Download the full-sized PDF of Who's on stage? Performative disclosure in Hannah Arendt's account of political actionDownload the full-sized PDF



Permanent link (DOI):


Export to: EndNote  |  Zotero  |  Mendeley


This file is in the following communities:

Graduate Studies and Research, Faculty of


This file is in the following collections:

Theses and Dissertations

Who's on stage? Performative disclosure in Hannah Arendt's account of political action Open Access


Other title
Arendt, action, disclosure, the 'who', praxis, performative, politics, daimon, actor, spectator, history, judgment, freedom, identity, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Heidegger, Jaspers, Marx, Kant, Hegel
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Tchir, Trevor
Supervisor and department
Kellogg, Catherine (Political Science)
Examining committee member and department
Barbour, Charles (Sociology)
Epp, Roger (Political Studies, Augustana Campus)
Markell, Patchen (Political Science, University of Chicago)
Kahane, David (Political Science)
Department of Political Science

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Hannah Arendt argues that political action is only meaningful through the disclosure of who the actor uniquely is, and that this disclosure is the basis of human dignity. Arendt’s notion of performative disclosure helps us to rethink the individuated actor, not as a sovereign and self-transparent subject whose action expresses an authentic individual essence or constative what, but rather as a decentered and ecstatic who whose action reveals meaningful dimensions of the world and of the actor’s unique situation in history, through the performance of acts and speech before public spectators. The idea that no actor can stand in a position of control with respect to his life story extends to a critical displacement of the notion of freedom understood as sovereignty and of political projects that attempt to make history. Action, as praxis and not poiesis, is best understood through Arendt’s metaphor of performance, rather than productive art. There are new interpretive possibilities for Arendt’s theory of action, especially if we trace appearances of the ancient Greek daimon in Arendt’s publications and lecture notes, and among works that Arendt confronted: Plato’s Socratic dialogues and the myth of Er, Heidegger’s notion of aletheia as Dasein’s disclosure of Being, Jaspers’ valid personality, and Kant’s notion of aesthetic genius. The daimon implies that the public realm is a spiritual realm, that action is a form of connection to the divine, and that the actor is a decentered discloser of transcendent meanings and new possibilities within the world. The daimon also shows moral deliberation to be more vital to meaningful action than Arendt suggests prior to The Life of the Mind, so that the distinctions usually read in Arendt between actor and spectator, as well as those between acting, thinking, and judging, may be productively occluded. Arendt’s struggle to re-invigorate action’s disclosive capacity is at the center of her entire project. It sheds light on her critique of the world-alienating aspects of Marx, her insistent protection of a distinct political sphere from the private and the social spheres, and her rejection of Hegel’s philosophy of history in favor of a fragmentary historiography inspired by Kafka and Benjamin.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication

File Details

Date Uploaded
Date Modified
Audit Status
Audits have not yet been run on this file.
File format: pdf (Portable Document Format)
Mime type: application/pdf
File size: 3617979
Last modified: 2015:10:12 18:37:46-06:00
Filename: Tchir_Trevor_Fall2009.pdf
Original checksum: 4822827304c7012abcffa79e58b8957f
Well formed: true
Valid: true
Page count: 322
Activity of users you follow
User Activity Date