English and Theatre Studies seminar: Associate Professor Michael Peterson

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 16:30 - 17:30

Torture and many other cruel actions are "performance relations"; they are not simply "like" performances, but rather use performativity, performance, and even theatricality as their very media. Performance is what military jargon refers to as a "force multiplier": it makes violence more violent. In the face of state terror and police brutality, many activist actions invert this logic, assertively performing vulnerability to violence in order to confront official cruelty. Drawing on examples from U.S. drama, performance art, and activist artistic actions, as well as from significant cases of "real" official violences, I argue that performances of cruelty are not exceptions to civil order, but rather manifestations of a pervasive, structuring context of cruelty. This context of cruelty is applied unequally but stands as an obstacle to all attempts to challenge official violence.


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4th floor Linkway, John Medley (Building 191)