About Cabaret Commons

Cabaret Commons Co-Directors

The Cabaret Commons is a work-in-progress gathering place, a digital repository and anecdotal encyclopedia, for trans- feminist and queer artists, activists, audiences and researchers.

T.L. Cowan is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies (Digital Media Cultures) in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media (UTSC) and the Faculty of Information (iSchool) at the University of Toronto. Cowan’s research focuses on cultural and intellectual economies and networks of minoritized digital media and performance practices. Their most recent essays are published in First Monday(2018), Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies (2016), More Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women (2016, edited by Johanna Householder and Tanya Mars) and as part of Alexandra Juhasz’s #100 Hard Truths. Cowan’s scholarly-creative practice moves between page, stage, and screen. Recent notable commissions for their creative-critical work include the PlugIn Institute of Contemporary Art in Winnipeg, Queens Museum in New York City, and Nuit Blanche in Toronto. Cowan is currently completing a monograph, Transmedial Drag and Other Cross-Platform Cabaret Methods. (Settler, they/she)

Jasmine Rault is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information & Technology and Department of Sociology at University Toronto Mississauga. Rault’s research focuses on mediations of gender, race and sexuality in architecture and design, digital cultures and economies, arts and social movements. Their first book is Eileen Gray and the Design of Sapphic Modernity: Staying In (2011)and most recent essays are published in S&F Online (2017) and Feminist Media Studies (2017). (Settler, they/she)

Together, Rault and Cowan write about research economies, Trans- Feminist & Queer (TFQ) research cultures and digital archives. In addition to the Cabaret Commons they are also co-directors of Digital Ethics Research Collaboratory (DREC). Cowan and Rault are currently co-authoring a book, provisionally entitled Checking In: Experiments in Trans- Feminist & Queer Networked Intimate Publics. Their recent collaborative work includes, “Onlining Queer Acts: Digital Research Ethics and Caring for Risky Archives” (in Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory 2018); “Haven’t you ever heard of Tumblr? FemTechNet’s Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC), Pedagogical Publics, and Classroom Incivility” (in MOOCs and Their Afterlives: Experiments in Scale and Access in Higher Education, ed. Elizabeth Losh, 2017); “The Labour of Being Studied in a Free Love Economy” (in ephemera: theory and politics in organization 2014) and “Speculative Praxis Toward a Queer Feminist Digital Archive” (co-authored with Dayna McLeod, in Ada: Gender, New Media, and Technology 2014).

Cabaret Commons Co-Managing Editors

Carina Guzmán (Islandia) finds work inevitable and would, therefore, rather do it with friends. This has led them to organize queer nightlife and performance events with Meras efímeras and Burlesquimeras: Institutrices de belleza universal in Mexico City. They would also rather be in school than work; she is currently a Connaught Scholar at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information doctoral program. She holds a Bachelor’s in History and Master’s in Geography from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México where her research focused on the Mesoamerican landscape as a source and in the sources. Their PhD project is about magical and translocal archives of queer nightlife and Mesoamerican geographical thought. Being born in Mexico, raised between Mexico and the US, and currently living in Canada has meant questions about performance and the spatial aspects of knowledge are the basis of Islandia’s projects.

Stephen Lawson is a transdisciplinary artist, performer, curator, and educator. Upon graduating from the acting program of the National Theatre School of Canada, Stephen became a co-founder of the Winnipeg-based performance troupe PRIMUS (1989-1998). Since that time, his work as a director has included contemporary music pieces as well as genre defying live art works, and he has taught on various aspects of devised performance through universities, community groups and arts centres internationally. Stephen moved to Montreal in 2001 at which point he began collaborating with multidisciplinary artist Aaron Pollard (2boys.tv) and has created a wide repertoire of transdisciplinary art works and performances for museums, galleries, theatres, clubs, artist-run centres, universities and festivals, including the Havana Biennial, Triennale Québécoise at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Under the Radar Festival in New York City, the National Review of Live Art n Glasgow Scotland, and the Hemispheric Institute biennial Encuentros in Santiago, Sao Paolo, Bueno Aires, Bogota and Santiago. He is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies of York University (Toronto) where he is pursuing his research project TRANS/FORMING AUTHENTICITY: Stigmatized Bodies, Creative Perversions and the Performative Power of Shame. Stephen is a Collaborator Member of the Canadian Consortium on Performance and Politics in the Americas (https://performanceandpolitics.org/) and Co-Managing Editor on the soon to be launched Cabaret Commons Critical Practice web site (http://www.cabaretcommons.org/)

Cabaret Commons ICT Managers

Jessica Caporusso, Senior ICT Manager (2017-present). Jessica is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at York University. Her research interests meet at the intersection of political ecology, bioenergy, and discard studies. Her current dissertation project examines how “waste” — as an externality and as resource — is defined through neocolonial logics, by investigating the transformation of crop residues into biofuel feedstock in the small-island developing state of Mauritius. Jessica’s work explores the multiple and contested meanings of waste and value while also tracking the development of bioenergy as a source of energetic, political, and economic power. She is an active contributor of the Plant Studies Collaboratory and the Energy Working Group at York. (Settler, she, her)

Henria Aton, ICT Manager (2019). Henria is a Ph.D. student in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, and a digital archivist. Her doctoral research focuses on the place of personal archives within women’s movements in Sri Lanka. By examining unofficial and under-recognized records and narratives of resistance, Henria’s work interrogates dominant archival theory in the contexts of South Asia. Henria has a collaborative specialization with U of T’s Centre for South Asian Studies, and she is a member of the Jackman Humanities Institute Tamil Studies working group. (Settler, she, her).


The Cabaret Commons font was designed and created by Zab Hobart of Zab Design.

Research Support 

The Cabaret Commons is funded by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC 2019-2024), as well as by an Equity and Diversity in the Arts grant from the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Toronto Scarborough. The initial research for the Cabaret Commons was funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2011-2013). During these early concept stages, we were also supported by the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory. Over the course of the ongoing research and development of the Cabaret Commons we received support from the department of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Digital Humanities Lab and the Fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies (FLAGS) at Yale University. And, most recently, we have received support from the Connaught New Scholars Award at the University of Toronto and the Department of Arts, Culture & Media at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

While we have experimented with many (not public) versions and proofs-of-concept of the Cabaret Commons, the most important part of our research has been in the form of consultations with artists. We are grateful for formative conversations we had with many artists including Miriam Ginestier, Dayna McLeod, Robyn Overstreet, Julia Antivilo, Islandia Guzmán, Stephen Lawson, Aaron Pollard, Itzayana Gutiérrez, Alexandra Tigchelaar, Alexis O’Hara, Jordan Arsenault, Moynan King, Susana Cook, Andrea Joy, and Zab Hobart.

Additionally, an inspiration for the Cabaret Commons Critical Project is the Helix Critical Project, which T.L. Cowan co-founded and co-edited with Dan Fishback. The Helix Critical Project was supported by the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University, and the Civic Engagement Fund at Eugene Lang College at The New School.

We have submitted applications for substantial funding to continue the work (and to pay for the work!) of the Cabaret Commons, in particular to make work within the CCCP and CCXP. Fingers crossed & stay tuned!

Ongoing Research on the Cabaret Commons

For the long story about the research and development processes for the Cabaret Commons please check out some of our publications:

T.L. Cowan & Jasmine Rault. “Onlining Queer Acts: Digital Research Ethics and Caring for Risky Archives.” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. Special Issue “Queer Circuits: Performance, Networked Data, Digital Culture.” Eds. Benjamin Haber & Daniel J. Sander. 28.2 (2018): 121-142.  [Contact us if you need help accessing]

T.L. Cowan “Internet of Bawdies: Transmedial Drag and the Onlining of Trans- Feminist and Queer Performance Archives.” First Monday: Peer-reviewed Journal on the Internet. Special Issue: Queer Internet Studies. Eds Jen Jack Gieseking, Jessa Lingel & Daniel Cockayne. 23.7 (July 2018).

Michelle Marzullo, Jasmine Rault, and T.L. Cowan. “‘Can I Study You?’ Cross-Disciplinary Conversations in Queer Internet Studies.” First Monday: Peer-reviewed Journal on the Internet. Special Issue: Queer Internet Studies. Eds Jen Jack Gieseking, Jessa Lingel & Daniel Cockayne. 23.7 (July 2018) Special Issue: Queer Internet Studies. Eds Jen Jack Gieseking, Jessa Lingel & Daniel Cockayne.

T.L Cowan & Jasmine Rault. “The Labour of Being Studied in a Free Love Economy.” Ephemera: theory and politics in organization. 14.3 (2014): 471-488.

Dayna McLeod, Jasmine Rault & T.L. Cowan. “Speculative Praxis Towards a Queer Feminist Digital Archive.” Ada: a Journal of Gender, New Media & Technology. #5. July 2014