DRA2087 - Activism and Performance

2022/3 Module description

StaffDr Rebecca Hillman - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 12 weeks;

Module description

This module examines the relationship between art, activism and performance. In particular, it explores how activism is performed, and how performance can be utilised as a powerful tool for protest and community organisation. Activism has a rich cultural history, and continues to evolve in relation to economic, technological and social change. A resurgence of social-struggle across the globe in recent years has compelled performance theorists to explore in greater depth the aesthetics and performative dynamics of the phenomenon. By responding to current events and contemporary scholarship, as well as historical intersections of art and activism, this module analyses ‘acts’ of activism as highly organised events, with their own theatrical agendas and parameters. Non-Drama students are very welcome.

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • Introduce students to ways in which activism has been performed in different cultural and historical contexts to achieve political, social or environmental objectives.
  • Encourage an understanding of the performative complexity and social function of, for example, direct action, street protest, culture jamming and hacktivism
  • Engage with key terms pertinent to this area, including efficacy, risk, détournement, spectacle, performativity, and the choreography of action.
  • Situate performance in the wider framework of issues of globalisation and neoliberalism
  • Consider what is at stake for artists, activists and publics in these contexts.

The module aims to increase your confidence and employability by developing your critical and presentational skills, and engaging you in ethical enquiries of direct relevance to your environment. It also aims to instil a passion for research and an awareness of the broad applicability and transformative power of performance.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Identify and explain key theoretical terms and ideas pertinent to the study of activism as performance, and make links between past and present artistic activism
  • 2. Understand existing intersections of performance, social struggle and political change, and imagine new ones
  • 3. Produce a theoretically informed and creative analysis of activist practice(s) in oral format, with one or more of your peers
  • 4. Analyse selected examples of activism from a performance-studies perspective and present your findings in essay format

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Contribute research to small groups in effective presentations; evaluate audiovisual evidence; and analyse complex material
  • 6. Apply library and IT skills in independent additional research
  • 7. Explore theoretical concerns and synthesise findings in practical and written tasks

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Develop personal research skills and initiative to set personal objectives, and to identify and evaluate personal learning strategies
  • 9. Develop confidence in the creative presentation of researched material
  • 10. Balance between self-direction and collaborative work; self-management, collaborative working skills, problem solving, critical analysis and valuing own and others’ ideas and beliefs
  • 11. Develop an enhanced awareness of ethical, social and global issues of diversity and power

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Situationist practice
  • Activist performance and uprisings
  • Feminism and performance protest
  • Creative tactics for racial justice and other social justice issues
  • Community theatre and community organising
  • Culture-jamming
  • Digital activism
  • Key skills and a practical workshop
  • Small-group presentations

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching33Mixed-mode seminar activities
Guided independent Study25Small-group presentation preparation
Guided independent Study108Essay research, preparation, and writing
Guided independent Study134Class preparation (assigned reading and a/v materials)

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Small group presentation pitches10 minutes1-3, 5-11Oral (from tutor)
Essay plan and rough draft1000 words 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 11Orally from peers and tutors

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Small-Group Presentation4040 minutes1- 4, 5-11Written or recorded audio
Essay602000 words1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 11Written or recorded audio

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Small-group presentationIndividual Presentation (20 minutes) OR a 2,000-word essay1, 2, 6-9, 11Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 11Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • BANKSY, 2006. Wall & Piece, London: Century.
  • Bagwell, O. 1987. Eyes on the Prize - Ain't Scared of Your Jails1960–1961, Blackside.
  • Bogad, L.M. 2016. Tactical Performance: The theory and practice of serious play, London: Routledge.
  • Child, D. 2019. Whose history? Why the People’s History Museum is vital, Red Pepper. https://www.redpepper.org.uk/whose-history-why-the-peoples-history-museum-is-vital/
  • Dean, Jodi. 2016. Crowds and Party, London: Verso.
  • DEBORD, G. 2005. Society of the Spectacle, Detroit: Black & Red.
  • DRAGIÃ?��EVIÃ?��-ŠEŠIÃ?�� M. 2001. 'The Street as Political Space: Walking as Protest,
  • Graffiti, and the Student Carnivalization of Belgrade' in New Theatre
  • Quarterly, Volume 17, Issue 01, pp 74-86.
  • FUENTES, M.A. 2012. ‘Investments Towards Returns’: Protest and
  • Performance in the Era of Financial Crises, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies: Travesia, 21:3, pp 449-468.
  • HILLMAN, R. 2015. ‘(Re)constructing Political Theatre: Discursive and Practical
  • Frameworks for Theatre as an Agent for Change’, New Theatre Quarterly, Vol. XXXI, Part 4.
  • KNABBS, K (ed.) 2006. Situationist International Anthology, Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets.
  • KROIJER, S. 2015. Figurations of the Future: Forms and Temporalities of Left Radical
  • Politics in Northern Europe, Oxford; New York: Berghahn.
  • LICHTENFELS, P & J ROUSE (eds.) 2013. Performance, Politics and Activism, Basingstoke, Palgrave.
  • LITVIN, M. 2013. ‘From Tahrir to “Tahrir”: Some Theatrical Impulses toward the Egyptian Uprising, Theatre Research International, 38.2, pp 116-123
  • MASON, P. 2013. Why it’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, London: Verso.
  • MCKAY, G. 1998. DiY Culture: Party & Protest in Nineties Britain, London, Verso.
  • NOTES FROM NOWHERE (eds.) 2003. We are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anti-capitalism, London: Verso.
  • REED, T.V. 2005. The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • ZITER, E. 2014. Political Performance: From the Six Day War to the Syrian Uprising, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

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Key words search

activism, protest, political theatre, community organising, performance studies

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