Performance and Democracy in Plural Societies


Religious processions, soccer matches, headscarves, and other forms of identity performance in public space often raise questions in the minds of spectators. Are the actors "modern"? Are they rational? Are they also capable of acting as citizens, and open to democratic participation in the larger society? At the same time, performance may become a site of encounter across sociocultural divisions, opening up the possibility of political collaboration or directly fostering social movements. Elites frequently attempt to repress, regulate, or appropriate performance, spurring the translation of popular expression from implicit into explicit politics. Occasionally, elites charged with designing pluralist institutions observe the workings of actually existing pluralism in the expressive sphere, and incorporate popular tactics into their own strategies.

This series, funded by the Mershon Center, explores the semiotic and interactional dimensions of public performance in plural societies as these influence the possibilities of democratic practice, especially during regime transitions. Last year's speakers included Christian Bromberger, William A. Christian Jr., Eric Gordy, Marc Howard Ross, Smriti Srinivas, and Marko Zivkovic. We hope to use the discussions from the seminar as a springboard for comparative research projects and for interdisciplinary curriculum development.

All talks will begin at 4:30 pm and be held in room 120 of the Mershon Center, 1501 Neil Ave. For further information, please email Dorothy Noyes.