Kélina Gotman – Ecstatic Convulsions: Of ‘Oceanic’ Feelings and Political Time

Convulsive gestures have been read historically to signal at once a grotesque, nearly animal disorder and the ecstasy of religious feeling. This talk will explore some of the politics of gesture and feelings of atemporality within an ‘ecstatic’ frame. I will query what the history of psychiatric, epidemiological and other literature on ‘choreomania’ has offered for thinking ways in which ecstatic disjunctions from workaday lives signal an imaginary within which suprasensual and supra-personal being and belonging contravene an ethics of productive labour. More than this, I will examine ways that the history of thinking about ecstatic transcendence offers another manner of imagining politics within a deeply banal and sensual frame. The banality of ecstasy becomes a way of thinking tenderness and touch, ‘laughter’ understood not only as an extraordinary disavowal of work but also as the necessary precondition for reciprocal freedom within a body politic. This ‘freedom’ is always contingent on deeply careful relationality – a way of negotiating fragility and boundlessness at once.

Kélina Gotman is Reader in Theatre and Performance Studies in the English Department at King’s College London. She was 2019 Friedrich Hölderlin Guest Professor in Comparative Dramaturgy at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, and has held visiting positions at Cornell University, Bard College and The New School. She is author of the award-winning Choreomania: Dance and Disorder (Oxford University Press, 2018) and Essays on Theatre and Change: Towards a Poetics Of (Routledge, 2018), co-editor of Foucault’s Theatres (Manchester University Press, 2019), and translator of Félix Guattari’s The Anti-Oedipus Papers (Semiotext(e)/MIT Press, 2006), as well as various plays, including Marie NDiaye’s The Snakes (Cue Press, 2016). She writes widely on cultural politics of science and institutions, disciplinarity, language, translation, movement, theatre and dance, and collaborates internationally in the performing arts and museum sectors.