Please note the approaching deadline of 27 March 2013.

“A research event organised by TaPRA Theatre, Performance and Philosophy Group in cooperation with Quorum, Queen Mary, University of London.

Date: 16 May 2013  Venue: Queen Mary, University of London

Confirmed keynote: Prof. Alan Read (King’s College) & Prof. Patrick French (King’s College)

“At times the very first words tear my thoughts from my body and transport it to a place outside space where there is neither perspective nor point of view.” Simone Weil, Waiting for God.

There is something undoubtedly bewildering about ‘mystical experience’ when one tries to confront it as an object of theoretical or philosophical labour, since it seems on the face of it at least to be resistant to conceptual determination. For Simone Weil, such an experience occurred, she tells us, through the act of reciting George Hubert’s poem ‘Love’ whilst attempting to deal with the severe and crippling migraines from which she suffered. During her recitations of the poem, however, a kind of an “inner experience” took hold of her, an encounter with a presence so personal that she felt it must have been contact with Christ. Of course, similar experiences have been claimed by mystics throughout the centuries, placing them firmly within the sphere of religious and/or mystical experience. Nevertheless the profound sense of performativity that characterises such events also evokes an affective response that enacts a kind of resistance to the purely metaphysical and transcendent, and locates mystical experience within the domain of the immanent materiality of bodies. On the other hand, one might think here of Benjamin’s well known thesis that capitalism is not simply conditioned by religion but is itself a religion, “an essentially religious phenomenon” as he insisted, which shifts the real meaning of the essential performativity that describes the concept and practice of mystical experience into a strictly political and materialist context.  Thus insofar as capitalism whose temporality is infinite and characterised by a cult-like attitude towards a sense of “permanent duration”, we confront all the functions of religion – observing the same concerns, torments and troubles as any religion would claim to answer, yet displaced into the material world. One needs only think of concepts such as ‘enchantment’ (Marx), ‘liturgy’, ‘aura’, and ‘reification’ (Benjamin), ‘mystery’, ‘love’, ‘affliction’ and ‘desire’ (Weil), ‘ontology’, ‘Being’ and the ‘infinite’ (Heidegger, Agamben), ‘fidelity’ and ‘resurrection’ (Badiou), ‘phantasmagoria’ (Adorno), ‘transgression’, ‘un-knowing’, ‘sanctity’ (Bataille) and so on, to see how such ‘theological’ concepts are made available in theorising the political.

It is, therefore, the intention of this conference meeting to investigate the performative intersection that opens up the space between politics and the discourse of theology; we seek to place particular emphasis on interrogating the various aspects of mystical experience in relation to performance, and to invite papers, provocations or responses that examine how performance, theatre, and drama might disclose the precariousness of religious and mystical experience in a world governed by instrumentality, totality, and immanence.  As such, we are interested (yet not only) in looking at the philosophical problem of ‘immanence’ and ‘transcendence’ in relation to theatre and performance’s interrogation of different political structures as well as their impact on the performance of the politics of the everyday. Some possible thematic exploration of the conceptual intersections between performance and mystical experience could involve:

o   The performativity of mystical transcendence as ways of perceiving, seeing and being in the world;

o   The transformative power of theatre Religion as theatre; theatre as religion

o   The subject, the sovereign, and the state of exception – politics and transcendence in the secular age The Accursed Share: the dialectic of materialism and metaphysics in the performance of the suffering body

o   Ways of acting –asceticism and work as a practice of resistance

o   Visions of excess: theatre and performance as ecstatic experience

o   Political theologies: the practice of the religious mystic and the radical critique of capital

Some of the themes that this research meeting invite you to question and explore are:

Materialism and Metaphysics

Performance and the transformative power of art
Mysticism as a political practice
Mystical experience as forms of resistance
Ethics, Asceticism, Mystery
Ritual and Religion
Bare and Sacred Life
Political theology
Affliction, De-creation, Un-knowing
Reification, Enchantment, Aura
The Divine and neoliberal economy
Free will and theories of the sovereign

We invite proposals (300 words) for 15 minutes presentations from researchers and artists who would like to participate in this meeting. Contributors will attempt to analyse the radical potential in mysticism and untangle the performativity enclosed in praxes of mystical experience in a broader artistic, cultural and political context. The aim is to focus not only on delivering short, pre-prepared interventions/ provocations/ papers but also to address the themes of the meeting through on-going discussion and debate.

Please note: You need to be an existing member of the TaPRA Theatre Performance and Philosophy working group. If you are not, you can become a member which costs £10 to be paid on the date of the event.

Please send proposals to Eve Katsouraki ( ) and/or Tony Fisher ( ) by Wednesday 27 March, 2013.”


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