Call for articles: Sites of appearance, matters of thought: Hannah Arendt and Performance Philosophy

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Call for articles: “Sites of appearance, matters of thought: Hannah Arendt and Performance Philosophy”

Special issue of Performance Philosophy
edited by Diana Damian Martin and Theron Schmidt      

Articles due for peer-review: 1 Feb 2019
Publication: June 2019


In this world which we enter, appearing from a nowhere, and from which we disappear into a nowhere, Being and Appearing coincide…. Nothing and nobody exists in this world whose very being does not presuppose a spectator.

(Arendt [1971] (1978), 19)

[T]hinking is always out of order, interrupts all ordering activities and is interrupted by them.

(Arendt [1971] 1978, 197)


We live in Arendtian times. Though it would give her no comfort to know it, Hannah Arendt’s 1951 The Origins of Totalitarianism is in near constant citation during these times of strong-man populism and resurgent ethnic nationalism. After the 2016 US election, Arendt’s book was reportedly out-of-stock on Amazon (Griswold 2017), and Arendt­ scholar Roger Berkowitz (2017) provides a thorough analysis of its relevance to alt-right politics and the rise of Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Arendt’s diagnosis of the predicament of those fleeing persecution and abandoning their countries of birth—as she herself did (“We Refugees”, [1943] 1994)—remains all too relevant, and her discussion of “the right to have rights” (Arendt [1951] 1973, 267–302) prefigures recent analyses by Agamben (1995, 2005), Rancière (2004), Gündogdu (2015), and others. Arendt’s work has also inspired artistic and activist interventions: in 2015, for example, Tania Bruguera launched the Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism in Havana with a hundred-hour reading of The Origins of Totalitarianism. Arendt’s philosophy is an activist philosophy, in which thinking and doing are inseparable.

A political performance philosophy might take inspiration from Arendt’s conception of politics, which might be called a performative politics, articulated in her conception of “action”. Rather than restricting politics to the operations of coercion and brute force, or a politics oriented toward certain ends, Arendt was interested in “spaces of appearance”, which “come into being whenever [persons] are together in the manner of speech and action, and therefore predates and precedes all formal constitution of the public realm and the various forms of government” (Arendt [1958] 1998, 199). This Arendtian performative politics is also one predicated on a gentle conflict, a “warfare between thought and common sense” (Arendt [1971] 1978, 80)—one with contentious differentiations between the social and the political, but also one where thought and collectivity are necessarily embroiled. This conflict shaped Arendt’s presence as a woman working in political philosophy, whose place in intersectional debates on democracy, citizenship, and the politics of exclusion remains an ongoing debate (Pitkin 1981, Young-Bruehl 1982, Dietz 2002), offering a poetics of the publicness of political life.

Indeed, we can see something of “an Arendtian turn” in certain aspects of recent political philosophy: in Chantal Mouffe’s distinction between politics and “the political” (Mouffe 2000, 20); in Jacques Rancière’s idea of the “partition of the sensible” in which “Politics, before all else, is an intervention in the visible and the sayable” (Rancière 2009, 13); in Jean-Luc Nancy’s account of “co-appearance” or “compearance” (Nancy [1986] 1991) and the plurality of being (Nancy [1996] 2000); in Giorgio Agamben’s biopolitics (Agamben [1995] 1998); in Wendy Brown’s investigation of neoliberalism’s undoing of the demos (Brown 2015); and in Judith Butler’s explicit invocation of Arendt in relation to the “movement of the squares” and arguments for agency in plurality (Butler and Athanasiou 2013; Butler 2015). Whereas Arendt herself focused perhaps too much on an idealised view of the Greek polis (Euben 2000), a performance philosophy might ask where and how these spaces of appearance can emerge, and in what ways performance is a modus of thinking the political in Arendtian philosophy.

Performance philosophy might also take inspiration from the example of Arendt herself: who and how she was in the world. “No theories. Forget all theories,” were reportedly her first words to her students (Arendt 2009, xxii), and she advocated a philosophy that was actively engaged in the world—sometimes described as a “hermeneutic phenomenology” (Borren 2013). As a public thinker, she gained widespread attention for the way in which she bore witness to the Eichmann trial (Arendt [1963] 2006); and she kept an intellectual diary, her Denktagebuch, as an extraordinary document of her intellectual journey through her life (see Storey and Berkowitz 2017). Her work on thinking as always “out of order”, “interrupting all other activities” (Arendt [1971] 1978, 197), and her unfinished examination of judgment, offer a resistant poiesis of critical thinking, whereby critique is an embodied operation of withdrawal, action, and appearance. To Arendt, as in her work, thinking is a kind of seizing, a searching for what is beyond its reach, and what is already in appearance.

This issue of Performance Philosophy is dedicated to the thresholds, borders and dialogues between Hannah Arendt’s philosophy and performance. Arendt’s life-long inquiry into the nature of political experience and rule asks questions not only about the process of thinking and the condition of plurality, but also about appearance, freedom, dissent, and authority. In her thinking from and with history, her engagement with the realms of the social and political, and her probing of questions of authority and legislation as much as those of sensing, togetherness, and citizenship, Arendt’s work provides a point of entry to thinking through and on appearance as a political problem, and thinking as a problem of appearance.

What kind of thinking does appearance make happen in performance, and what kinds of appearance does performance make in Arendt’s work? What kinds of conflicts and tensions—between public and private, social and political—emerge across Arendt’s work, when confronted with our current political moment? How might we think action, and how might performance engage with appearance? We invite contributions to this special issue that engage directly with Arendt’s ideas, or that use the themes of Arendt’s work as points of departure in relation to artistic and activist projects, including:

  • The poetics and politics of appearance; making politics appear
  • Plurality, collectivity, and processes of performance
  • Performance under and against totalitarianism and ethnic nationalism
  • Movement and migration; the refugee crisis and “the right to have rights”; refugees as “the vanguard of their peoples” (Arendt [1943] 1994)
  • Performance as thinking; withdrawal from the world of appearances (Arendt [1971] 1978, 75); the resistant possibilities of thinking as “out of order” (Arendt [1971] 1978, 197)
  • “Work”, “Labour”, and “Action” in and as performance
  • Feminism, Arendt, and the social
  • Natality, making-new, and feminist/intersectional readings of Arendt
  • Judgment as made possible by “the presence of others”, or judgment as “enlarged thought” (Arendt [1982] 1992, 42)
  • The “unnatural growth of the natural” (Arendt [1958] 1993, 47); posthumanism, Arendt, and action
  • The Eichmann trial, the “banality of evil”, and the responsibility to witness
  • Arendt, Benjamin, and gesture as intervention

Queries about suitability of topic or approach are welcome: email us at [email protected]

About Performance Philosophy

Performance Philosophy is an emerging interdisciplinary field of thought, creative practice and scholarship, supported by an international network of over 2000 scholars and artists. As an international, peer-reviewed, open access journal, Performance Philosophy publishes articles that interrogate what this field might be, and that test the relationship between performance and philosophy in all its possible configurations, including the philosophy of performance as well as performance-as-philosophy and philosophy-as-performance. 

We are interested in scholarship that draws on a broad range of philosophical traditions, concerned with any aspect of philosophy, whether from Continental or Analytic traditions or beyond, and with any discipline or definition of performance, including but not limited to drama, theatre, dance, performance art, live art, and music.


Full articles due 1 February 2019. This issue is scheduled for publication in June 2019.

General Guidelines for Submissions:

For full details see

  • Before submitting an article we encourage you to visit our website and familiarize yourself with the journal:
  • Performance Philosophy only considers submissions that have not been previously published, and are not under consideration for publication with another journal. A typical article will be 6000-8000 words including notes.
  • We are able to embed video and other media (where appropriate permissions have been obtained) in our online edition, and we welcome creative, non-standard approaches to writing in our [Margins] section; see
  • All submissions should be made through our online portal. See guidelines on formatting and references at the link below:

Peer-Review Process

Performance Philosophy operates a system of double-blind peer review. Every article that is accepted for consideration will be evaluated by two external referees, selected by the Editors based on their areas of expertise. The Editors will make the final decision about publication or assess the need for further revision. We endeavour to get a decision back to authors within 12 weeks of submission.

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This journal provides immediate open access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge. We do not charge fees for accessing articles, nor for publishing or processing submissions.

Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work’s authorship and initial publication in this journal, provided it is for non-commercial uses; and that lets others excerpt, translate, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal’s published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.

Performance Philosophy has earned the Seal of Approval for Open Access Journals from the Directory of Open Access Journals, awarded to journals that achieve a high level of openness, adhere to best practice, and maintain high publishing standards. See


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———. (1995) 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

———. 2005. State of Exception. Translated by Kevin Attell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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——— (1951) 1973. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harvest/HBJ.

———. (1958) 1998. The Human Condition. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

———. (1963) 2006. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Penguin Classics.

———. (1971) 1978. The Life of the Mind. One-volume edition. New York: Harvest/HBJ.

———. (1982) 1992. Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy. Edited by Ronald Beiner. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

———. 2009. The Promise of Politics. Edited by Jerome Kohn. New York: Schocken.

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Bernstein, Richard J. 2018. Why Read Hannah Arendt Now. Cambridge: Polity.

Brown, Wendy. 2013. Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution. London: Zone.

Borren, Marieke. 2013. “‘A Sense of the World’: Hannah Arendt’s Hermeneutic Phenomenology of Common Sense.” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 21 (2): 225–55.

Butler, Judith. 2015. Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Butler, Judith, and Athena Athanasiou. 2013. Dispossession: The Performative in the Political. Cambridge: Polity.

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Griswold, Alison. 2017. “‘The Origins of Totalitarianism,’ Hannah Arendt’s Definitive Guide to Tyranny, Has Sold out on Amazon.” Quartz. January 30, 2017.

Gündogdu, Ayten. 2015. Rightlessness in an Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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———. (1996) 2000. Being Singular Plural. Translated by Robert D. Richardson. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

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———.  1998. The Attack of the Blob: Hannah Arendt’s Concept of the Social. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

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———. 2009. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. Translated by Steven Corcoran. London: Continuum.

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 Zerilli, Linda M.G. 2005. “We Feel Our Freedom: Imagination and Judgment in the Thought of Hannah Arendt.” Political Theory 33 (2): 158–188.