Decolonisation and the stories in the land’ in Kiddle, R. Imagining Decolonisation. New Zealand, Bridget Williams Books, pp 55 - 65.
Nussbaum, M. (1996), 'Compassion: The Basic Social Emotion', in E. Paul, F. Miller and J. Paul (eds.), The Communitarian Challenge to Liberalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 27-58.
Porter, E. (2006), 'Can Politics Practice Compassion?', Hypatia, 21: 4, pp. 97-123.

Stay up to date with the IFTR Weekly Digest