A Putative (Private) Life of Hannah Arendt: Bio-portraiture as performance in the work of Miriam Shenitzer


  • Michael Zank Boston University




self-portraiture, practice-as-research, history, biography, representation, reenactment, auratic personae, public-private, collecting, drawing, found objects, Emil Fackenheim, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt


The paper uses tropes culled from several of Hannah Arendt's works, as well as Rebecca Schneider's performance-theoretical considerations on "reenactment", to analyze the work of artist Miriam Shenitzer, specifically a show of drawings, captions, and objects called "A Putative Life of Hannah Arendt." The essay probes this "putative life" as construed from the artist's own memory fragments (including the memories of others that have become the artist's own), as well as from faux-artifacts that constitute a "collection" (à la Benjamin) without claim to representing an actual past. With access to history denied and a heritage claimed "without testament," the artist opens a space "between past and future," a moment of contemplation on the borders between private and public lives.

Author Biography

Michael Zank, Boston University

Michael Zank is Full Professor in the Department of Religion and Director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies at Boston University. He is the author, most recently, of Jerusalem. A Brief History (2018), and Jüdische Religionsphilosophie als Apologie des Mosaismus (2016).


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How to Cite

Zank, M. (2019). A Putative (Private) Life of Hannah Arendt: Bio-portraiture as performance in the work of Miriam Shenitzer. Performance Philosophy, 5(1), 128-148. https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2019.51272