Playing Activists and Dancing Anarchists : Men and Masculinities in Cultural Performances in Contemporary Sweden
Abstract: Playing Activists and Dancing Anarchists is a Ph.D. dissertation that aims to analyse men and masculinities in political demonstrations and similar manifestations by conceptualising and analytically approaching such cultural performances as theatrical events. The case studies include: the large peace demonstration in Stockholm in February 2003 against the invasion of Iraq; a street theatre performance by the comedians Kesselofski and Fiske, who argue against the European Monetary Union; four Social Democratic May Day celebrations with former prime minister Göran Persson as the main speaker; two anti-racist demonstrations, one of which leads to a violent street battle between activists and a riot police squad.The dissertation proposes Performance Studies as a relevant means of examining men and masculinities in political live events. The method of study is based on participant observation, which enables a direct experience of the theatrical communication. This material is complemented with additional sources, such as photographs, newspaper articles, magazines, video recordings, TV broadcasts, interviews, flyers and Internet websites. The theoretical and analytical approach is inspired by Willmar Sauter’s model of the theatrical event and Raewyn Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity. The theatrical event studies the live meeting between performers and spectators as a playful act of human communication in a concrete space. It also situates any performance in a cultural context that includes gender and gender relations. Connell suggests that, while most men benefit from the structural subordination of women, relations between different men and masculinities are dynamic and characterised by internal hierarchies. The normative and socially privileged position is given to hegemonic masculinity, a combination of cultural ideal and institutional power that is often reinforced by an underlying threat of violence.The different chapters identify and discuss a broad range of men and masculinities, from a cowboy-politician and a financial shark to dead political father figures and masked collectives of martyrs. At first sight, these seem to be immensely diverse, unique and individual – but a closer analysis reveals that many of them are contemporary embodiments or complicit supporters of hegemonic masculinity. Underneath the playful surface of some of the events are strong undercurrents of this ideal. At times, these create a small quake during a cultural performance. At others, they erupt forcefully. While violence is a central theme of the study, it also shows the growing resistance offered by feminist activists, performers and musicians. Cultural performances prove to be loci where hegemonic masculinity is not only reproduced, but also contested. The concept of the theatrical event helps to identify and spotlight these attempts and shows how Performance Studies can contribute to analysing men and masculinities in political demonstrations and similar cultural performances.
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