Joris Vlieghe

what_now festival 2014 | Saturday 12 April | 7:30pm


My work as a philosopher and as an educationalist concerns the revalorisation of human corporeality. In many spheres of life, and especially within the world of education, it might be claimed that the body is more often than not considered as a dimension of no importance or merely as a circumstantial factor also to take into account, but with no real meaning in and of itself.

Over and against these tendencies I argue that certain bodily experiences are of the greatest importance. More precisely, I show that moments during which we coincide with the physical side of our existence grant the opportunity to invalidate every societal structuring of individual and communal life, and to install what I have called a moment of ‘democracy of the flesh’.

My work is also a criticism of a lot of recent scholarship that does take the body seriously (inside and outside education), but that immediately subordinates the body again to a regime of meaning and intentionality (a criticisable way of thinking which goes back to the work of Merleau-Ponty). I am, on the contrary, interested in the body taken in its full physicality - in a very literal sense: being-entirely-flesh.
I have developed this approach in relation to events and practices that take place inside schools, such as the occurrence of (fits of) laughter in classrooms, calisthenics (as the most fundamental form of ‘physical’ education) and traditional forms of practising together and in a repetitive manner. I believe that this way of looking at the body can inspire everyone involved, practically and/or theoretically, with the body – and especially the body during collective movement practices.


Joris Vlieghe holds a BA in Art History, MA in Philosophy and PHD in Educational Sciences. He is currently a lecturer in philosophy of education at Edinburgh University.

Joris’ research concerns the role of human corporeality for education, and over the past five years he has been investigating bodily dimensions of concrete teaching and learning practices. He has explored, amongst other things, traditional ‘school’ practices (repetitive and collective forms of exercise), old and new forms of Physical Education, the bodily experience one has when visiting educational museums and the educational value of the visualisation of the nude body. Most lately, his focus has been on teaching and learning in today’s digitised world and investigating the meaning of traditional pedagogical notions such as attention, presence and community under digitised conditions.