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Call for Papers | Special Issue of the BJA on Embodied Voices: Aesthetics and Ethics of Bodies in Performance

Guest editors:
Karen Simecek (University of Warwick)
Toby Young (Guildhall School of Music and Drama)

The British Journal of Aesthetics invites submissions for its next special issue, on the topic of

Embodied Voices: Aesthetics and Ethics of Bodies in Performance.

In the wake of global movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, questions around the inclusion of oppressed voices currently sit at the heart of the performing arts community (including poetry, theatre, music and dance). Whether in discussions about colour-blind casting in Hollywood or major opera houses deciding if canonical stage works that problematically depict marginalised people should still be performed, the cultural implications of giving voice to marginalised experiences and ideas through performance are more important now than ever. To date these issues have remained largely untouched by philosophy, yet philosophy can bring important and distinctive understanding to the debate through ethical and aesthetic analysis of performance and embodied voice: What happens when artists invoke other voices in their work, and how does this shape the work’s reception? What are the implications of performing someone else’s lived experience, such as a work that makes reference to another’s body?

Such questions have arisen from increasing awareness of societal injustice and the consequent marginalisation or silencing of certain voices. By refocusing attention on the moral status of the performance, this special issue will provide an important new perspective in the much discussed relationship between moral and aesthetic value by considering to what extent the moral status of the performance and staging of the work affects its value as a work of art, how language is transformed through the embodied voice and the responsibility we have to artists and performers in producing and staging the performing arts.

The guest editors invite papers discussing topics that include but are not limited to:

  • How do bodies mean and how do audiences ‘read’ them? Can words and actions be disentangled from one’s voice and body (for instance, can another achieve the same meaning by imitating the gestures of another?)
  • What do we mean by the ‘authentic voice/performance’?
  • Are some works restricted to certain performers (in virtue of the contribution their body makes to the work)? Are there cases in which reperformance of a work by another causes harm?
  • Who ought to have ownership of a particular work? Whose permission is needed to re-perform a particular work?
  • To what extent do the performing arts contribute to moral and political education?
  • Does an audience have a responsibility to listen in a particular way, and what would this entail? Can an artist demand this?

Papers should conform to the usual BJA requirements and be submitted for consideration through the BJA submissions site.

Deadline: April 1, 2024

Any queries should be addressed to the editors, Paloma Atencia Linares (patencia@fsof.uned.es) or Derek Matravers (derek.matravers@open.ac.uk).