Between Participation and Non-Participation: The Generative Potential of Slow Performance and Slow Scholarship

Jessie Eggers


In this paper I entangle my fascination for “slow performances” – performances in which not much, or almost nothing happens, or those with a slow pace – with my own experiences with slow scholarship (Mountz et. al. 2015). In three case studies – respectively Ivana Müller’s While We Were Holding It Together (2006), Kris Verdonck’s End (2008), and my reflections upon and experiences with slow scholarship – I see into the temperament of slowness and consider its corresponding political and ethical significance in today’s accelerating Western society. I argue that insistence is a crucial element of slowness generating the potential of suspension, subversion, and confrontation. For example and as Birgit Kaiser in Figures of Simplicity (2011, 90-96) emphasises, key to the power of Bartleby the Scrivener’s non-participation is his insistence upon slowly uttering the same phrase over and over and over again.

Studying the slowness of/in Müller’s and Verdonck’s performances and of/in my own practice as a newly disabled performance scholar I come to an understanding of the generating potential of slowness and its political and ethical importance. With amongst others the work of Birgit Kaiser (2011), Gilles Deleuze (1998), and Walter Benjamin (2003-2006, 2002), I consider how slowness and its temperamental insistence creates a paradox of movement and stillness, and one of participation and non-participation, and I examine matters of representation and presentation. In doing so I consider how slowness and non-participation can lead not only to time and space for critical thought and reflection, but also to the emergence of an inherent embodied and performative thinking in itself.


theatre; performance; slow scholarship; slow dramaturgy; Ivana Müller; Kris Verdonck

Full Text:



A Two Dogs Company. n.d. ”END.” Accessed November 24, 2018.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1998. “The Exhausted.” In Essays Critical and Clinical, translated by Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco, 152–74. New York: Verso.

Donner, Marian. 2018. “Omarm de loser, want hij durft uit de ratrace te stappen.” De Volkskrant, May 4, 2018. -uit-de-ratrace-te-stappen~bd83f4af/

Eckersall, Peter and Eddie Paterson. 2011. “Slow Dramaturgy: Renegotiating Politics and Staging the Everyday.” Australasian Drama Studies April: 178–192.

Halberstam, Judith. 2011. The Queer Art of Failure. Durham: Duke University Press.

Honoré, Carl. 2005. In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed. London: Orion Books.

Kaiser, Birgit Mara. 2011. Figures of Simplicity: Sensation and Thinking in Kleist and Melville. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Kerkhoven, Marianne van, and Anouk Nuyens. 2012. Listen to the Bloody Machine: Creating Kris Verdonck’s End. Translations by Annabel van Baren, Emiliano Battista, Patrick Burke. Utrecht, Amsterdam: Utrecht School of Arts and International Theatre & Film Books Publishers.

Lepecki, André. 2006. Exhausting Dance: Performance and the Politics of Movement. London: Routledge.

Martell, Luke. 2014. “The Slow University: Inequality, Power, and Alternatives.” Forum: Qualitative Social Research 15 (3): n. pag.

Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham: Duke University Press.

Moten, Fred, and Stefano Harney. 2004. “The University and the Undercommons: Seven Theses.” Social Text 79 22 (2): 101–115.

Mountz, Alison, Anne Bonds, Becky Mansfield, Jenna Loyd, Jennifer Hyndman, Margaret Walton-Roberts, Ranu Basu, Risa Whitson, Roberta Hawkins, Trina Hamilton, and Winifred Curran. 2015. “For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 14.4: 1235–1259.

Müller, Ivana. n.d. ”Works: While We Were Holding It Together (2006).” Accessed November 24, 2018.

Parkins, Wendy, and Geoffrey Craig. 2006. Slow Living. Oxford: Berg.

Rokem, Freddie. 2010. Philosophers and Thespians: Thinking Performance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Van Baarle, Kristof. 2018. “From the Cyborg to the Apparatus: Figures of Posthumanism in the Philosophy of Giorgio Agamben and the Contemporary Performing Arts of Kris Verdonck.” PhD diss., Ghent University.

Wald, Chelsea. 2015. “Why Your Brain Hates Slowpokes: The High Speed of Society has Jammed Your Internal Clock.” Nautilus 22, March 5, 2015.


  • There are currently no refbacks.