Introduction: Towards an Ethics of Gesture


  • Lucia Ruprecht Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge



gesture, Agamben, ethics


The introduction to this special section of Performance Philosophy takes Giorgio Agamben’s remarks about the mediality and potentiality of gesture as a starting point to rethink gesture’s nexus with ethics. Shifting the emphasis from philosophical reflection to corporeal practice, it defines gestural ethics as an acting-otherwise which comes into being in the particularities of singular gestural practice, its forms, kinetic qualities, temporal displacements and calls for response. Gestural acting-otherwise is illustrated in a number of ways: We might talk of a gestural ethics when gesturality becomes an object for dedicated analytical exploration and reflection on sites where it is not taken for granted, but exhibited, on stage or on screen, in its mediality, in the ways it quotes, signifies and departs from signification, but also in the ways in which it follows a forward-looking agenda driven by adaptability and inventiveness. It interrupts or modifies operative continua that might be geared towards violence; it appears in situations that are suspended between the possibility of malfunction and the potential of room for play; and it emerges in the ways in which gestures act on their own implication in the signifying structures of gender, sexuality, race, and class, on how these structures play out relationally across time and space, and between historically and locally situated human beings.

Author Biography

Lucia Ruprecht, Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

Lucia Ruprecht is an affiliated Lecturer at the Department of German and Dutch, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Emmanuel College. Her Dances of the Self in Heinrich von Kleist, E.T.A. Hoffmann and Heinrich Heine (2006) was awarded Special Citation of the de la Torre Bueno Prize. She has co-edited Performance and Performativity in German Cultural Studies (with Carolin Duttlinger and Andrew Webber, 2003), Cultural Pleasure (with Michael Minden, 2009) and New German Dance Studies (with Susan Manning, 2012). From 2013 to 2015, she was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Institute of Theatre Studies, Free University Berlin. She is currently completing the manuscript of a book entitled Gestural Imaginaries: Dance and the Culture of Gestures at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century, under contract with Oxford University Press.


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How to Cite

Ruprecht, L. (2017). Introduction: Towards an Ethics of Gesture. Performance Philosophy, 3(1), 4–22.



Special Section: Towards an Ethics of Gesture