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Interdisciplinary anxiety

I am waiting in Euston Station to catch a train to Manchester to go to the SEP-FEP conference: the joint conference of the Society for European Philosophy and the Forum for European Philosophy where John Mullarkey and I are going to give a joint presentation on Laruelle and Kaprow, non-philosophy meets nonart and the nonhuman.


And I am having, again, a bout of interdisciplinary anxiety.


In part, this follows some very interesting discussions on an earlier train with two colleagues Tony Fisher and Amanda Stuart-Fisher about the inevitable issues and questions surrounding any interdisciplinary project, such as Performance Philosophy.


How do those who have not been trained in Philosophy engage with it?

How do we avoid accusations or (sometimes self-imposed) impressions of dilettantism?

What counts as ‘expertise’ in the interdisciplinary realm of Performance Philosophy?

Do philosophers feel any interdisciplinary anxiety when they engage in discussions about performance or art? (and my suspicion is that they may do, but less so than scholars from other disciplines worry about their ‘right’ to engage with philosophy).


We had been discussing moments of confrontation we had experienced at philosophy conferences. The moments when we have witnessed a more junior or less experienced speaker being derailed by an ‘expert’ – with notions of expertise based on, say, those who have specialized in the thought of a single philosopher throughout their career, who have read that philosopher in their original language, who have read everything available written by that philosopher and extensive amounts of secondary literature.


We all agree that there is much to be valued in these experts. But we were also questioning whether this was the only type of expertise. And about the limits of philosophy conceived only as the practice of the history of philosophy.


And we talked about dogmatism and the question of how to converse in the context of profound disagreement.  I reiterate my idea that Performance Philosophy as an association should not exclude any mode of philosophy except those that seek to exclude others – that is, those who refuse to acknowledge the validity of any other approach to the topic than their own. The confrontation, anatagonism or what one could even call aggression of some philosophical debates – whether they take place online, in print or at conferences – is arguably relatively unfamiliar in the context of theatre and performance. Perhaps to the good, perhaps problematically – but it does make me wonder what new ways of dealing with disagreement might emerge in the interdisciplinary context of a Performance Philosophy event.





By Laura Cull

Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca is Professor and Head of DAS Graduate School at the Academy of Theatre and Dance, Amsterdam University of the Arts in the Netherlands. She also holds a fractional position as Reader in Theatre and Performance and Director of the Centre for Performance Philosophy, at the University of Surrey, UK. She is currently an AHRC Leadership Fellow for the project, Performance Philosophy & Animals: Towards a Radical Equality (2019-2022). Her books include: The Routledge Companion to Performance Philosophy (Routledge, 2020) and Encounters in Performance Philosophy (Palgrave, 2014), both co-edited with Alice Lagaay; Theatres of Immanence: Deleuze and the Ethics of Performance (Palgrave, 2012); Manifesto Now! Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics (Intellect, 2013), co-edited with Will Daddario; and Deleuze and Performance (Edinburgh, 2009). She is a founding core convener of the international research network, Performance Philosophy, joint series editor of the Performance Philosophy book series with Rowman & Littlefield, and an editor of the Performance Philosophy journal.

One Comment

  • Laura,

    I’m embarking on a game that I call “Will meets philosophers.” As is obvious from the game’s title, I’m setting meetings with “real” philosophers here at my home institution. I met with one person (Ken Waters) already. We had a great conversation in which we attempted to teach each other about our respective disciplines and then imagine what Performance Philosophy might be. I am scheduling two more meetings soon, and I plan to propose this game to other PP members at ASTR in November. My plan is to collect enough notes to adequately address some of the issues you’re raising here. I think we should make this discussion part of the proceedings at Surrey in April. 

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