21 September, 2023 | by Rushi P

Special issue of Performance Philosophy

Performance Philosophy

Edited by Prudence Gibson and Catriona Sandilands

In the midst of accelerating interest in the importance, agency, and intelligence of the vegetal world, the editors of this issue of Performance Philosophy aim both to raise awareness of plant life in Performance Studies and to develop conversations between this field and Critical Plant Studies. Advances in botanical science, combined with increasingly urgent political concerns about the present and future conditions of plants and plant-human relationships, have resulted in a desire in and across scientific and arts/humanities communities to better understand, communicate, and value plant life and lives. For example, if we can witness the performative role of plants as multiple subjects within a given ecosystem, alongside all other forms of life (to the point that there is no ‘other’), is it possible to progress this new interpretation of vegetal behaviour into new realms of imaginative possibility? If we understand plants as performing subjects, how will this insight change our understanding of, and performativities in, ecosystems? This special issue will include essays from the fields of narrative and creative writing, visual art and performance, media and technology studies, and social/political ecology. It will incorporate such issues as anthro-decentrism and decolonisation, re-presentation and flat ontology, wilding and activism, identity and political violence, and everyday plant-human interactions. Intentionally broad in scope, it will highlight the multiple ways in which performance and performativity are enmeshed in vegetal relationships, and vice versa.

Critical Plant Studies (CPS), the field in which plants meet the humanities and social sciences, is an emergent and efflorescent project (Irigaray). CPS has the capacity to entwine narrative and plants, the arts and plants, and technology and plants in performative ways. Plants are critical to all ecosystems and all life; they are respected kin in many cultural traditions (Geniusz, Kimmerer). Now that western scientific communities are increasingly sympathetic to questions of plant intelligence and communication (Chamovitz, Gagliano, Simard), what is the a/effect on disciplines in the arts and humanities? What does the widespread re-valuation of plants as agents mean for how humans respond to diminishing habitats, decreased biodiversity, ecological conservation, and plant extinction?

Recent works in environmental philosophy, aesthetics, art, writing, performance, and other fields have been informed by these developments. In addition to a veritable explosion of creative works concerned with vegetal communities and relationships (e.g., Powers, Van Neerven, VanderMeer), these include significant plant-related texts in extinction studies (Van Dooren), philosophy (Irigaray, Marder, Ryan), history (Kelley, Scott), science studies (Endersby), aesthetics (Colebrook), political theory (Nealon), human geography (Head, Atchison, Neale), anthropology (Rose, Kohn, Myers), literary criticism (Gerhardt, Laist, Nardizzi), poetics (Jacobs, L’Abbé), feminist and queer theory (Sandilands), and visual art (Aloi, Gibson). In addition, there is a cohort of performance, video, bio, sonic, environmental, installation and social-engagement artists who are interpreting and experimenting with plant information in their artworks (Gibson).

Plant-oriented arts and humanities productions express the unknowable time scales and inaccessible points of view of plant life, even as they also respond to the very embodied everyday interactions between plants and people in our shared times and spaces. These productions constitute efforts to create mediation, communication, and expression of vegetal thought and practice. They explore connections between plants and humans that might be called a plant contract (Gibson), a new deal for the vegetal world: a means of altering our perception of nature by attempting to see all the parts, as well as the overall sum, of plant art and plant life. In addition, they explore what it means to think about plants as embroiled, along with people and animals, in multispecies entanglements in these biopolitical times (Sandilands): how are our interactions with plants, historically and in the present, shaping and shaped, in racialized and gendered ways, capitalism and colonialism?

This issue of Performance Philosophy is dedicated to redefining the way plant qualities are understood and valued. It celebrates and interrogates the agency, in/inter-dependence and performing subjectivities of plants. We ask: what if plants have a unique set of existential processes, from which we are excluded? These relations between plants and environment, and plants and humans, are entangled and material. Vegetal performativity refers to the way the arts and humanities can respond to the growth patterns, time frames and responsive abilities and qualities of plants. The issue delves into discourse around how real plant entanglements and materialities may create new narratives. It provokes thought about what kinds of expressions of vegetal life can afford plants their multiple capacities without merely representing them as flat, static or inert. What kind of thinking can shift our anthropocentrism toward the experience of the plant, and toward experiencing with plants? What kind of writing, theorising, art-making and storytelling is best suited to the distributed lives of plants? To understanding the involvement of plants in the Anthropocene?

We invite proposals for papers on these, but not only these, topics:

  • performance in/with botanical science
  • Indigenous plant knowledges/respectful cross-cultural plant relationships
  • aesthetic categories of the vegetal/vegetal aesthetics
  • plant communication as performative ecology: pollination, predation, morphology, mimicry, impersonation, evolution, symbiosis, parasitism
  • plant-based performance art, dance, land art, film, music, theatre
  • botanical porn, drag, burlesque; plant-based ecosexual performance
  • botanical decolonisation; herbaria; Wunderkammer and the paradox of collecting
  • performative plant writing: narrative, poetry, nonfiction, garden writing; agri/cultural performance
  • plants in political theatre, protest; performative botanical, forest, garden politics
  • performing with/as/for plants: creating plant-based performative communities
  • plants and/in performative identities: gender, class, race, sexuality, disability
  • gardening, horticulture, forestry, botanical display, flower shows, floristry, flower arranging as botanical performance
  • charismatic megaflora in botanical history: performing botanical imperialism, colonialism, conservation, resistance
  • monstrous plants, performing plant horror
  • marine plant ecologies, “blue-green” performance
  • plant restoration as performative utopia
  • plants and cultural policy

Queries about suitability of topic or approach are welcome: email Prudence Gibson at [email protected][email protected] or Catriona Sandilands at [email protected]

About Performance Philosophy

Performance Philosophy is an emerging interdisciplinary field of thought, creative practice and scholarship, supported by an international network of over 2000 scholars and artists. As an international, peer-reviewed, open access journal, Performance Philosophy publishes articles that interrogate what this field might be, and that test the relationship between performance and philosophy in all its possible configurations, including the philosophy of performance as well as performance-as-philosophy and philosophy-as-performance.

We are interested in scholarship that draws on a broad range of philosophical traditions, concerned with any aspect of philosophy, whether from Continental or Analytic traditions or beyond, and with any discipline or definition of performance, including but not limited to drama, theatre, dance, performance art, live art, and music.


Abstracts and one-page CVs due (300 words): 30 June 2020
Papers due (6000-8000 words): 20 December 2020
Publication: October 2021

General Guidelines for Submissions:

Before submitting an article we encourage you to visit our website and familiarize yourself with the journal:

Performance Philosophy

Performance Philosophy only considers submissions that have not been previously published, and are not under consideration for publication with another journal. A typical article will be 6000-8000 words including notes.

We are able to embed video and other media (where appropriate permissions have been obtained) in our online edition, and we welcome creative, non-standard approaches to writing in our [Margins] section; see Performance Philosophy

Abstracts and one-page CVs to be emailed to Prudence Gibson [email protected] [email protected] or Catriona Sandilands at [email protected]

See guidelines on formatting and references at the link below:

Author guidelines

Peer-Review Process

Performance Philosophy operates a system of double-blind peer review. Every article that is accepted for consideration will be evaluated by two external referees, selected by the Editors based on their areas of expertise. The Editors will make the final decision about publication or assess the need for further revision.

Open Access Policy

This journal provides immediate open access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge. We do not charge fees for accessing articles, nor for publishing or processing submissions.

Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Creative Commons

that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work’s authorship and initial publication in this journal, provided it is for non-commercial uses; and that lets others excerpt, translate, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal’s published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.

Performance Philosophy has earned the Seal of Approval for Open Access Journals from the Directory of Open Access Journals, awarded to journals that achieve a high level of openness, adhere to best practice, and maintain high publishing standards.