On developing a radical imagination: Theatre and political resistance in the society of the spectacle
In this dissertation I explore and attempt to answer the question of how political resistance is possible in what Guy Debord calls the society of the spectacle. My thesis is that political resistance requires training to undo-habits of oppression, and that actor training suggests at least one kind of political pedagogy through which resistance to the spectacle may be effected. Debord argues that we live in a society in which both economic and social relations are mediated by images. Images define the meaning and value of commodities but also the meaning and value of our relations to others. In society of the spectacle anything, even political resistance itself, may be turned into an image to be consumed. I attempt to ground Debord's account in contemporary culture in the United States by analyzing contemporary popular films, Working Girl, Pretty Woman, and Forrest Gump, and showing how the spectacle as an ideology works to perpetuate various forms of oppression. I also identify some of the mechanisms by which the spectacle attempts to colonize our imaginations so that potential political resistance is directed into reinforcing existing power relations.
I then ask how it is possible to decolonize our imaginations; how might we develop truly radical imaginations--ways of perceiving and acting that do not reinforce existing power relations. I examine traditional Western actor training, and in particular Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, and compare the means by which actors learn how to act power relations. I examine traditional Western actor training, and in particular Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, and compare the means by which actors learn how to act to thinking about how we may train ourselves for sustained political movement. I argue that movements for social change, like actor training, must be an ongoing, embodied, playful and self transformative process. Finally, I suggest that theatre techniques used in actor training might be applied to political education and the construction of situations in everyday life. I discuss how actor training may be used to create collectives, develop anti-authoritarian methods of working with others, and foster ways of acting and perceiving oneself in relation to others which work to undermine spectacular ways of acting and understanding the world.
0615: Political science
0900: Motion Pictures