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P/performance of Dissent: Shock Tactics, Spectacle and South African Protest

P/performance of Dissent: Shock Tactics, Spectacle and South African Protest

by Dr. Carla Lever (University of Cape Town, South Africa)

Thu, June 17, 12-14, Zoom 921 1681 5725, Passcode: 330924 (RS Mobilities)


Just shy of its third decade of democracy, South Africa’s GINI coefficient of 0.625 places it as the most unequal country on earth. Unsurprisingly, it is popularly termed the protest nation, with mass action occurring near daily.

This presentation considers the role of performance in creating and sustaining social change. Informed by Richard Schechner’s distinction between “as performance” and “is performance,” it examines a series of dramatic contemporary South African protest acts. Moving from the stage to the street, it both examines the role of shock tactics in political dissent and questions who is permitted to perform them.

These reflections will act in service of a broader consideration: in the most unequal country in the world, what might productive national debate look like? Indeed, what might it sound, feel and smell like? How might a phenomenological approach help us to better engage with political dissent?

Finally, the presentation will reflect on the changing shape of my research in response to COVID-19 conditions, connect with the virtual possibilities offered in the Cluster, and consider how the work might travel forwards in a world where vaccine inequalities drastically impact the possibilities for meaningful global engagement.

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