RATIONALE: In The New Imperialism, David Harvey identifies a movement in US power and foreign policy away from a long-established ‘hegemony through consent’ and towards ‘domination through coercion’. The history of the decade since he made this observation suggests that this shift is becoming globally embedded as a paradigm for state and corporate governance more generally. Reflecting on events set in motion by the attacks on the US in 2001, Naomi Klein observed,
When a few men decide to live their myths, to be larger than life, it can’t help but have an impact on all those whose lives unfold in regular sizes. People suddenly look insignificant by comparison, easy to sacrifice in the name of some greater purpose.
The Colloquium on Performance and Domination to be convened at Edge Hill University on 22/23 March 2013 seeks to test the notion that what Klein describes is nowadays true of the impact of the New Great Purpose: Austerity. Locally, Sheffield songwriter, Richard Hawley, describes what happens when the machinery of the state is mobilised to target the remaining underpinnings of the post-1945 social contract,
The present government are using the recession to push through policies that sew it all up for the privileged few. It’s like they’re kettling the rest of us in every way, closing us in and closing us down … what defines a civilised society for me is that we look after the sick and the elderly, educate our kids, nourish and cherish the next generation and give them ideals that are worth sticking to… We live in one of the richest countries in the world and we have an underclass. What’s going on?
The idea of a kettled population is a chilling one, and begs questions as to how such curbs and controls might be resisted. The Colloquium on Performance and Domination will reflect on resistant practices along a spectrum from immediate, visceral confrontation, to performative gestures which articulate visions of human wellbeing, as the welfare state is eviscerated, and its founding principles cast away. Performance is both a weapon of the weak, and a set of signs and languages for naming and contesting power. This colloquium will look to analyses of the state we’re in and the direction of travel of public policy, as contexts for resistant performance and the negotiation of new forms of social possibility. Speakers, performers and exhibitors from Nigeria, Palestine, Rwanda, Ireland and the UK, will consider questions and provocations from around the world.