‘Appropriation, equality, performativity: Jacques Rancière, Judith Butler and political disruption’
This paper seeks to explore the intersections between the work of Judith Butler and Jacques Rancière. Both writers acknowledge the political power of disruption that performance can cause but at first there appear to be some rather stark disparities between their writings. For Butler, bodies can rupture meaning in a politically salient way through alternative performative acts thereby challenging the order of how and where we expect them to appear, however it seems that Rancière places much more emphasis on the fact that such a rupture is only democratic (and therefore ‘politics’ in his sense of the word) if the appropriation that is enacted is based on a claim of equality. This paper will interrogate this distinction to ask whether Butler’s ‘performativity’ and Rancière’s ‘staging of equality’ can best be seen as complementary or divergent in the context of the recent Occupy Wall street protests. It will suggest that by putting the two thinkers in conversation rather than opposition we gain a deeper and more valuable understanding of the role of performance for democratic struggle today.
I am a lecturer in Political Philosophy at Queen Mary, University of London. I am currently working on a project exploring the value of performance and critical pedagogies for democratic activism. As well as publishing various papers on the topic I am writing a book exploring the relationship between performance and democratic staging in the work of Jacques Rancière – which requires putting his thought into conversation with thinkers such as Stanley Cavell, Judith Butler, Sam Chambers, Frankfurt school theorists Horkheimer and Adorno and radical pedagogue Paolo Freire. I am also currently working to establish links with various community groups to share ideas on education, protest and democratic struggle.