I Really Don't Care, Do You?: The Philosophical Problems of Producing or Performing Empathy in Contemporary Performance.

Conference paper


Drayton, T., Christodoulou, P., Corsa, A. and Goldstein, T. 2022. I Really Don't Care, Do You?: The Philosophical Problems of Producing or Performing Empathy in Contemporary Performance. Performance Philosophy Conference 2022. Units Helsinki 15 - 18 Jun 2022
AuthorsDrayton, T., Christodoulou, P., Corsa, A. and Goldstein, T.
TypeConference paper
Abstract

This panel will explore how contemporary performance practices perform, produce or practice empathy, referring to both pathos and the German Einfühlung as the act of “feeling into” both the body of another and / or an artwork. The panel is concerned with ways that performance artists can develop specific real-world practices, informed by the research of psychologists, that might overcome theoretical problems posed by philosophers. As four scholars across the fields of philosophy, psychology and performance, we offer a unique, international and interdisciplinary articulation of the problems that arise on the interstice of performance, philosophy and empathy.
First, Dr Andrew Corsa will respond to claims that the empathy that audiences feel for characters, and the empathy that actors feel for characters, can sometimes have a negative impact on them or their societies. He will discuss the ways that specific dramatic methods – like those employed by Theatre of the Oppressed and by the Tectonic Theatre Project in the development of The Laramie Project – are not subject to some of these worries.
Pavlos Christodoulou will then discuss his praxis-based understanding of the importance of consciously constructing spaces that encourage empathy between participants and communities through his work composed of gamified structures that facilitate reflection and an empathetic disposition between participants. In this talk, Pavlos will dissect his practical experience in attempting to promote empathy within a performative space, offering critical reflection on his mistakes and unconscious biases.
Dr Thalia Goldstein will then offer critique in her discussion on how psychological research on theatre requires the reduction of complex behaviour to operationalized and measurable constructs. She will link this to the ways psychology has reduced empathy to various behaviours, emotions, and cognitive states, leading to confusion over definitions and measurement. This will lead to insight into where experimental research on the links between empathy in audience members and empathy in theatre performers exists, and how it can be explored going forward.
Then, Dr Tom Drayton will further problematise Einfühlung in post-immersive practices that ‘validate intimacy, tenderness, empathy and care’ (Lopes Ramos et al., 2020) in that the act of welcoming is now radical. As participatory practice moves online, Tom combines the Zoom-related meaning of the term ‘host’ with its basis in the ethics of ‘mutual, reciprocal […] protection, shelter or companionship’ (McAvinchey et al, 2018) whilst addressing the problematic, exclusionary power imbalances that occur when developing such structures.

KeywordsEmpathy; Contemporary Performance; Political Theatre
Year2022
ConferencePerformance Philosophy Conference 2022
Accepted author manuscript
License
File Access Level
Repository staff only
Publication process dates
Completed16 Jun 2022
Deposited20 Feb 2023
Copyright holder© 2022 The Authors
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