Wearing Our Principles: Putting Performance Back into Politics

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Rob WATTS, RMIT University, Australia
Carlo GENOVA, University of Turin Department of Culture, Politics and Society, Italy
Until the 1960s protestors dressed in their everyday clothes or used working clothes to highlight occupational or class identity. This changed as clothing became an increasingly significant aspect of 1960s’ protest activism as youth cultures joined with anti-war and civil rights protest movements. The repertoire of protest activity and the use of clothing changed in the 1970s with the adoption of masks including handkerchiefs, gas masks, and balaclavas. Anti-globalisation movements since the late 1990s and and anti-Austerity campaigns post-2008 saw new forms of creative color-coded masks and clothing by anarchists (including black, blue, pink, silver and yellow blocs (Dupuis-Deri ). The Guy Fawkes mask of Anonymous and the colourful balaclavas of the Pussy Riot Girls or Code Pink achieved global recognition (Rowe 2013).The paper explores and critically assesses the ways the social sciences have acknowledged and understood the use of clothing and masks in political activism. Granting eg. that wearing a mask or a costume may be variously a way to conceal personal identity under conditions of heightened surveillance, to protect against the effects of tear gas, or a masquerade as part of a performative politics (Madison and Hamara 2006), the paper shows how performance studies have not figured in the research programs of sociology, politics or international relations as much as they might have done. The paper argues for the need to consider the varieties of expressive production as well as its reception by various audiences. Taking a cue from Park’s (1950) sociological argument for the centrality of masks in social interactions, the paper explores the possibility that wearing a mask or a costume can amplify voice or foreground belief more firmly, with a view less to deceive the audience and more to reinforce and gain agency through selective self-representation.