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Porous Protest and Rhetorical Performance: Democratic Transformation at Occupy

27 January 2015


What follows considers whether harnessing word (argument) and action (occupation) constitutes a transformative democratic performance. In this, I am not seeking to replace the Aristotelian concept of performance, nor its transformative aspect, but I do ask how appropriate it is to confine mimetic acts of protest to an Aristotelian dialectic. The “efficacy debate” is a central issue for practitioners and scholars of political performance and I shall not question the truth of such claims that to be a performance the event must transform its audience in some way. Rather, I question, as others have, the ability for the performance of protest to effect any kind of political change. My argument is that Occupy’s politics emerge out of its performance of rhetorical devices and strategies that put democracy on display.


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