Beyond Resistance: Performing Postdramatic Protest

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As its point of departure, this dissertation takes stock of the fact that activist performances like sit-ins, marches, banner drops, rallies, and occupations are deeply informed by dramatic theatre in both the way activists design these actions and in the way audiences read them. The dissertation argues that these performative arrangements, narratives, images, and tropes are naturalized to the extent that they have come to constitute a sort of Gramscian common sense that can limit our ability to imagine other ways of thinking and being. The dissertation seeks a conceptual alternative to those limitations. Combining performance analysis, interviews with artists and activists, and autoethnographic accounts of my own experiences as an environmental activist, the dissertation illustrates the limitations of dramatic representation in activist performance and then explores how Hans-Thies Lehmann’s theory of postdramatic theatre—theatre that eschews the hallmarks of dramatic theatre—might provide alternative models for activism and new ways to talk about and understand the successes and failures of activist performances as they play out in the 21st century.