Centre for Performance Philosophy


The Centre for Performance Philosophy is a new research centre at the University of Surrey, having officially launched in September 2016. The aim of the Centre is to foster innovative and creative research concerned with the intersection of ‘performance’ and ‘philosophy’.

Performance philosophy is an emerging interdisciplinary field of thought, creative practice and scholarship. Research in the field not only addresses the value of philosophy for analysing the performing arts, but also explores the idea of performance as its own kind of philosophical thought.

What is performance philosophy?

  • The application of philosophy to the analysis of performance
  • The philosophy of performance and/or the performance of philosophy
  • The study of how philosophers and philosophical ideas have been staged in performance or how ideas and images of performance have figured in philosophy
  • The theoretical or practical exploration of philosophy as performance and/or as performative
  • Experiments emerging from the idea that performance is a kind of philosophy or thinking or theorising in itself

But it could also be much more besides. One aim of the Centre of Performance Philosophy is to support the interrogation of this ‘more’, to facilitate researchers to create and question the nature of this open field.

Staff research covers a wide range of topics from the relationship between Shakespeare and phenomenology to the idea of musical improvisation as a way of knowing. The new Centre for Performance Philosophy will provide a platform for this innovative research, support a community of interdisciplinary PhD students and host a programme of exciting events going beyond the conventional format of academic ‘talks’ to other forms such as lecture-performances and installations, which try to actually do performance philosophy, rather than just talking about it.

Particular areas of research interest include:

  • Phenomenological approaches to performance
  • Time / duration in performance & philosophy
  • Performance as an alternative way of knowing: intuition, embodiment, improvisation, meditation
  • The theory/practice relationship: what can philosophy do for performance and performance-makers, and vice versa?
  • The nonhuman: animals, ecology, objects

The Centre welcomes applications from PhD students.

Shantel Ehrenberg, in/vestigating/fertility draft 1 (July 2015), PaR Festival, University of Surrey; Choreographic-practice-research project performing the layers of female gender identity and in/fertility; Photo credit: Laura Cull.


Name Role
Dr Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca Reader in Theatre and Performance

Core members

Name Role
Dr Adam Alston Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies
Dr Tom Armstrong Lecturer in Music, Director of Postgraduate Research
Dr Shantel Ehrenberg Lecturer in Dance
Dr Stephen Mooney Lecturer in Creative Writing
Dr Sabine Sorgel Senior Lecturer in Dance and Theatre
Dr Bill Thompson Teaching Fellow in Music and Creative Music Technology
Mr Darren Tunstall Lecturer in Acting
Dr Georgia Volioti Lecturer in Music
Dr Matthew Wagner Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies
Professor Diane Watt Professor of English Literature
Professor Marion Wynne-Davies Professor of English Literature
Hannah McClure Teaching Fellow in Dance
Juliet Chambers-Coe Teaching Fellow in Movement

Bill Thompson, score from Residue. Photo credit: Bill Thompson.

Marion Wynne-Davies, Possible site for the first performance of Jane Lumley’s Iphigenia (c.1558) – the first play written by an Englishwoman. Photo credit: Marion Wynne-Davies.

Stephen Mooney, LUC reading at the Bookart bookshop.