Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne
Strategic Dramaturgy of Resistance
Whatever the purpose, there is nothing innocent about politics as theatre. Appropriated by political actors to generate power, theatre has unintentionally become complicit in the perpetuation of the status quo. Our understanding of how activists engage with the politics of resistance is ever more urgent. In this paper I take a look at the events surrounding Slobodan Milosevic’s ascent to power in Serbia in the late 1980s, his ouster a decade later as well as the role that the youth movement OTPOR! played in it.
I aim to examine the idea and application of strategic dramaturgy in protest performances in Serbia through an analysis of performativity of authenticity in political discourse. This paper challenges the dominant paradigm that views Milosevic’s ability to give rise to nationalist fervor and culture of spectacle and display as central to his enduring performance of power. I argue that his appeal to the audience should be rather viewed as a performative site for citations of the archetypal, mythical figure of the long-desired leader, the Redeemer, which continues to hold Serbia in the grip of “hybrid regime” twenty years after Milosevic’s downfall. I strive to understand how the regime in Serbia used social performances – four disastrous wars among others – to force the audience into what Judith Butler calls “mode of belief”, an agreement on authenticity that established Milosevic as a legitimate iteration of the long-desired leader.
Therefore, I ask whether the perception of authenticity in political representation should be studied as a cultural fiction achieved through “performative coercion”. I intend to use the findings from this analysis as a point of departure for discussing OTPOR! inventive protest actions – most notably their reliance on street theatre –that have been used by movements around the world, from the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States.
Goran Duric is a Bosnian-born Australian dramaturg and performer, a former refugee and migrant, currently conducting a PhD research in Theatre at the University of Melbourne. His cross-national, interdisciplinary study driven by the latest advances in the research of social movements investigates the effects of the use of performative tactics in the process of framing of social movements. As a dramaturg, he has developed work with several migrant theatres across Australia focusing on issues relevant to the diverse community of refugees, migrants and their descendants from the former Yugoslavia aimed at alleviating the traumatic experience of war, forcible removal and resettlement.