Cowan, TL


T.L. Cowan
Ph.D., English Literature (specialization in performance studies), University of Alberta (2009)
Feminist Technology Network (FemTechNet) Chair of Experimental Pedagogies in the School of Media Studies


My current academic work focuses on the cultural and intellectual economies and social lives of trans- feminist and queer grass-roots performance (in the broadest understanding of performance). This work includes a book on translocal cultural economies of queer and trans- feminist cabaret, provisionally entitled Sliding Scale, and a large-scale archive and ethno-historiography of feminist and queer community-based performance and media in Canada, called Viscera & Ephemera. I am also in the process of developing a collaborative research-creation project with Jasmine Rault and Dayna McLeod, called the Cabaret Commons: a user-generated digital archive and gossip rag for grass-roots queer and feminist artists, audiences and researchers. We are preempting the creation of this archive through a project/process we're calling "Feeling Speculative in Digital Space." Over the course of the next year or so, we'll be doing some utopic imagining for a digital space that is informed by trans- feminist and queer ways of knowing, being, and making. My first book, entitled Poetry’s Bastard: The Illegitimate Genealogies, Cultures and Politics of Text-Based Performance, is under contract with Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

I also write and teach on contemporary digital cultures, labour, affect, politics and pedagogies and work with the Feminist Technology Network on the Distributed Open Collaborative Course -- the DOCC -- on cyberfeminist approaches to online education and activist pedagogical publics.

As an artist I got my start in the booming (largely feminist) spoken word scene of Vancouver in the late 1990s and since then have been making work that draws from cabaret, costume-based and alter-ego performance, agit-prop theatre, stand-up comedy, video and sound art, installation and intervention. These performances reflect an ongoing quasi-pseudo-autobiographical meditation on feminine composites, class mobility, sexuality and style.

Overall, I am deeply committed to the knowledges and aesthetics of transformational media, performance, subjects and scenes, and my art-research-activism-teaching moves through the politics, spaces and places of genre, memory, agitation, consolation, desire and diverse identifications.

Courses Taught:
Race, Gender, Cultural Politics: Reading bell hooks
Arts Criticism in Practice: Building a Freelance Portfolio
Trans* Cultural Studies: Theory, Activism and Cultural Production
Creative Resistance & Everyday Life
Performativity & Powerlessness: Embodiments of Social Action from Below
Discourse Analysis (School of Media Studies, MA program) 
Feminist & Queer Cultural Texts
Small Genres: Shorts, Tweets, Skits and Zines
Recent Publications:

Journal Articles:

“The Labour of Being Studied in a Free Love Economy.” (With Jasmine Rault.) ephemera. 14.3
(2014): 471-488.

“Speculative Praxis Towards a Queer Feminist Anti-Archive.” (With Jasmine Rault & Dayna
McLeod.) Ada: a Journal of Gender, New Media & Technology. 5: (2014).

 “Trading Credit for Debt: Queer History-Making and Debt Culture.” (With Jasmine Rault.) WSQ:
Women’s Studies Quarterly. Special Issue on Debt. Eds. Meena Alexander and Rosalind  Petchesky. 42.1-2 (Spring/Summer 2014). 294-310.  

“‘I remember . . . I was wearing leather pants’: Archiving the Repertoire of Feminist and Queer Cabaret
in Canada.” Basements and Attics, Closets and Cyberspace: Explorations in Canadian Women's
.” Eds. Linda Morra & Jessica Schagerl. Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2012. 65-86.

“Dayna McLeod's Post-Nationalist Beaver and the Cabaret Phenomenology of Putting Out.” Feminist
Mediations. Eds. T.L. Cowan, Kate Eichhorn & Jasmine Rault. Topia: Canadian Journal
of Cultural Studies
. 25 (Spring 2011): 230-239.

“‘a one-shot deal’: Contemporary Cabaret as Improvised Curation.” Canadian Theatre Review. (CTR) 143
(Summer 2010): 47-54.

“Punk Rock Clit Lit: Reading Toward a Punk Poetics in Bent on Writing: Contemporary Queer Tales.” Canadian Poetry. Ed. Andrew Lesk. 57 (Fall/Winter 2005): 103-121"

Edited Journals

Feminist Mediations. Co-Editor with Kate Eichhorn & Jasmine Rault. Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. 25 (Spring 2011).

Short Publications & Reviews:

“Seeing & Being Seen at Meow Mix Cabaret.” Catalogue essay. Meow Mix Retrospective. Jan 10-Feb 2, 2013. RATS 9 Gallery. Montreal, Quebec. (Jan 2013).

“Reading Through Difference.” Review of Cherríe Moraga’s A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness:
Writings 2000-2010. Women & Performance.

“Follow-up notes on the GLITTERfesto: TL Cowan in conversation with Tammy Pamalovovich, Aging
Supermodel Lesbian Feminist Experimental Poet and Revolutionary.” Belladonna.
“Transfeminism and Literature.” Vol. II. 147 (2012): 5-12.

“GLITTERfesto: An Open Call in Trinity Formation For A Revolutionary Movement Of Activist
Performance Based On The Premise That Social Justice is Fabulous.” Canadian Theatre Review
(CTR). Ed. Natalie Alvarez. 150 (Spring 2012): 11-17.

“cabaret at grunt: up your community.” Activating the Archives. Grunt Gallery, Vancouver. Spring 2012.

“Harmonious Cacophony:’s Tightrope.” Canadian Review of Literature in Performance. 3 (Fall

“Making it Better: Dayna McLeod’s Celluloid Fantasies, Feminist Queer Revisionary.” No More
(Summer 2011).

“The Queer Element & The Poison Cookie: Literature in Performance on the Cabaret Stage.” Canadian
Review of Literature in Performance.
1.1 (February 2011). 

Office Location:
64 West 11th St. Room 109

Personal Website:

Research Interests:
Trans* feminist & queer visual culture, performance, literary & cultural studies; activist studies, new media & creative resistance; feminist & queer theory, especially aesthetics, epistemologies & theories of the transnational/translocal; speculative digital humanities; 20th & 21st-Century cabaret in Canada, Mexico, USA, France & Germany; 20th- & 21st-Century literary & anti-literary cultures; popular culture; genre theory; theories & practices of the avant-garde; performance writing, Performer Created Theatre.
Professional Affiliations:
Hemispheric Institute of Performance & Politics in the Americas (Hemispheric Fellow 2012-14
Performance Studies International
Canadian Association of Cultural Studies
Sexuality Studies Association
Recent Presentations/Exhibits:
“A Hybrid Present Embodified: ‘Social Disorganization’ as Cabaret Methodology.” Panel Title: Then, Now, Then: Doing Hybrid Temporalities in Contemporary? Feminist and Queer Performance (Mexico City, New York City, Montreal). Co-organized with Dayna McLeod & Jasmine Rault. Performance Studies International/PSi 19. Stanford University, San Francisco CA. June 26-30 2013.

“The More Things Change: Dialectical Dreams of Im-Perfect Collective Identities in Contemporary Feminist and Queer Political Cabaret.” Work Group Presentation. Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute of Politics and Performance. São Paulo, Brazil. Jan 12-19 2013.

“From Le Chat Noir to Meow Mix: Considering a Translocal Cabaret Consciousness.” Crossroads in Cultural
Studies. Sorbonne Nouvelle. Paris, July 2-6 2012.

“Speculative Frames, Digital Feelings, Transnational Spaces: Keywords for Late Adopters/Conscientious
Objectors” (with Jasmine Rault). Gender and Technology Conference. University of Virginia. April 27-29 2012.

The Twisted She Project. CD. (2009).
Coastal Tongue: An Anthology of Women in Spoken Word in Vancouver. Eds. Laurie Bricker & T.L. Cowan


• Performance Mix Festival. New York City, NY. Curator: Karen Bernard. April 8-14.
Dirty Plötz Cabaret. Rhubarb Festival. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, ON. Curator: Alex Tigchelaar. Feb. 21 2013.
• Cachín Cachán Cachunga! Queer & Trans Cabaret. Glasgow, Scotland. Curator: Zorras. Feb. 21 2013.
Open Toe Peepshow Salon Series #2. Brooklyn, NY. Curators: Damien Luxe and Heather Ács. Nov. 4, 2012.
• DYKE CHECK!Queer Takes on the Revolution. Dixon Place, New York City. Dec 7, 2011.
• Edgy Women Festival. Curator: Miriam Ginestier. Mainline Theatre, Montreal QC. March 20, 2010.
Awards and Honors:
2012 – Eugene Lang College Civic Engagement & Social Justice Grant to host Theatre of the Oppressed workshops for Lang students.
2011 - Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant.
         Title: “Feeling Speculative in Digital Space”
2011 - Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Standard Research Grant.
         Title: “Sliding Scale: Translocal Feminist and Queer Cabaret Cultures”
2009 – Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Calgary
2009 - Canada Council for the Arts Individual Artist Project Grant for The Twisted She Project
2009 – Alberta Foundation for the Arts – Multidisciplinary Project Grant for The Twisted She Project
2009 - Governor General’s Gold Medal, University of Alberta. Recognizes the doctoral graduate of all faculties who achieves the highest academic standing.

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