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Performing democracy : artistic engagements of identity/difference Beausoleil, Emily Jane 2012

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Performing Democracy: Artistic Engagements of Identity/Difference by EMILY BEAUSOLEIL M.A., The University of British Columbia, 2005 B.Hum. Hon., Carleton University, 2001 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Political Science)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) April 2012 © Emily Beausoleil, 2012  ABSTRACT With growing acknowledgment within critical democratic theory that formal inclusion is not enough to guarantee real participation in democratic practice, particularly in the context of deep cultural diversity, this dissertation examines the possibilities, challenges, and limitations of various modes of communication when they are used to engage marginalized difference. It takes as its starting point the institutional and individual demand within democracies to not only make space for diverse ways of life, or simply ‘contain enough difference’ – as if this were possible – but to remain attentive to the perpetual remainder and responsive to the changes implied by such differences. This, I argue, defines a democratic ethos: a care for difference and the receptive generosity such care requires. With democratic engagement defined in these terms, I first analyze and critique the ways declarative modes of communication conventionally used in democratic engagement influence and limit both how identity/difference can be communicated, and the forms of civic engagement that emerge as a result. Second, I investigate alternatives to declarative language, specifically the evocative forms of communication used within the performing arts. Using three case studies from South Africa and Canada in which dance and theatre were used to represent marginalized positions regarding race, gender, homelessness, and mental health, my research isolates key aesthetic resources for fostering greater inclusion of marginalized identity/difference. In the process, this research reveals and analyzes effective and as-yet largely overlooked forms of democratic engagement, and brings new insights into how identity and difference can be communicated and coalitions may be formed beyond the static forms of identity politics  ii  present in certain kinds of political thought and practice. Ultimately, this project is an interdisciplinary intervention in a disciplinary discourse regarding what counts as available to our political thinking, to develop the means to broaden political inclusion as well as the tools with which to better represent and engage social difference with the attentiveness a democratic ethos demands. In short, this dissertation asks the question, can the performative arts facilitate engagement across difference in ways that a democratic ethos demands?  iii  PREFACE All design of the research program, field research and manuscript writing has been conducted by Emily Beausoleil. My supervisor, Dr. Barbara Arneil, and committee members, Dr. Mark Warren and Dr. Renisa Mawani, have edited all chapters and provided guidance in terms of research materials, questions and theoretical framing. A version of chapter two, “The Risks and Limits of Conventional Modes of Representing Difference: Objective Gaze, Authentic Voice, and Declarative Language,” will be published in The Aesthetic Turn, ed. Nikolas Komprodis (New York: Continuum, 2012, forthcoming). A version of chapter four, “Political Actors: Performance as Democratic Protest in Anti-Apartheid Theatre,” will be published in Doing Democracy: Activist Art and Cultural Politics, ed. Nancy Love and Mark Mattern (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2012, forthcoming). A version of chapter six, “‘Only They Breathe’: Gender, Agency, and the Dancing Body Politic,” will be published in Constellations Journal (2012, forthcoming). Field research for this project was granted permission by the University of British Columbia’s Behavioural Research Ethics Board. Research of the Headlines Theatre after homelessness… project was granted from 13 August 2009 to 13 August 2010 (Certificate number H09-01529). Research for Co. Erasga’s AdamEve/ManWoman was granted for 2 December 2009 to 2 December 2010 (Certificate number H09-03290).  iv  Table of Contents Abstract .........................................................................................................................................ii Preface.......................................................................................................................................... iv Table of Contents.......................................................................................................................... v List of Tables .............................................................................................................................viii List of Figures .............................................................................................................................. ix Acknowledgments......................................................................................................................... x Introduction Performing Democracy: Curiosities and Challenges .......................................................... 1 Theoretical Framework and Approach................................................................................ 5 Interventions and Contributions ........................................................................................ 15 Case Selection and Methodology ...................................................................................... 16 Chapter Descriptions ......................................................................................................... 23 Chapter One: Identity, Difference and Democratic Engagement Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 30 A Care for Difference........................................................................................................ 30 Identity/Difference Politics: Agonistic, Pluralist Democracy ........................................... 36 Receptive Generosity: A Politics of Listening .................................................................. 38 Difficulties of and Obstacles to Democratic Engagement ................................................ 40 Democratic Engagement: The Practice of a Care for Difference...................................... 45 Democratic Engagement: Potential Sites .......................................................................... 50 Conclusion......................................................................................................................... 56 Chapter Two: The Limits of Conventional Modes of Communicating Difference: Objective Gaze, Authentic Voice and Declarative Language Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 57 The Objective Gaze and Authentic Voice: Critiques and Revisions................................. 58 Models of Multiculturalism: Identity Managing Difference ............................................. 63 Speaking Truth to Power? The Risks of Declarative Language........................................ 67 Testimony and Autobiography: How the Medium Affects the Message .......................... 73 The Appropriating Gaze: “I know the other”.................................................................... 78 The Essentializing Gaze: “I know the other”.................................................................... 79 The Conflating Gaze: “I know the other”.......................................................................... 83 Conclusion......................................................................................................................... 84 Chapter Three: Artistic Performance as Democratic Engagement Introduction………………………………………………………………………............87 Aesthetic-Affective Engagement with Identity/Difference: Insights and Trajectories From Democratic Theory...…………………………………………………88 Dissembling Compositions: Artistic Encounter and Critical Thinking………………….94 Polyphony and Polysemy: Holding Difference Together, Holding It Lightly .................. 96 Affective Impact: Moved in Spite of Ourselves.............................................................. 102 Somatic Sense-Making.................................................................................................... 110  v  “Limit-Attitude”: The Politics of Imagination in Art...................................................... 113 Drawing Attention to Oneself: The Political Effects of Interpretive Practices ............... 118 Creative Agency: To Perform is to Act........................................................................... 123 Liminal Zones vs Resting Places: Mediated Spaces for Revisability ............................. 125 Conclusion: Problematics and Proposition of Art as Politics.......................................... 129 Chapter Four: Political Actors: Performance as Democratic Protest in Anti-Apartheid Theatre Introduction..................................................................................................................... 132 Protest Theatre in Apartheid South Africa: Historical Background ............................... 134 (En)Acting Protest: Theatre as Democratic Practice ...................................................... 138 Polyphony and Transience: Performing Identity, Challenging Authority ...................... 139 Polyphony: Connecting Across Difference .................................................................... 147 Polyphony and Transience: Slipping Through the Grasp of the State............................ 154 Conclusion ...................................................................................................................... 159 Chapter Five: Legislative Theatre: The Art of Translation Introduction..................................................................................................................... 162 The after homelessness… Project ................................................................................... 163 An Artistic Fiction that Tells Certain Truths .................................................................. 165 Specificity: An Account Through the Concrete Particular ............................................. 167 ‘Each Has His Reasons’.................................................................................................. 171 The Emotional Underbelly.............................................................................................. 174 Articulating the ‘Noise’ of Unrecognized Expertise ...................................................... 180 Embodied Engagement: Revealing ‘Others’ Within the Self ......................................... 185 A ‘Dialogue of Action’: Practicing Ourselves Differently ............................................. 187 Artistic Mediation: An ‘Artistic Fiction that Tells Certain Truths’................................ 190 Plasticity of Time and Space............................................................................. 191 The Symbolic .................................................................................................... 193 The Role of Fiction ........................................................................................... 199 Creative Agency: ‘To Perform is to Act’....................................................................... 208 Conclusion ..................................................................................................................... 211 Chapter Six: ‘Only They Breathe’: Gender, Agency and the Dancing Body Politic Introduction..................................................................................................................... 213 Experimentations with Identity: AdamEve/ManWoman................................................. 216 The Body in Theory ........................................................................................................ 217 Practices of Freedom: Democratic Engagement of the ‘Noise’ Within ......................... 221 The Body Politic: The Discipline and ‘Undisciplining’ of the Dancing Body............... 225 The Dancers’ Experience: Negotiating Multiple Disciplines ......................................... 233 Performance as Critical Engagement.............................................................................. 236 The Play of Contrasts........................................................................................ 237 Explicit Artfulness: Making and Unmaking Identities ..................................... 241 Representing the Limits of Representation....................................................... 245 Dance as Non-Teleological Inquiry .................................................................. 246 Conclusion ...................................................................................................................... 252  vi  Chapter Seven: Challenges, Risks and Limits of Politically-Engaged Performative Practices Introduction.................................................................................................................... 255 Internal Challenges: The Problematics of Artistic Engagement.................................... 256 Representation, Decision-Making, and Institutionalization.............................. 256 Affect, Reasoning and Accountability.............................................................. 260 Polyphony and Managing Meaning-Making .................................................... 263 The Politics of Community-Engaged Aesthetics.............................................. 267 External Challenges: The ‘Noise’ of Artistic Engagement and Dominant SocioPolitical Discourses........................................................................................................ 276 Dominant Discourses of the Assimilating or Marginalizing Gaze: Arts vs Politics/Engagement vs Spectacle ............................................ 277 Dominant Discourse of the Scientific Gaze: The Question of ‘Hard Data’ vs ‘Soft Science’ ................................................................................... 285 Dominant Discourse of the Objectifying Gaze: The Bounded Terms of Identity Politics in Art Policy and Practice........................................... 295 Conclusion..................................................................................................................... 304 Conclusion Introduction................................................................................................................... 306 Implications for Democratic Theory............................................................................. 308 Ethics vs Aesthetics; Aesthetics as Ethics .................................................................... 312 At Arm’s Length: The Relationship of Art to Politics................................................... 315 Works Cited .............................................................................................................................. 321 Appendices Appendix A: Table 1: Notable Events During the Apartheid Era, South Africa........... 354 Appendix B: Margie Gillis, Interviewed by Krista Erickson ........................................ 355 Appendix C: Interview Schedule ................................................................................... 357  vii  LIST OF TABLES Table 1: Notable Events During the Apartheid Era, South Africa ........................................... 354  viii  LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1 David Diamond in forum........................................................................................... 171 Figure 2 Nico leaves ................................................................................................................ 175 Figure 3 Nico and Otis share a piece of toast .......................................................................... 176 Figure 4 Katie in the BC Housing office ................................................................................. 188 Figure 5 The SRO .................................................................................................................... 191 Figure 6 Katie and Cloud......................................................................................................... 192 Figure 7 Bob and Cloud meet .................................................................................................. 194 Figure 8 Conflict in the SRO ................................................................................................... 200 Figure 9 Eviction...................................................................................................................... 203 Figure 10 The Garden I............................................................................................................ 213 Figure 11 The Garden II .......................................................................................................... 213 Figure 12 Bonnie and Clyde I.................................................................................................. 220 Figure 13 Bonnie and Clyde II................................................................................................. 220 Figure 14 Bonnie and Clyde III ............................................................................................... 225 Figure 15 The Garden III ......................................................................................................... 228 Figure 16 Bonnie and Clyde IV ............................................................................................... 228 Figure 17 Bonnie and Clyde V ................................................................................................ 238 Figure 18 The Garden IV......................................................................................................... 239 Figure 19 Bonnie and Clyde VI ............................................................................................... 240 Figure 20 Support I .................................................................................................................. 242 Figure 21 Support II................................................................................................................. 243 Figure 22 Bonnie and Clyde VII (Litany)................................................................................ 244 Figure 23 Self and Selfless I .................................................................................................... 244 Figure 24 Self and Selfless II................................................................................................... 245 Figure 25 Self and Selfless III ................................................................................................. 246 Figure 26 Self and Selfless IV ................................................................................................. 246  ix  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS If it takes a village to raise a child, the same is equally true of such a project. This dissertation would not have been possible but for the support and guidance of many. Foremost, I am indebted to and continually humbled by Dr. Barbara Arneil, whose critical insight and continual care made her much more than a supervisor, but a true mentor in all stages of this journey. She gave me the freedom to explore where these curiosities led me, unconditional support when I needed it most, and careful, insightful guidance along this migratory path. I am also deeply grateful to Dr. Mark Warren and Dr. Renisa Mawani, whose generosity, patience, and keen insight model, for me, what it is to be the best of scholars. I am deeply indebted to David Diamond and the whole cast, crew, and workshop group of the after homelessness… project, who welcomed me in to such an intimate space, and allowed me to experience the process first-hand in a way I never thought possible. I am also grateful to Alvin Tolentino, Alison Denham and Billy Marchenski, who opened up a world to me though I was a stranger, and continue to share the gift of their persistent curiosities and embodied discoveries. In what could have been an isolating process, I felt held and supported by April Liu, whose physical presence was ever grounding and her continual inspiration a fire at my feet as we journeyed together; by Carrie MacLeod, with whom the deep resonance of these ideas was like a steady hum and a space that needed no translation, and who was always my dancing partner when words were not enough; by Michael, my love, my home, who watched bewildered but was ever supportive through every stage of this project and the transformations and challenges it entailed; and by my family, who have always supported and believed in me, and surround me with the love and strength that ground everything I have ever done.  x  Introduction A formerly homeless theatre workshop participant searches out the right characters for his tableau; he scans the group, and points to me. He places me in the scene; he lifts my arm and shapes my hand into a dismissive wave; he adjusts my hips and torso; he sculpts my face with his fingers, gently, until I am scowling scornfully. He crouches low, cowering in front of where I stand, and we hold this image – I hold this stance, I become this character – I feel in my body how he sees people like me, I feel in my body that I am this character. My arm begins to ache; I try to look for cracks in the mold to overwrite this position of scorn, but I am frozen in character before the group. I am implicated. Performing Democracy: Curiosities and Challenges Pluralist democracies, as political systems that acknowledge that difference is the very stuff of politics, require that we not only make space for diverse ways of life, or ‘contain enough difference’ – as if this were possible – but remain attentive to the perpetual remainder and responsive to the changes implied by such differences. And yet, we seem hardwired to do the very opposite: we so often perceive difference in terms of obstacle or threat, and respond with efforts to shore up our own terms for identity and politics. As recent backlash against multiculturalism in Europe, growing anti-immigrant sentiment in Australia, and the polarization of politics in the United States attest, this democratic demand might be the greatest placed on us and the most difficult to achieve in diverse societies. Even when the desire is to truly understand others, patterns of representing and engaging with ‘others’ are still fraught with voyeurism, objectification, assimilation, appropriation, or vilification that prevent meaningful engagement. This dissertation is provoked and shaped by a sense of the political significance of the briefest of moments within encounters where we can decide to either close or open ourselves to ‘others’; that grainy point of friction where one’s frame of reference rubs up against another, a razor’s edge, a fraction of an embodied moment when one decides  1  either to turn to familiar strategies of self-preservation against the intrusion of the foreign, or to open up to the unknown, the unfamiliar, and risk unsettling one’s very terms and ground for living and making sense of the world. What happens in this moment? What structures and shapes our responses, which are so quick that often we miss the moment altogether and see only what we recognize, recognize only what validates, and cannot hear the persistent murmur and occasional shout of the difference that exceeds it? What defines and enables those rare moments that interrupt this pattern so that we come to perceive others and ourselves in ways that surpass and rework our very terms of understanding? And, far more challenging, what defines those moments where implication – even shame – in light of such encounters opens rather than closes us into defensiveness, deeper entrenchments and denials? It is this delicate, tenuous, elusive moment – that which is shared by and radically splits into responses of productive ‘unsettling’ or fundamentalist entrenchment – that seems absolutely crucial to theorize in democratic pluralist societies. Democratic theory has long recognized the need to broaden political processes of deliberation and decision-making to include marginalized communities and positions. Moreover, it increasingly acknowledges that formal inclusion is no guarantee of real participation in practice, as the “discursive hierarchies” within civic engagement structure relative access for some people over others (Fraser 1992: 118; Warner 2002; Howe 2009: 248). And yet despite the centrality of this issue to democratic engagement1  1  As will be explained in chapter one, I have chosen this term to speak to communication across difference rather than that of ‘deliberation’; although an important form of democratic practice and field of scholarly research, deliberation limits the way we think about democracy and communication to specific discursive forms and political projects. In its place, ‘democratic engagement’ provides space for a wider range of forms of political communication and interaction, from consultation, advocacy, and testimony to deliberation and decision-making processes.  2  in diverse societies, surprisingly little work has yet been done on the discursive and affective conditions of such engagement. Moreover, with so much attention to the issue of ‘voice’ in democratic theory and recognition of the high threshold for participation this presents when it concerns argument, organization and advocacy, alternative modes of communication beyond literal and deliberative speech – the visual, the aural, the physical – have yet to be examined and theorized in this literature. This dissertation shifts the focus from if and why marginalized difference should find entry into politics, to how this is to be done. How does the ‘noise’ of marginalized difference – what is yet-salient, yet-emergent in dominant terms of meaning-making, what challenges prevailing terms for identity and politics from both within and without – become ‘sound’ on the terrain of public discourse? How do conventional modes of political communication perhaps inadvertently limit the representation of, accountability to, and transformation in light of such marginalized positions? And how might alternative modes of communication structure understanding and interaction differently; what resources might they offer to more effectively communicating marginalized difference? Now a year later, I can still feel in my body, on my skin, the stance I was placed in during that brief moment in the Headlines theatre workshop. And yet, as much as it shook and loosened something deep within me, the mediated nature of playing a character – of being implicated through theatre – provided a distance from the everyday through which I could acknowledge this implication without defensiveness or denial, as uncomfortable as it still is to contemplate. Now, artistic performance is far removed from the typical democratic process, where reasoned argument, direct address, and literal truth-telling  3  tend to dominate. And yet here we have a form of public engagement that is as widely used as it is overlooked in democratic theory; and it seems, to me, to suggest enormous potential for communicating meaning, engaging identity and forging coalition that warrants careful reading. For while democratic politics requires we remain open to being challenged and potentially transformed if we are to truly engage others – if what may at first seem like so much ‘white noise’ can, in fact, be heard as sound – here are practices that are strategically designed to gain and hold our attention, to cultivate receptivity even as they communicate challenging, contrary, or contentious positions across difference. Here, the concreteness of performance’s vivid account converged with the indirectness of its reasoned argument – its polyphony or multivalence and its mediation through fiction, through symbol, placed at a remove from the immediate everyday on the stage – to enable communication of what, in conventional political sites, can prove the most difficult to hear. And while democratic politics demands forms of engagement that capture something of the complex, multiple and non-exhaustive nature of identity, artistic performance is a site that is designed to communicate multiple times and spaces, contradictory and interrelated aspects of the political world, rich yet explicitly partial portrayals of complex characters in all of their ambivalence and nuance. And however vivid and deeply resonant, in performance there seems to be a distinct honesty about the performativity of identity and knowledge-claims, and the interpretive nature of both communication and understanding entailed therein, that seems integral to fostering the ethos of attentiveness that democracy requires.  4  It is the relationship between artistic performance and these two dimensions democratic engagement that this dissertation seeks to examine. In contrast to the declarative nature of conventional democratic processes – the language of literal and direct account, of reasoned argument, privileged in conventional political processes – I will explore how the evocative nature of artistic performance might accomplish what democratic politics demands and yet finds most elusive: engagement of identity that realizes and fosters a care for difference – an attentiveness to difference and agonistic care for the tensions and disruptions this entails – and the receptive generosity such engagements require, what opens rather than closes us to difference in light of the challenges it presents to our terms of understanding and ways of life. In short, this dissertation asks the question, can the performative arts facilitate engagement across difference in ways that a democratic ethos demands? Theoretical Framework and Approach In light of developments in democratic and critical theory and politics over the last quarter of a century, it has become outmoded, indeed counterproductive and ethically suspect to employ a static form of identity politics when contending with social difference. In the place of notions of identity as clearly bounded, cohesive and essential, literature in the politics of difference across democratic, post-colonial and critical multicultural theory have argued that identity is far more complex – that we have multiple, intersecting identities; that they are concrete, porous and particular rather than clear stable categories; and that they are ever contingent and continually in formation in light of our experiences in the world (Laclau and Mouffe 1985; Connolly 1991; Dallmayr 1996; Honig 1996; Hall 1996b; Haraway 2003; Mohanty and Martin 2003). Indeed,  5  within the politics of difference literature, identity is no longer considered something opposed to and undermined by difference, to be guarded and policed with vigilance, but rather indebted to difference in various ways. Difference – what exceeds the bounds of dominant narratives for identity and politics at both the individual and social level – is not an obstacle to be overcome, but a resource to politics, in two ways: first, it represents what is excluded from and yet might hold possibilities for thought, action and relation that are viable, legitimate, even preferable. In this way, social difference signals that prevailing accounts are ever-partial and political systems are never final, and provides a means to ‘enlarge’ our mentality regarding socio-political issues and realities, informing decisions and even enhancing social justice (Haraway 1992: 87; Young 2000). Secondly, it is exactly because identities do not have clear boundaries and cohesive form like so many atoms floating in political space, but are complex, intersectional, and multiple, that we can connect with others and live together-in-difference as democratic pluralism requires of us (Connolly 1991: 166; Young 1996: 127; Brah 2000: 272; Ang 2001: 194). But what, then, does democracy do with difference? How does it make space for, and engage with, social difference in these new multiple, contingent and fluid terms? For despite recent developments in critical theory, many of our political practices and policies are rooted in a traditional – simpler – understanding of identity as static and bounded. As a result, efforts to include social difference – from funding and immigration policies to democratic processes – often rely on pre-given categories and the authority of dominant culture to name them, creating dynamics of toleration and management of difference by an unshaken dominant centre. If democracy requires that we engage social difference in other terms, we must ask ourselves what forms of communication are able to, first,  6  capture the complexity, contingency, and relationality of identity/difference so as to foster engagement in these terms; and second, cultivate openness and receptivity when these unsettling encounters with difference occur? For if we acknowledge that how we represent marginalized difference is as vital to inclusion and justice as if we do at all, these conditions and constraints require further attention. The first of these challenges is discursive. Scholarship in the critical democratic theory literature has argued that conventional modes of deliberation, characterized by direct address, reasoned argument, and unaffected and disembodied speech, present a particular “speech culture” that privileges white, educated, middle-class men, excluding or devaluing modes of speech employed by other groups and the experiences, values, and claims they seek to represent (Young 2000: 38-40; Dahlberg 2005: 114; Fraser 1992: 118; Warner 2002; Howe 2009: 248). Post-colonial scholarship, historically attuned to the subtler dimensions of power working within discourse, has shown in various ways that the cultural specificity of this ‘speech culture’ is not the only source of exclusion: the particular ways difference is represented in conventional discourses also effects forms of “epistemic violence” that can essentialize, appropriate and conflate difference seeking entry into politics (Spivak 1987; Hall 1996a: 445). When communication takes place in conditions of inequality, speakers whose positions, experiences and values have been historically devalued or distorted by dominant culture must contend with both these broader socio-political discourses that turn difference into the Other – the exotic, the primitive, the native informant, the enemy – and the strictures conventional modes of speech entail. Those who, as Homi Bhabha states, have been “overlooked – in the double sense of social surveillance and psychic disavowal – and, at the same time,  7  overdetermined – psychically projected, made stereotypical and symptomatic” – must find ways to communicate that can contend with and do not lend themselves easily to these pressures (Bhabha 1994: 236). And so political communication must not only be broadened to include alternative speech cultures, but also identify and employ those modes of discourse that can represent identity/difference as complex, non-exhaustive, and relational. The second of these challenges is affective. For the issue is not simply how to establish the terms for broader and more attentive forms of ‘voice,’ but also the conditions within which this may be heard. As ‘voice’ has been increasingly scrutinized in democratic theory, the dynamics and demands of listening have received greater attention. This has provoked a growing literature on receptivity, or an openness to the unfamiliar that such listening requires. Such a stance is deeply affective – one must remain open within uncomfortable moments and the uncertain ground they present, invite challenge and risk reflexive inquiry, to truly listen well (Coles 1997; Bennett 2001; Spivak 1996: 267-8; Bickford 1996; Ahmed 2000). For listening to difference as difference, in ways that do not simply fold it into present terms, requires that the very terms with which we understand ourselves, others, and the political world we share are held accountable to such difference, unsettled and potentially transformed. Failure to do so – assuming one need not know or knows ‘them’ already – perpetuates prevailing values, meanings and political relations, and engages difference with forms of “benevolent imperialism” that merely tolerate and manage difference, stabilizing, validating, and naturalizing such prevailing accounts in the very ways difference is engaged (Taylor 1985: 129; Spivak 1990: 59-60; Cornell and Murphy 2002: 422). How,  8  then, can we “learn to live awkwardly” with one another, when natural and dominant responses to what ‘unsettles’ us seem prone to defensiveness, denial, resentment, vilification – in a word, a failure to listen (McLennan 1995: 90; Ang 2001: 201)? There is within these discursive and affective challenges to democracy an increasing need to carefully examine how conventional political modes of communication shape and condition engagement across difference, and look for alternative modes that address these challenges differently. It is no longer simply a matter of ‘voice,’ but a question of what kind of voice. What kinds of risks, possibilities and challenges do various forms of communication yield for engagement with identity/difference? What modes of communication are able to both represent and negotiate identity/difference with an attentiveness to contingency and complexity, and cultivate the affective conditions required to ‘stand to hear’ it (Salverson 1996: 187)? In other words, what forms of communication enable or foster what I shall theorize as a care for difference and receptive generosity that a democratic ethos demands? Democratic theory has begun to broaden the terms for legitimate democratic engagement in order to include both aesthetic and affective dimensions of speech. This has entailed attention to the generative role affect and/or rhetoric play in deliberative modes of speech, as well as a broadening of the terms of what counts as political discourse to include rhetoric, narrative, and greeting (Gutmann and Thompson 1996; Rorty 1997; Young 2000; Dryzek 2002, 2010; Means 2002; Hoggett and Thompson 2002; Chambers 2009; Garsten 2011: 163). I believe we can go farther than this literature has taken us to date, in four ways. First, if particular forms of communication play a determining role in the inclusion of  9  marginalized voices, this demands that we examine the political effects of particular modes of communication at a level of detail currently absent in the literature. Second, this burgeoning scholarship on the beneficial role of aesthetic-affective modes of communication can be developed to include artistic performance, a site of public engagement that has been largely overlooked in democratic theory. Third, I believe that the particular dimensions at work in aesthetic modalities and the relationship between the aesthetic and affective require a fuller account, which an examination of performance as politics will help to provide. And fourth, I believe the reasons for this inclusion of performance as democratic engagement are different from those yet articulated: these alternative modes do not simply ‘bring difference to the table’ – as expressive but far from ‘reasonable,’ accountable, and rigorous means to examine and deliberate political issues – but are actually forms of democratic engagement in their own right. In fact, I posit that due to the particular means with which artistic performance communicates, it generates alternative modes of engagement that are not only effective in negotiating identity/difference and cultivating receptive generosity as democracy requires, but offer critical insight into how this may be achieved more broadly. I will argue that the performative arts demonstrate that identity/difference can be communicated and engaged in the terms that democracy demands, and that the most unruly of its communicative dimensions – what have led political theorists to handle the arts gingerly, if at all – are in fact what give them this capacity. There are three phases of this project. First, I will develop the normative terms for democratic engagement that are not linked to a particular communicative mode, site, or process design, providing the means to analyze a wide range of communicative practices  10  for their democratic potential. Here, recent scholarship in the politics of difference, drawn from critical theorists across democratic, post-colonial, and critical multicultural theory, informs an account of democratic engagement as those practices that enact or foster a care for difference and receptive generosity, as well as the primary challenges and obstacles to such engagement. This is complemented by scholarship in poststructuralist and feminist theory, which examines in great depth the dimensions of power at work in everyday practices, including the formation of subjectivities, processes of meaningmaking, and the body, which are often neglected in accounts of and yet, within a context of identity/difference politics, are central to democratic practices. The theory I develop through these literatures thus enables consideration of a wider range of practices and modes that might contribute to voice and inclusion, as well as a more nuanced lens through which the subtler dimensions of communication within such sites might be analyzed. As the terms established for identity/difference politics concern a ‘politics of listening’ that requires both receptivity and a care for difference, scholarship on affect from both critical democratic and performance disciplines also shapes a great deal of this dissertation. I draw from, and ultimately contribute to, the recent ‘affective turn’ in democratic theory and other disciplines, which is taking seriously the affective dimensions of politics and how these might be understood and addressed in theory and practice. What is affect? The term ‘affect’ has been used variously to signify emotion, intensity, and sensation; I join a great number of affect scholars by moving away from ‘emotion’ in the definition I employ here, in order to delineate affect as the “nonlinear complexity out of which the narration of conscious states such as emotion are  11  subtracted, but also...‘a never-to-be-autonomic remainder’” (Massumi 2002: 30; Clough 2007: 2). ‘Emotion’, as Massumi notes, is this “intensity owned and recognized” (Massumi 1996: 221), ‘made sense’ of via one’s interpretive frames. As such, affect connotes dimensions of experience beyond, between, and beneath conceptual frameworks; while never ‘presocial’ as it is shaped by as much as shapes conscious thought, it “paradoxically embodies multiple and normally exclusive potentials,” distinct from though intimately connected with thought and emotion (Massumi 1996: 226; Clough 2007: 2). In this way, affect relates “equally to the body and the mind...our power to affect the world around us and our power to be affected by it” (Hardt 2007: ix). This distinction is significant, as we will see that it is affect’s embodied, precognitive intensity that explains both why cognitive and verbal strategies are often insufficient to generate the conditions for democratic engagement across difference, and how performance is able to disrupt and dissemble the discursive “partitions of the sensible” (Rancière 2004: 12) that mark the bounds for possible thought, action and relation in politics. I bring affect and post-colonial scholarship into dialogue with critical democratic theory, to develop this account of both the discursive and affective conditions of democratic engagement. Second, I interrogate the language of conventional democratic processes – what I will be calling declarative language – to examine how such discourse structures understanding and engagement across difference in conditions of inequality. Such language has been used widely and effectively to represent marginalized difference, but how might such discourse shape and condition such engagement? Here, I build upon and  12  contribute to recent scholarship in critical democratic theory regarding the exclusionary effects of dominant forms of deliberative speech. To do so, I examine how social difference is ‘managed’ through traditional forms of discourse, particularly as they present in Canadian multicultural policy and practices. I then link these tendencies to declarative language, and employ post-colonial and cultural studies critiques of declarative language as it presents in testimony and autobiography, as this has been where the risks and challenges of this mode of communication has been examined in greatest depth and with incredible rigour. Third, I offer a theorization and critical analysis of alternatives to such discourse. While there is a case to be made for artistic practices more generally, this dissertation will focus on the particular political work of artistic performance. Richard Schechner, seminal performance theorist, famously defined performance as “twice-behaved behaviour” (Schechner 1985: 36-7), behaviour that iterates previous behaviours, whether consciously or not. Though all social activity is performance, and so ‘twicebehaved’ and citational, artistic performance is distinguished from ‘performance’ more generally as temporally and spatially demarcated practices and events that reflexively and publicly stage “theatrical, rehearsed, or conventional/event-appropriate behaviours” (Martin 1998a: 188; Taylor 2003: 3). I will be examining both the potential and limitations for communication through the performative arts. There are two reasons for this focus on performance over other artistic practices (film, painting, sculpture, or literature for example) in the context of democratic engagement: first, while all art forms share in common a number of defining characteristics, and so can engender similar political effects, there is simply too much  13  difference between static and performative arts to enable a meaningful analysis. Indeed, within one broad genre of performance, be it theatre, music, dance, or performance art, there is incredible diversity, and given the creative experimentation that defines the field, new and distinctly functioning genres are continually emerging. Focusing on performance – a field that in itself is already incredibly broad – facilitates the isolation of the particular resources, dynamics and effects that connect and distinguish the field. Secondly, the proximity of performance to other democratic ‘publics’ – as communicative and interactive sites where identity and difference are negotiated and contested – is particularly intriguing, and the edgework of those interstices, the analysis of where the features of these forms of public converge and diverge and with what political effects, works to effectively reveal the respective advantages, challenges, and potential contributions and critiques each might offer. As this field as a whole has yet to be theorized within the context of democratic engagement, I draw from affect, aesthetic and performance scholarship to identify and examine the particular dimensions and dynamics of artistic practices that distinguish them from other political sites. While these literatures are woven throughout the thesis, the crux of my argument regarding aesthetic practices relies upon these literatures to theorize how the specific dimensions of aesthetic practices currently undertheorized in democratic theory relate to democratic politics more broadly. I use this scholarship, as well as my case studies, to isolate and investigate these communicative dimensions as they present in performative practices that seek to represent and negotiate marginalized identity/difference, and the forms of communication and interaction they make possible or likely.  14  Interventions and Contributions By initiating cross-pollination between democratic, affect, post-colonial, feminist, post-structural, and aesthetic theory, I hope to achieve several things. First and foremost, I hope to draw attention to sites and practices that are as prolific in practice as they are overlooked in political theory, that enact forms of engagement that democracy requires and often finds most challenging, as well as provide a theoretical account of the specific dimensions of such modalities that enable such engagement. By broadening the terms for what counts as democratic engagement to include such practices, I believe we develop the means to broaden political inclusion of presently marginalized communities, positions and values, as well as the tools with which to better represent and engage social difference with the attentiveness a democratic ethos demands. Second, by taking this aesthetic and affective approach to democratic engagement, I hope to develop a theoretical and normative frame that is both spacious and nuanced enough to analyze the political risks, possibilities, and limits of both conventional and alternative political processes – through which a broader range of ‘voices’ may be understood and analyzed. This has many potential effects: on the one hand, we may come to understand in greater depth the role that particular aspects of discourse – grammar, sound, gesture – may play in structuring both perceptions of and relations between political actors, and thus a more rigorous account of how power works within meaning-making processes. On the other hand, we may develop a language with which to handle the most ‘unruly’ aspects of communication – affect, the body, imagery, symbol – as well as forms of engagement in which they are front and centre, to at once make better use of these aesthetic-affective forms and hold them  15  accountable to democratic norms. We may also find the terms with which to hold diverse practices accountable to democratic norms in ways that resist predetermining or policing the bounds of what counts as democratic engagement, ultimately enabling selfdetermination even within evaluative practices. Finally, I hope to offer an account of the current challenges, limits and risks of artistic performance when it is used as a site of democratic engagement. For this project is clearly distinguished from those accounts that have either sought to bracket the aesthetic-affective as inherently suspect, or romanticize such practices as inherently salutary. In fact, a close and careful reading of the politics at work within performative practices highlights the dangers as much as the resources they present; I therefore develop an account of issues that emerge both within artistic practices themselves and how such practices are interpreted and integrated in society more broadly, and gesture to directions for their address in political theory and practice. In short, this project contributes to democratic as well as affect, discourse, and aesthetic scholarship by investigating the interstices and overlaps of these fields. In so doing, I hope to not only offer a critique of currently unproblematized aspects of conventional political communication, but also enrich through an interdisciplinary analysis our understanding of currently undertheorized practices and communicative dimensions of democratic engagement. Case Selection and Methodology This account of artistic performance as democratic engagement is developed through this critical analysis and integration of complementary literatures across disciplines, and also tested against the empirical reality of three specific cases where  16  performance was used in this way, employing historical records, participant observation and interviews where appropriate. The three cases (South African theatre of protest against apartheid, Vancouverbased Headlines Theatre’s legislative theatre project regarding homelessness and mental health, and a Vancouver contemporary dance performance by Co. Erasga that investigates gender) were chosen to illuminate and enable interrogation of various aspects, issues and possibilities of performance as democratic engagement. All three cases offer instances where performance has been used as a mode of representation, communication and interaction, on behalf of what is excluded within dominant discourse and politics – differences that are yet ‘noise’ within prevailing terms. Whether addressing racial, gendered, or socio-economic discourses, these cases all seek to expose and ‘unsettle’ this established frame and its authority, and to change the terms of reference to not simply include what is left out, but transform existing discourse and practice – perceptions, actions, and relations – in light of such difference. To examine different genres of artistic performance and the particular forms of representation and engagement they enable, these chapters address a range of conventional theatrical genres, the genre of legislative theatre, and contemporary dance respectively. As a result, they reveal a spectrum of ways specific aesthetic dimensions may be employed to communicate across difference, as well as the scope of possibilities and challenges that emerge as a result. By covering a wide range of theatrical practices and political projects within the case of South African protest theatre, I am able to map the shared aesthetic devices that were repeatedly used to challenge the apartheid system  17  in diverse ways. By closely resembling conventional democratic forums,2 the Headlines theatre case sets explicit and highly conventional political goals that test the limits of performance-as-public-sphere, and its integration of both declarative and theatrical language enables a close examination of how each affected this political project differently. Moreover, it legislative component – the translation of the performative process into policy language – presents an extreme test of performance’s political potential as it moves across sectors. In contrast to previous cases of theatre, the genre of contemporary dance removes virtually all semblance to conventional democratic processes by placing the body rather than speech at the centre of public engagement. Given the primacy of speech in theories of democratic engagement, even when theatre might appear to slip between the cracks and so find a place within models of legitimate public dialogue, the dancing body offers a significant challenge. This final case thus allows me to see whether indeed it is not art’s proximity to conventional processes but rather where it diverges that enable radically democratic forms of engagement. To speak to the historical, geographical, and contextual breadth of political performance, chapter four examines the nation-wide phenomenon of protest theatre from the 1960s to 1990s against the apartheid state in South Africa, while chapter five and six examine contemporary and Vancouver-based examples of dance and theatre that were used to represent, negotiate and experiment with subtler and more diffuse sources of political injustice, and indifference or blindness regarding them: homelessness and  2  Like other democratic publics, forum and legislative theatre seeks to articulate lived experience rather than mere fiction, incorporates sustained dialogue as well as conventional performance, and brings together a diverse self-selecting community to discuss political issues and deliberate possible solutions. It has such proximity to conventional democratic forums that it is listed in accounts of alternative democratic processes, and has received the most attention from democratic scholars (Smith 2005;;  18  mental health, in the case of theatre in chapter five, and gender identities and relations, in the case of dance in chapter six. The South African case therefore provides insight into how performative practices might serve as democratic sites within and in direct opposition to an anti-democratic political system, while later cases examine how performance might work within democratic contexts. And yet while local cases might, in this light, seem more viable and acceptable as democratic processes, they take place in a cultural context where the arts are far less integrated and valued, in contrast to the South African case where artistic practices have long been incorporated and interpreted as having a significant role to play in politics. As such, these cases shed light on how performance may be used, with more or less effectiveness, depending on both political and cultural context. These cases also reveal the politics at work at various levels of analysis. South African protest theatre has the advantage of being a well-documented if undertheorized historical case. This historical lens enables analysis of the effects of such practices in both the short and long term, and as a broad social movement widely recognized as a political ‘success,’ it enables analysis as a whole as to the reasons for such success. More recent and local cases taken up in chapters five and six enable closer examination of these performance events at a micro level, where I was able to observe the political effects of the subtlest of strategies within each process from rehearsal to the stage. The range of these cases also speaks to the various ways the relationship between art and politics might be configured. Each of these cases has distinct political objectives. The South African and Headlines cases differ in whether they sought to oppose or influence the state; however, with these objectives both interpret the relationship between  19  art and politics as ‘art as tool for political ends.’ Indeed, in the case of South Africa, in the post-apartheid years a broad-sweeping debate emerged regarding how art could be disentangled from this overt political role. In chapter six, this relationship between art and politics is less overt, as it presents a case of a professional dance performance, presented and received as such within conventional arts venues. Further, it was most concerned with cultivating critical thinking in civil society rather than effecting change at the level of formal institutions. As such, it is political in a very different sense.3 Chapters four and five also involved projects that sought to expose, challenge and transform perceptions of and relations with marginalized communities or ‘others.’ By contrast, chapter six, with the focus on gender identities, addresses difference within the individual – those internalized limits to thought, action and relation that shape one’s very sense of an authentic self. A further range of diversity is presented within these cases regarding who performed or led the project, in relation to the marginalized positions or communities it sought to engage. In the South African case, with the exception of venues such as the Market Theatre and other white-led collaborations, most performances were created and performed by professional actors and playwrights who were members of marginalized communities, at times in collaboration with their allies. By contrast, in the Headlines case, members of a marginalized community without prior acting experience were gathered and led by a professional theatre company not directly affiliated with it, though the piece was sourced from and performed by this group. In the case of AdamEve,  3  However, as David Diamond, director of Headlines Theatre, and other community-based performance practitioners argue, it is a simplistic and counterproductive tendency to dichotomize art and politics such that overtly political work is somehow ‘unprofessional.’ This is a theme that will be discussed in chapter seven.  20  professional dancers were employed by the project’s choreographer to explore, interrogate and experiment with dominant conceptions of gender identity in a conventional fine arts context. Whether oppositional or integrative, whether verbal or primarily physical, whether open-ended or entailing decision-making, these three cases of artistic performance present a range of artistic genre, political agenda, and socio-political context that, while far from exhaustive, enables various aspects of performance as politics to emerge. I have chosen to use distinct approaches in light of the particularities of each case and the questions they allow me to ask. My first case is that of South African protest theatre in the context of apartheid. Here, this well-documented historical case enables a broad view and macro-analysis of an instance where performance is widely recognized for effectively challenging the apartheid system and contributing to the political landscape required for transition to democracy. Consequently, I have employed vast documentation of performances, creative processes, and state responses provided by historians, playwrights, directors, actors, and critics to capture a sense of both the political work enacted through this broad cultural movement, and the role that particular aesthetic dimensions played therein. The specific case of Headlines Theatre’s after homelessness… legislative theatre project in Vancouver, BC provided an opportunity to investigate in depth the process of communicating knowledge and experience of a marginalized community to the broader public. As legislative theatre, this had two distinct phases: the translation of lived experience into the language of the theatre, through which audiences engaged on stage  21  and collectively deliberated possible solutions; and the translation of this artistic process and its findings into a final document of policy recommendations distributed to various governmental and non-profit organizations. Here, I had the privilege of participating in the six-day workshop where 22 participants gathered from homeless and mental health communities; this was truly an instance of participant observation, where I engaged in all workshop activities except for the final two days where I observed groups generate and perform their own extended skits. In order to protect the privacy of the rehearsal period, I was not privy to this phase in the creative process, but attended the three-week performance run in Vancouver and New Westminster. I interviewed cast members, the director, and the on-site social worker regarding their experience of both the creative process and performances. I also interviewed the project’s Community Scribe, hired to compile the final policy recommendation report in light of forum interventions, both immediately following the performance run and prior to writing, and after completion of the report, to capture the challenges and choices of translating the performance into policy discourse. I also interviewed all official recipients of the report from local government, federal and provincial Steering Committees and Commissions, and local non-profit organizations to gauge perceptions of the process as well as reception and potential impact of the final report. For the case of Co. Erasga’s AdamEve/ManWoman, a Vancouver-based contemporary dance performance that critically engaged gender identities, the focus of inquiry shifts to how the body, and by extension artistic practices at the farthest remove from speech-heavy political processes, might serve as a site of agency and democratic engagement. Here, I observed both the rehearsals and one-week performance run, which  22  included an ‘Artist’s Talk Back’ following one performance, where I was able to observe audience responses. I also interviewed the choreographer and dancers both during and following the performance run, to discern their experience of embodied critical inquiry during the creative process, experience on the stage of explicitly performing gender identities, and reflections and responses in light of the performance. As this case investigates in depth the role of the body in democratic practices, I employ scholarship from performance studies to theorize the politics and potential agency of the body, particularly in the context of dance practices. As this is also a project where, in contrast to earlier cases in which marginalized communities seek to challenge and transform dominant society, internalized and naturalized limits for personal identity are the target, I draw on poststructuralist scholarship regarding ‘practices of freedom’ and feminist/gender theory on embodied practices, which have examined most in depth the relations of subjectivity and power, and the practices that might enable greater agency with regards to the ‘difference within’ individual identities. Chapter Descriptions As political theory has yet to theorize democratic engagement in the context of artistic performance, this project begins by developing the theory within which such practices may become salient, and by which they may be evaluated. In chapter one, an examination of the relation of identity and difference reveals the normative justifications for democratic pluralism, as well as the core conditions of a care for difference and receptive generosity that characterize democratic engagement. Democratic engagement, defined by such conditions, is understood here as a certain form of praxis captured in the images of the ‘speaking’ and the ‘horizon’; wherever difference is encountered as  23  difference and so ‘unsettles’ one’s partitions of the sensible and opens us to being able to think, and practice, otherwise. This chapter also examines how the very dynamics of identity/difference, under some conditions of identity formation and political relation, provoke cognitive and affective responses that mask both the inevitability of and indebtedness to difference that necessitate and ground such a democratic ethos. Moreover, I argue that defined in this way, the scope of sites and practices of democratic engagement include discourse, the imagination, and the body, providing the terms within which alternative sites such as performance might be considered potential democratic processes. With this groundwork and evaluative frame in place, the question becomes where and how such a democratic ethos is enacted in forms of public engagement. Chapter two begins to answer this question by examining the discursive dimensions of the language commonly used in democratic engagement. Here, I argue that the declarative language of conventional political processes – literal modes of communication that are so common they remain largely invisible and unexamined – structure and inadvertently limit how identity and difference can be communicated, understood, and engaged. While such language has been used widely and effectively within democratic engagement to make space for marginalized difference, its grammatical structure tends to erase its own absences, encouraging forms of understanding that deny their own limits and so facilitate moves of appropriation, essentialization, and conflation of difference that make democratic engagement difficult. Rather than foreground the agency of the speaker, it privileges the listener as interpreter of the other as object of knowledge. Rather than gesture to and leave room for what remains unrepresented, multiple and in process, it can  24  lead to essentialist and reductive readings of individual and group identity. Rather than maintain a crucial distance between self and other that is essential to encountering difference as difference, it can overlook its own limitations through the illusion of direct access. As such, these accounts of marginal positions can work against an attentiveness to difference, reinscribing rather than disrupting dominant discourse and the asymmetrical relations they maintain. In light of this, I argue that the burgeoning democratic scholarship that critiques conventional forms of deliberative discourse can go further, by examining the discursive constraints declarative language places on communicating identity/difference in contexts of structural and discursive inequality. While this is not to say that declarative discourse necessarily functions through or reinforces this form of nonreciprocal engagement, this makes clear that how we represent and engage difference is as crucial as if we do at all. It presents a challenge and an invitation, to investigate alternative modes that might work somewhat differently, and so offer generative modalities and models for democratic engagement. Chapter three takes up this challenge, by examining the particular dynamics at work within performative modes of engagement. While critical democratic theory that seeks to legitimate aesthetic-affective modes often continues to construe them as supplementary and ever secondary to ‘rational’ or verbal modes of communication, this chapter will argue that these are legitimate and effective sites of democratic engagement also because certain things happen within such artistic practices, particular forms of engagement that these practices facilitate. As well as ‘bringing difference to the table,’ these modalities enable the coexistence of simultaneous, heterogeneous perspectives and points of contact  25  and coalition. While they may ‘move one to judgment,’ they can also work to dissemble totalizing judgment and foster receptive generosity and critical and creative inquiry. And while they assist in articulating positions before there are salient terms in dominant discourse, they also provide an alternative discourse that can negotiate identities as complex, non-exhaustive, and dynamic, without reifying or limiting such meanings. In short, aesthetic-affective modes perform a particular kind of political work – they can foster and enact particular forms of engagement characterized by a democratic ethos of care for difference and receptive generosity. And it is art’s most ‘unruly’ characteristics – its polyphony, affective intensity, kinaesthesia, imaginative inquiry, explicit interpretiveness, and liminality – qualities that have presented the biggest challenge to standard theories of democratic engagement, that prove central in doing so. By examining each of these aesthetic dimensions in turn, I will argue that it is through such aesthetic dimensions that the performative arts become ‘dissembling compositions,’ serving as democratic “speakings” (Mohanty and Martin 2003) that enact a care for difference and foster receptive generosity. With this theoretical frame in place, chapters four through six explore specific cases where we see these aesthetic-affective dimensions in action, and the particular democratic effects they enable. Chapter four’s examination of protest theatre during the apartheid years in South Africa shows that the form of communication and interaction was as, at times more, vital to enacting a democratic politics than the content of such practices. To introduce the core argument for performance as politics as we move from theory to practice, I focus here on two particular aesthetic dimensions, polyphony and transience, and show how the capacity to serve as an effective site of democratic engagement is  26  intimately linked to artists’ deliberate and strategic use of these aesthetic resources. These dimensions represent identity/difference as multiple, contingent, and open to intervention, which in this context worked to undermine the authority of a hegemonic state and the discourses of identity that supported it. Likewise their evocative, embodied and musical forms created an intense ‘dissembling’ effect that resonated deeply and broadly. But even more vital in this extreme case of working within an anti-democratic context, we also see that this very ‘unruliness’ of the aesthetic made these acts of protest particularly hard for the state to control – in fact, such acts of democratic protest and the counter-publics for democratic engagement they created were able to flourish at a time when almost all other avenues were foreclosed. In chapter five’s close examination of Headlines Theatre’s after homelessness… legislative theatre project, we see that it is not its proximity to more conventional democratic processes that gives forum theatre its particular capacity to function as such, but rather where it diverges: through the concrete, vivid and embodied enactment of narrative rather than reasoned argument or declaration of general facts; through the aesthetic mediation of experience through collective fiction and symbolism; through communication as creative act rather than testimonial forms of ‘truth-telling.’ In fact, we see that it is precisely where the project relies less on aesthetic mediation and creative agency that issues identified within declarative discourse reemerge in this case: ‘overexposure’ of those who speak from marginalized and traumatic experience; illusion of fully grasping another’s experience or of ‘speaking for’ others; and defining individuals through their past experience, and so limiting self-determination, a sense of agency and non-exhaustive identity, and more reciprocal forms of engagement.  27  In chapter six, a theory of aesthetic-affective democratic engagement is tested differently, in the absence of language – indeed narrative – within contemporary dance. With the body at the centre of this mode of engagement, we explore how democratic engagement might occur within such non-verbal modalities. Given processes of naturalization discussed in chapter one, we will see in this case that often verbal and cognitive strategies are insufficient to expose and contest present limits for identity and politics, and embodied practices such as contemporary dance are effective in unsettling the ‘partitions of the sensible’ and opening possibilities for thought, action and relation. Dance in particular, by cultivating fluency in the navigation of embodied disciplines, foregrounding the performativity of identity, and encouraging rhizomatic and nonteleological inquiry, is found to be particularly suited to such democratic projects. While the preceding chapters have largely made a case for artistic performance as a legitimate and effective site of democratic engagement, chapter seven examines the various risks, challenges and limits of such practices – for, though artistic practices may be used to such ends, they are by no means inherently democratic or politically effective. This chapter addresses ethical, theoretical and practices issues that emerge due to the distinct dynamics of aesthetic practices, as well as when such practices collide with dominant discourses and practices within the broader socio-political context. Within artistic practices themselves, I examine challenges of decision-making and representation beyond the event, issues of accountability within affective and evocative practices, issues of power, voice, and safety within artistic projects, and the effects of competing demands of aesthetic and political agendas.  28  Regarding how performance is taken up within the broader political context, I identify three powerful discourses that predominate in consumer culture, academia, policy, and politics, and argue that the persistence of a positivist identity politics within such discourses creates significant challenges for art’s translation, legitimation and efficacy. In fact, as this chapter traces the movement of artistic practices back into more declarative discourses of conventional politics and culture, we see the reemergence of the same risks and pressures to assimilate, marginalize, objectify, and conflate that which performance is so effective in negotiating on its own terms. This chapter offers directions for both theoretical and practical address of these challenges. As this examination will make clear in various ways, aesthetic modalities can generate sites of engagement that realize both a care for difference and receptive generosity that democracy demands of us, and offer rich insights into particular strategies through which this may be achieved more broadly. Perhaps most provocatively, this study reveals that the very dimensions of aesthetic practices that have led democratic theorists to handle them gingerly, if at all, are the very source of this potential: here, the affective, the multimodal, the embodied, the symbolic do not preclude but rather enable meaningful engagement and coalition across difference. In so doing, these practices effectively challenge existing terms for legitimate democratic engagement, and shed light on how identity may be communicated and coalitions may be formed beyond the static and bounded terms of identity politics that persist in democratic theory and practice.  29  Chapter One Identity, Difference, and Democratic Engagement Introduction This project is centred on the question of democratic engagement: what democracy demands of us as fellow citizens in diverse societies, and what practices effectively enact or foster these conditions. And yet these terms require their own account: what defines democratic engagement, or the identities that are so engaged? What normative and practical dimensions are there to such encounters that help us to discern where and how they might occur in diverse societies? Despite their use of disparate vocabularies and frameworks, poststructuralist theory, postcolonial theory, and democratic theorists of difference converge regarding the nature of identity and difference, and the democratic ethos this demands. This chapter will explore these common threads, and argue that democratic engagement is best understood as those practices that enact and foster both a care for difference and receptive generosity. Understood in these terms, democratic engagement potentially involves not only conventional political processes, but all contexts where meaning is made, identity/difference is engaged, and people gather; it can potentially occur anywhere within the social body, wherever difference is encountered in its difference. A Care for Difference In light of postmodern, postcolonial, and poststructuralist theories, two conclusions seem consistently clear that ground a democratic ethos of a care for difference, despite – indeed, due to – the dissolution of ontological foundations that this scholarship has effected. The first is the chastening concession that reality will always  30  exceed any attempt to conceptualize it, such that no concept, code, or system could ever be taken as final and exhaustive. The second, following from the first in many respects, is the multiple, relational, and contingent nature of identity, and hence its complex and intimate relationship with difference. This social ontology both justifies an ethos of democratic attentiveness to identity/difference, and explains how, under some circumstances of identity formation and political engagement, these relational avenues are foreclosed and obscured. Within this recent scholarship, difference is construed not as something opposed to identity, but constitutive of as much as disruptive to it. In Adorno’s terms, difference is the “self-transgression slumbering in every identity, the absence in every presence” (Dallmayr 1997: 38; Adorno 1973: 189). What Adorno calls “non-identity” and Nietzsche calls “life” – the sheer overabundance and fugitive impulses and energies beyond attempts to name, fix, or organize them – productively inform and persistently challenge these contingent interpretive frames (Adorno 1973: 4-5, 189; Connolly 1991: xx, 371). Consequently, the “alleged unity” of identity is, as David Couzens Hoy and others argue, an achievement rather than a given, ever incomplete and contingent due to that remaining difference which resists absorption or assimilation (Blondel 1991: 234; Ang 2001: 198; Hoy 2004: 20-1). It is not merely an issue of containing ‘enough’ difference for identity to finally succeed in its task; that which identity attempts to organize is itself composed of difference, and is further only conceivable through its relations to other differences (Levinas 1983: 110; Honig 1996: 259). Moreover, despite identity’s inevitable inadequacy and hence “necessary injustice” in relation to the difference it is meant to represent (Connolly 1991: 160), it is through the meaning-  31  making processes of identity that form and articulation are given to difference, and hence thought, action, and society are made possible. A tension, then, perpetually exists between competing demands for coherence and complexity. Put differently, in Chandra Mohanty and Biddy Martin’s words, “there is an irreconcilable tension between the search for a secure place from which to speak, within which to act, and the awareness of the price at which secure places are bought, the awareness of the exclusions, the denials, the blindnesses on which they are predicated” (Mohanty and Martin 2003: 100). Identity and difference are thus both integral and inescapable aspects of lived experience, as is the productive tension between them – a tension that cannot, by definition, be transcended or resolved, as there is no ‘correct’ or exhaustive interpretation, final political system, or static equilibrium for this balancing act. What becomes ethically significant, within this account, is the recognition that all representations, codes, and meanings are necessarily premised on exclusions, and hence are enacted through techniques of power. As David Goldberg states, “to name the condition [of meaning-making], to define it, to render it not merely meaningful but actually conceivable and comprehensible is at once to constitute power over it, to determine after all what it is (or is not), to define its limit” (1993: 9). Where and how these lines of determinacy are drawn, which interpretations are given primacy and legitimacy over others reveals that power is always-already present in the constitution of identity through difference. This proves all the more significant at the socio-political level where certain meanings and identities are privileged through the exclusion or devaluation of other viable alternatives.  32  It is not simply that the inevitability of the excess of difference demands an attentiveness of us; our indebtedness to difference also gives difference this normative value. The very differences that exceed presently salient interpellations of identity might themselves prove fertile ground for as-yet unrealized possibilities for thought, action and relation, making the disruptions difference causes as productive as the compositions they enable. As Iris Young has convincingly argued, inclusive forms of democratic engagement enable the “partial and parochial” perspectives of any one individual or collective to be “enlarged” through exposure to different positions and the experiences and logics that make them salient for others (Young 2000: 113). Particularly in contexts of asymmetrical power relations, the inclusion of multiple perspectives “provides experiential and critical resources for democratic communication that aims to promote justice”; this not only challenges individuals to account for their positions beyond selfregarding terms, but also contributes to the social knowledge of the collective in such a way that may expose the limits of present terms, values and standards, broaden perspectives, and lead to more informed decisions (2000: 115). Moreover, difference enables connection. Within Edward Said’s terms, “survival in fact is about connections between things” (1993: 407). It is identity’s internal difference and permeable borders, the fact that as Donna Haraway states “the I and never identical to itself, [that gives] hope of connection to others” and enables collective “living-in-difference” (Haraway 1992: 87; Brah 2000: 272; Ang 2001: 194). Difference is the ground of, rather than obstacle to, connection and coalition: as William Connolly argues, the recognition of both one’s own unpursued possibilities as well as one’s dependence on another’s difference for a sense of self can foster an “ethic of care  33  for life” (Connolly 1991: 166). These “multiple, conflictual axes of identity/difference” provide the very ground of community, what Avtar Brah calls “non-identical kinship,” gesturing to alternative modes of coalition and affiliation that work through rather than in spite of difference (Honig 1996: 259; Young 1996: 127; Felski 1997:12; Brah 2000: 273). In contrast to static forms of identity politics that construe difference as merely problematic or oppositional, identity, meaning, and connection thus owe a “debt to difference” (Biddle 2003: 163). In light of this body of democratic, poststructural and postcolonial literature, difference must be understood as not only an ontological reality but a normative good. Once we recognize the impossibility of any exhaustive theoretical interpretation or political system and hence that “what exists is far from filling all possible spaces” (Foucault 1989: 208) – once we acknowledge our own contingency, internal multiplicity, social interdependence, and hence ‘debt to difference’ – these realities make clear that ultimately the only sure ethical dictum is to enable the coexistence of differences and emergence of new possibilities, and consequently the productive disruption and potential transformation of present terms, identities and norms. This ethical dictum I shall call a care for difference – a care for what exceeds and challenges present terms of identity and the perpetual disruption and transformation this excess of difference creates. This is neither a stance of relativism among possible political systems or social differences, nor a project of sheer proliferation that romanticizes difference and groundlessness as a new form of “doxa” (Felski 1997). The ethical mandate of a care for difference by definition sets a limit to receptiveness at only those possibilities whose identities are not inherently bound up in the vilification and  34  repression of others (Connolly 1991: 15; Hoy 2004: 234). But this also means that ‘care’ here does not equate with mere nurturing, nor does it seek to overcome tensions and disruptions in the name of interdependence or harmony. Indeed, a care for difference, by attending to the complex and dynamic nature of identity/difference, is a care for the “torsion” difference generates, the strife as well as interdependence it entails, and the perpetual and generative disruption this creates (Connolly 1991: xxviii). I use the term ‘care’ here to gesture simultaneously to two literatures: feminist scholarship in the ethic of care, which has articulated a ‘different voice’ of ethics in contrast to that of abstract rights and universal laws, one that is grounded in contextual and relational systems of and responses to identity, meaning and responsibility (Gilligan 1982; Noddings 1984); and the poststructuralist ‘care of the self,’ which Foucault likewise developed in contrast to universal or fixed normative codes, to capture the contingent, artful and ever-in-process cultivation of identity, meaning and relation. These aspects of ‘care’ for difference will be developed further below, but at base, a care for difference is simply the attentiveness to the interrelation of identity and difference understood in these terms. The task becomes one of chastening dogmatic claims to complete understandings and final drafts, so as to remain attentive and responsive as much as is viable to the inevitable excess within and beyond these existing frames – to the possibilities of being otherwise. It is to find generative ways of engaging identity and difference “without seeking to conquer, convert, marginalize, despise, or love to the point of suffocation every identity that differs from it” (Connolly 1991: 165). As incomplete as the attempt will always be, the challenge instead is to “insert a stutter in one’s faith” and “struggle  35  against the denials and simplifications” of identity’s accounts of difference, against disproportionately indulging the impulse inherent in identity towards coherence and, with it, homogenization and reification (Connolly 1991: xxiii,160; Landes 1996: 297). Hence the ethical goal becomes that of maintaining the delicate and ever-shifting balance between “the desire for home, for synchrony, for sameness, and the realization of the repressions and violence that make home, harmony, sameness imaginable, and that enforce it” (Mohanty and Martin 2003: 102). Identity/Difference Politics: Agonistic, Pluralist Democracy Democracy, in fact, is a political system that at base asks this very thing of us. “Heterology”, as Davide Panagia notes, “is the ontological condition of democratic politics” (2009: 3). With difference as a given in democratic politics, apart from its specific manifestations democracy is, as Claude Le Fort states, “instituted and sustained by the dissolution of the markers of uncertainty” (Le Fort 1988: 19, original emphasis). Defined this way, democracy is designed to enable the coexistence and meaningful engagement of difference, whether already salient or yet-emergent in prevailing terms – not to simply ‘contain enough difference,’ as if this were possible, but because these limits are necessarily open-ended (Honig 1996: 258; Mouffe 1996: 254). And so, democracy is a political system that recognizes the inherently ‘unsettling’ nature of politics, a system designed to remain open and responsive to the productive disruption and potential transformation entailed in encounters with difference, rather than a settled and stable ‘home’ or homogenous community. As much as we might desire a final state in which to rest – for this, too, is all-too-human – home as “illusion of coherence and safety based on…exclusion” ethically makes clear “the need for a new  36  sense of political community which gives up the desire for [this] kind of home” (Mohanty and Martin 2003: 99; Honig 1996: 258). This, I would argue, is the radically democratic moment: an openness to difference that demands, even as we critically examine and form judgments regarding the differences we encounter, that the very terms with which we make sense of and evaluate such difference – including the very terms that define us – are unsettled and potentially transformed in the process. While the specific form of a democracy governed by such an ethos is, by definition, far from determined, it follows that it would be informed by the ideal of pluralism and a spirit of agonism that strive to be ever-attentive to our ‘debt to difference.’ Though this account of democracy already entails a valuing of and responsiveness to difference, I include the notion of ‘pluralism’ here to emphasize this dimension of democracy, which is sometimes lost or overshadowed in other narrations that focus on institutional markers rather than norms and practices. The notion of agonism warrants more attention, however, as the term is sometimes misrepresented. As the challenge is not so much overcoming the tension between identity and difference, a political system that is attentive to difference is necessarily agonistic, its configurations and moments of consensus and community understood as contingent and open to reworking, contextually justified processes rather than ontologies (Foucault 1980; Connolly 1991; Mouffe 1996; Coles 1997). But agonism is more than a political system defined by antagonistic tension, for difference here is not construed as merely that which opposes identity as otherness, but also that to which it is indebted. Hence, in principle, agonistic pluralism demonstrates a care for difference, and a care for the tensions and transformations such differences produce, even as they  37  inevitably entail conflict and strife. Given the violences and exclusions entailed in any achieved harmony, we need, as certain critical multicultural theorists have framed it, to “learn how to live awkwardly” with one another (McLennan 1995: 90; Ang 2001: 201). An agonistic, pluralist model of democracy provides the closest approximation yet articulated of this ideal of reconceptualizing home as an ongoing project of “ruled openendedness, or organized uncertainty” rather than the “stasis of being” (Przeworski 1991: 13; Ahmed 2000: 89). Receptive Generosity: A Politics of Listening Engagement with difference is risky; it is by nature ‘unsettling.’ Politics is, as Mark Warren has described it, definitively a state of “groundlessness,” where the very terms and norms regarding those matters most closely tied to our sense of self and place are open to contestation (Warren 1996). A care for difference demands that, rather than ‘tolerate’ difference or engage it solely within our own terms of reference, we continually risk ourselves – our picture of the world and our attachments therein – that we strive to perceive the limits of the “picture [that holds] us captive” (Wittgenstein 1958: §115), in order to meaningfully encounter difference in ways that do not simply fold it into the same. Thus we are continually creating and recreating the ground upon which democracy might flourish in the midst of difference and diversity. To enact forms of engagement that realize a care for difference thus requires an affective stance towards difference that remains open within uncomfortable moments and the uncertain ground they present, that invites challenge and risks reflexive inquiry, to truly listen well. As the definition of agonism suggests, facilitating the open-ended negotiation of difference is not merely antagonistic, as it “hinge[s] upon a certain  38  solidarity with the common project of radical democracy” that is capable of sustaining the “tensions of coalition politics” (Coles 1996: 378, 376). While many theorists both of the politics of difference and democratic engagement have focused on the dimension of voice – the act of speaking, of articulating difference – far fewer have examined how such ‘voice’ is heard. And yet, as Gayatri Spivak, Sara Ahmed and Susan Bickford also argue, a “politics of listening” is equally integral to meaningful engagement of identity and difference (Spivak 1996: 267-8; Bickford 1996; Ahmed 2000). Without openness to “‘being with’ others as others,” to the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable, the potentially undermining – what Romand Coles calls “receptive generosity” and Jane Bennett calls “presumptive generosity” – the “subaltern...cannot be heard or read” (Coles 1996; Spivak 1999: 308; Bennett 2001: 131). Given the move of identity towards coherence over complexity, such articulations can too easily become dismissed, absorbed into or overshadowed by one’s preconceived understandings of the other, by assumptions either that one need not know or knows ‘them’ already, so “mummifying” others in reified categories that preclude selfidentifications and potential self-transformation (Fanon 1967: 34; Cornell and Murphy 2002: 441). Moreover, a ‘politics of listening’ must circumvent the temptation and dangers of erasing one’s indebtedness to difference – such as in a notion of generosity as unidirectional gesture, in forgetting the historical ‘taking’ that makes generosity possible, has been shown to do (Coles 1997; Diprose 2002). Here, listening requires an openness to being affected and potentially transformed by what we encounter, if it is to avoid forms  39  of benevolent imperialism that reinforce asymmetries even as they ‘tolerate’ difference (Taylor 1985: 129; Spivak 1990: 59-60; Cornell and Murphy 2002: 422). In light of such risks inherent to engagement with difference, William Connolly identifies two ‘virtues’ in the ethos of pluralisation, both of which I see as vital facets of such receptive generosity: the first, agonistic respect, serves to maintain an awareness of self-limitations and a pathos of distance that recognizes the interdependence of differences even as they are experienced as a source of strife; it is of particular significance where different identities in contention already inhabit the terrain of the ‘perceptible’ or what Jacques Rancière calls the “distribution of the sensible” (Rancière 2004: 12). The significance of the second, critical responsiveness, comes to the fore in enabling those differences that are yet ‘noise’ in present terms of discourse to become ‘sound’ (Serres 1982: 67; Rancière 2004: 13); it is defined by an openness to these emergent differences, while remaining discerning of “whether a movement promises to support or curtail the spirit of pluralism” even as the terms of discernment themselves are open to question (Connolly 1991: xxvi-ix). In both cases – whether differences are already recognized within the terrain of the ‘sensible’ or yet emerging from the ‘noise’ – receptivity and openness are integral to the encounter. Meaningful engagements with difference involve a “dispossession of oneself...being-given to others that undercuts any self-contained ego,” risking the very ground on which one stands (Diprose 2002: 4). Difficulties of and Obstacles to Democratic Engagement And yet, while justified as ontological inevitability and normative good, this openness to and care for difference that democracy requires is perhaps among the greatest demands it could make of us. This is because we seem cognitively, affectively and  40  politically predisposed to privilege the coherence of identity over the complexity of difference, and in the process to lose sight of the interdependence and generative tension of identity/difference. Consequently, though the relationship of identity/difference and the normative value of difference may be clear in theory, the lived reality is rarely so, where “the negativity of theory” is often overwhelmed by “the positivity of politics” (de Lauretis 1984; Mohanty and Martin 2003: 103). It is this move towards self-certainty that ultimately masks the relational, contingent nature of identity, and in so doing forecloses the possibility of being able to “think otherwise” (Foucault 1992: 15-16; Dallmayr 1997: 38). There are two ways in particular that this dynamic interrelation is occluded in everyday life, which are in distinct contrast to and must be contended with by a democratic ethos. The first is the tendency of identifications to become “sedimented” and naturalized (Merleau-Ponty 1962: 441). Identities and meanings, however artful, however a matter of “becoming as well as being” (Hall 1996b: 448), have a way of masking their own contingency – we “become victims of [our] own ‘good performance’” (Nietzsche 1974: 302). In Pierre Bourdieu’s terms, “every established order tends to produce (to very different degrees and with very different means) the naturalization of its own arbitrariness” and becomes unquestioned, even unperceived, “doxa” (Bourdieu 1993: 159-60). We experience situated knowledges as universal truths, historically and culturally specific behaviours learned over time as expressions of our authentic selves, acquired tastes as sincere desires. The repetition of such acts traces them into the physical dispositions of the body and perceptions of the world; the contours of where one’s picture  41  ends and others begin become blurred, until they all but disappear (Bourdieu 1993: 1623). In so doing, we lose our critical capacity to examine our own limits, complexity and contingency, and in the process limit the range of possibility for our own lives. This process of naturalization lies at the heart of those fundamentalist doctrines and movements that seek to deny the legitimacy and suppress the expression of other ways of being, without which such “ontological narcissism” would not be possible (Connolly 1991: 30). Indeed, who has the power to determine which ‘picture’ of social reality comes to prevail as the neutral standard against which all else is experienced as either deviation or noise represents “a major dimension of political power” (Bourdieu 1993: 161; Rancière 2004: 13). Beyond this process of naturalization, our “debt to difference” is also overwhelmed by certain affective responses to alterity. The lived experience of identity as difference is often one of profound estrangement, displacement, and uncertainty – in Homi Bhabha’s terminology, the thwarting of any attempt to find final rest, certain ground, or assured belonging transforms any semblance of home into the “unhomely,” as territory once thought safe, coherent, and reliable ground – the very ground we are most invested in ensuring, to which we are most attached – is shaken beneath one’s feet (Bhabha 1997: 445). Whether difference is encountered internally or externally, this moment of the ‘unhomely’ can be a profoundly affective one: it “creeps up on you as stealthily as your own shadow, and suddenly you find yourself...taking measure of your dwelling in a state of ‘incredulous terror’,” “forcing upon us a vision that is as divided as it is disorienting” (Bhabha 1997: 445).  42  Such encounters can easily incite counterproductive responses: shame turned to immobilizing guilt or resentment; rationalizations to shore up the self through essentializing and vilifying that which is perceived as threat; or simple exhaustion which so easily breeds deeper entrenchment into familiar terrain. In order to ensure one’s selfcertainty, then – to, in other words, give primacy to identity’s move to coherence over difference’s call to complexity – the tendency is all too often to interpret difference as otherness and threat, and to strive even more urgently for final closure and harmonious resolution (Werbner 1997: 228; Ahmed 2000: 88). In so doing, the dimension of interdependence among and contingency of differences is lost, and in fervently striving to secure, as Archimedes, a fixed point on which to stand, one experiences one’s own and others’ difference simply in terms of strife standing between oneself and a final ‘home’ that is forever a dream deferred (Connolly 1991: 172). This interpretation of identity crisis solely as a source of anxiety rather than, also, a productive site of potential self-transformation ultimately exacerbates the “inability of constituted subjects – or nations – to accept their own internal differences and divisions” (Honig 1996: 270). Certainly, experience of difference is not merely benign. To claim so, as in the case of many advocates of “diversity,” would be another form of erasure, for such ideals of harmonious pluralism occlude both power and history and serve, as many critical multicultural theorists have pointed out, only to “mask and perpetuate the persistent problems of social inequality” (Mouffe 1996: 247; Chow 2002: 133; Mohanty 2003: 193). However, to conceive of the perpetual elusion of difference from identity’s grasp merely in terms of lack is ultimately to vilify that which remains inescapable, spurring on yet further attempts destined to fail. Indeed, as Judith  43  Butler demonstrates with homophobia and gender, the repetitive nature of such efforts “reveal…the very fragile nature of their constitutions. Why else the necessity to repeat if not to combat instability?” (Butler 1993; 1997; Biddle 2003: 162). This intensive project of unification results in exclusions, suppressions and misrepresentations of differences within others and oneself that these absolutist circumscriptions require. These attempts to establish and enforce the divide between self and other cause what Gayatri Spivak calls the “epistemic violence” of othering discourses: among them, those “of imperialism, the colonized, Orientalism, exotic, the primitive, the anthropological, and the folk-lore” (Said 1985; Spivak 1987; Hall 1996a: 445). Whether pre-emptive or reactive, claims to fixity, authority, finality; to dogmatic universals; to one’s identity expressing the necessary nature of existence – while fleetingly forging a sense of self-certainty – stigmatize the productive interplay of identity and difference as something to be overcome and suppressed. In so doing, the complexity, relationality, contingency, and revisability of meanings – along with those differences that exceed the frame – reassuringly retreat from view. And while these processes of othering are premised on denial and forgery, as Gilles Deleuze states, “something real happens to it as a result of this fiction” (Deleuze 1983: 131): repressions of the range of possible thought, action, and interaction both between and within groups (Dallmayr 1996: 284); the devaluation and silencing of alternative modes of being and denial of human agencies entailed therein; and consequently, as Said frames it, the obliteration of people as human beings (1985: 27). And so to enact a care for difference in democratic engagement, we are required to open ourselves to the very aspects of identity/difference we spend most of our lives  44  working tirelessly to deny. It is, as Warren notes, precisely in these moments of groundlessness, against which we are cognitively and affectively opposed, that democracies place “exceptional demands on the self (for maturity, autonomy, and discursive engagement)...when other kinds of responses (avoidance, acquiescence, wishful thinking, fundamentalist assertion, or militant struggle) will seem to offer more satisfaction” (1996: 243). It is these processes against which democratic engagement as defined here is distinguished, and against which such practices must labour. Democratic Engagement: The Practice of a Care for Difference What would such democratic engagement look like in practice? Two images from radical democratic theory help capture this: the ‘horizon’ and the ‘speaking.’ Laclau and Mouffe distinguish the ‘horizon’ from the ‘foundation’ in their model of radical democracy: whereas the foundation is “determining and delimiting” of what it founds, fixing and policing the definition and role of the founded, the horizon is an open-ended “empty locus” whose definition changes in relation to that with which it engages. Horizons of liberty and equality around which individuals might galvanize, for instance, are experienced “not as ‘essences’ but as developing ‘social logics’” that might yet be configured differently in different lights, in relation to changing relations (Laclau and Mouffe 1985: 81, 183; Coles 1996: 378). The image of the ‘horizon’ works against totalitarian tendencies by envisioning identity and the collective as contingently and contextually defined; it generates multiple, flexible, and provisional points of commensurability and convergence, while acknowledging both the limits to one’s claims to understand others as well as the “irreducible character of this diversity and plurality,” and thus perpetual incompletion of the democratic project (Laclau and Mouffe 1985:  45  191). Moreover, as identities are continually worked and reworked, as the terms with which we interpret salience, legitimacy, and significance are subject to change in light of such processes, the shape of this project cannot be determined in advance. The image of ‘speakings’ described by Chandra Mohanty and Biddy Martin also provides a particularly illustrative account of radical democracy within these terms of identity/difference. The ‘speaking’ is exemplified in the experience of multiple encounters while traversing the street: rather than a predetermined locale of defined parameters wherein unified, stable, and pregiven identities meet, ‘speakings’ work as “ever shifting centers,” points of contact emerging in motion and interrelation that engage different aspects of multiple selves in response to varying encounters. The world is experienced as “overlapping circles,” and belonging as a continual project of renewal in every encounter that cannot, by definition, depend on stable and coherent understandings of self or home. Here, in the ‘speaking,’ community “is the product of work, of struggle; it is inherently unstable, contextual; it has to be constantly re-evaluated in relation to critical political priorities; and it is the product of interpretation, interpretation based on an attention to history, to the concrete, to what Foucault has called ‘subjugated knowledges’” (Mohanty and Martin 2003: 93-104). This last point is crucial: the “speakings” of democratic engagement take seriously the role of power within these relations, and attend to the possibility of exclusions, conflations, and reifications within such dynamics. It is to remain open to the possibility that one might have something to learn; that one might yet be surprised or transformed in light of engagement with difference.  46  This model of democratic pluralism, in contrast to publics that emerge through identification and assimilation or traditional models of pluralism that maintain a stable ‘centre’ that benevolently tolerates and carefully manages its ‘differences,’ enables the formation of what Sara Ahmed calls “a ‘we’ [that] does not abolish cultural difference, but emerges through it” (Ahmed 2000: 101). Within this model, the irreducibility of difference is not bracketed even in these moments of convergence, and the heterogeneity of interests and identities does not preclude common struggle and meaningful engagement. In fact, these moments of coalition or consensus emerge through rather than in spite of difference – as Chandra Mohanty and many feminist and postcolonial scholars have framed it, as “solidarity rather than sisterhood” or a “reflective solidarity as that openness to difference which lets our disagreements provide the basis for connection” (Dean 1996: 17; Mohanty 2003a: 193). Moreover, this is a mode of meeting wherein, unlike traditional multicultural models that maintain centre and periphery or those models of public that seek or presume the need for common ground or goal, all parties are potentially transformed (Young 1996: 127). And in this model, engagement, coalition, community – and within them, moments of consensus, as Mouffe has argued – are based upon structural and situated conditions, interests and struggles, the result of careful effort and likewise “permanently open to contestation [and] a rearrangement of the terms, perhaps the very idiom, of consensus” (Mouffe 1996: 750; Young 2000: 7; Scott 2000: 298). And finally, this model – which sees the agonism inherent to it due not only to the irreconcilability of constituted identities but also the perpetual remainder of what JeanFrançois Lyotard calls the “differend” that exceeds the bounds of any attempt to name,  47  categorize, or fix (1988: 9) – by necessity must leave room for what is not yet known, not yet salient, yet-emergent; it must find ways to institutionalize the fact that no present formation has all available information, or represents all possible interests and experiences, or is inevitably suitable to negotiate those that have yet to arrive on the terrain of the perceptible. Likewise, the forms of democratic engagement within it must also strive to maintain this reflexivity as to the contingency, partiality, and interpretive nature of individual perspectives as they encounter difference. In general, then, this account of identity/difference provides key insights into what may be deemed democratic engagement: does it enact or cultivate an attentiveness to the ‘noise’ of difference and our indebtedness to it? Does it demonstrate or foster a sense of reflexivity, contingency, co-implication, and the affective stance of receptive generosity that makes this possible? Does it expose and challenge those systems and discourses that fail to do so? Ultimately, does it address aspects of exclusion, devaluation or conflation within current society so as to enable a healthy democratic pluralism that negotiates through difference and is structured to permit new possibilities? In short, this theory helps delineate the defining features of democratic engagement as that which enacts a care for difference and receptive generosity therein. This is significantly different from saying that all democratic practices understand their own projects in these terms – in fact, many might be seen to do quite the opposite, as in the case of many overtly negating, strategic essentialist or adversarial practices. However, whether these practices aim to foster a care for specific differences or difference in general, their justification as democratic practices depends instead upon whether the differences they manifest inherently broaden, redress or impose restrictions to the perceived range of  48  viable possibilities, whether they result in the necessary repression of difference or a greater pluralisation of society.4 While these images of the ‘horizon’ and the ‘speaking’ reveal essential dimensions of an agonist democratic pluralism in practice, they also illustrate that as the term will be employed throughout this dissertation, democratic engagement is not defined so much by a particular institutional design or location in conventional political sites. Rather – as it seeks to remain attentive and responsive to difference and thus its very form is open to disruption and transformation – it is understood here as a form of praxis, defined by distinct qualities of communication and interaction. But in the same vein, the dynamic and continual disruption of identity/difference problematizes any predetermined taxonomy of democratic versus anti-democratic practices. We have seen how democracy is enacted in particular moments, in ‘speakings’ 4  This distinction that demarcates the boundaries of democratic forms of engagement is subtle but crucial. While this limit is thus derived from an ethos of a care for difference that acknowledges the contingency and relationality of identity, this is not to exclude certain forms of radical engagement that might, first, experience themselves as naturalized essence and, second, do not themselves seek an agonistic pluralism that a care for difference demands. Indeed, many marginalized identities resisting prevailing power relations derive their solidarity, mobilization and strength through the essentialization of selfidentifications, strategic or otherwise (Spivak 1987: 205). The crucial source of distinction, in these cases, is the fact that while all identities are constructed, they are positioned very differently within relations of power. Consequently, while they do not self-identify in terms of their contingency or ‘artfulness,’ they are distinguished from repressive or anti-democratic ‘microfascisms’ (Connolly 1995: xxvi) insofar as the essential differences for which they advocate redress current asymmetries and exclusions rather than depend upon the exclusion or repression of others. Likewise, marginalized identities that remain nonintegrationist even as they demand recognition do not inherently require the repression of alternative possibilities so much as the intellectual and social space to exist. Militancy, essentialism, and nonintegration – for example, in the case of Taiaiake Alfred’s indigenous politics – are salient aspects of democratic practices insofar as these characteristics are premised not on an inherent misrecognition and suppression of viable difference, but as a response to situated realities governed by such misrecognition. Where these tactics result from an identity’s inherent rather than strategic need to constrain alternative ways of being, as in the case of white supremacy, they are rendered unjustified. Indeed, this distinction necessitates a complementary project to chasten the assumed bounds of as-yet dominant positions as they learn to share terrain with subjugated identities in the process of being legitimated. It should be clear that these distinctions are far from claiming that there is a double standard between dominant and marginalized identities such that the latter are permitted to exercise repressive practices without being subject to accountability or critical evaluation. Rather, the very Foucauldian point to this distinction is the fact that within asymmetrical power relations the same tactic from different positions might have repressive or democratic effects.  49  that emerge and dissolve through encounter rather than fixed space. This means, of course, that the democratic nature of particular practices cannot be determined apart from their specific context – indeed, the same practice might be democratic or anti-democratic in relation to how and where it is enacted, by whom, for what purposes, and with what effects. This is intimately connected to the fact that, as this account makes clear, repressive relations and their democratic contestation do not function in easy predetermined or stable dichotomies, as many neo-Marxist or modernist models of resistance would imply. Discipline, normalization, reification and the truncation of selfcritique emerge within ostensibly democratic practices, and while aspects of these functions of domination make articulation, organization and action possible, they also threaten to neutralize democratic energies from the ‘inside.’ An analysis of democratic engagement must tease out the particular democratic practices and energies from projects that may be broadly defined as ‘democratic,’ and be sensitive to the ubiquitous and ever-changing faces of anti-democratic energies and the efforts to contest them. Indeed, while the ethos of democratic engagement within this model may be clear and patterns may emerge among the practices that embody it, the identification of democratic practices requires careful attention to particular context as well as the terms and dynamics of engagement. Even as conventional notions of democratic engagement are problematized by these distinctions, the markers of such practices become increasingly more precise. Democratic Engagement: Potential Sites It also follows from this account that such engagement of identity/difference, contra major republican or liberal models of public engagement, is not limited to  50  conventional ‘public spheres,’ and may occur throughout the social body, in the “micropractices” of the everyday as much as in formal institutions and conventional political processes. Two dimensions of everyday practice often overlooked in accounts of democratic engagement have particular significance in these negotiations of power, identity and difference: processes of meaning-making and the physical body. In the first instance, this account reveals the political significance of thought, imagination and discourse. While some traditions in political theory locate politics within only those acts that can be said to have institutional, formal impact, the account of politics developed here reveals the diffuse, interactive, and indirect effects of power. Indeed, decisive, dramatic changes to formal institutions and laws are understood not to result from singular action within a vacuum, but through the often untraceable, long-term and complex interaction of systemic processes. In light of this understanding of political change as diffuse, subtle and complex, the nature and effects of democratic engagement, though now much more difficult to definitively identify, are seen to include impact upon individual and collective perceptions, discourses, relations, norms, and actions, through everyday practices. What counts as sensible or invisible, reasonable or irrational, sound or noise; what is excluded, misconceived, or devalued in the name of what is natural, necessary or common sense; what can be signified in salient terms and so enter the domain of public engagement are revealed as highly political (Rancière 2004: 13; Panagia 2009: 7). Consequently, “resignification” of identities (Butler 2006: 176) and the denaturalization of prevailing mythologies that limit the range for thought and action become forms of democratic  51  engagement as potent as legal or structural address – indeed, the latter are effects (as well as, in turn, sources) of the former. Certain theorists, in light of these insights, have concluded that power is largely, if not wholly, “noumenal” or “psychic,” as it generates subjectivities and shapes the “space of reasons” or motivations for action (Forst 2010; Butler 1997). Certainly, whether or not one agrees that power can be explained wholly in these terms, it has become increasingly clear that the realm of perception, thought and imagination are deeply political. In light of this, prevailing discourses, which can coalesce in unstable but pervasive ways to continuously regulate and restrict action, neutralize potential agency and perception thereof, and have very real material effects (Foucault 1977; 1978: 100-1), become pivotal sites of political – hence potentially democratic – negotiation. Secondly, as well as “thinking ourselves differently,” democratic engagement with difference is “even more so...practicing ourselves into something new” (Heyes 2007: 9). Democratic engagement involves everyday practices of actual bodies. Identities are not givens, but rather ongoing processes of crafting through the repetition of concrete bodily practices (Butler 1990; 2004; Probyn 1993: 2). When we understand the extent to which ‘regimes of perception’ and the power relations they maintain are constituted and reinforced at the level of gesture, habit, and movement, the body limited by selfunderstandings and self-understandings limited by the body, the practices of physical bodies in space comes into sharp focus as a central site of political praxis (Bourdieu 1990; 1992). Richard Shusterman’s example of looking over one’s shoulder is particularly emblematic in this regard: while the automatic habit of lowering one’s shoulder seems logical, its impact on the spine actually restricts one’s range of  52  movement; quite literally, one sees less due to physical habituation, and, by critically engaging the body as well as using the body to engage critically, “we can learn to see better and see more” (Shusterman 2008: 70). And while it is daunting to contemplate an impact on discourses and power relations in general, it is at the local level of the everyday practice that gaps, contradictions, and limits are most evident and hence most vulnerable to intervention; indeed, all broader movements are based, without exception, in quotidian “little deviant acts” (Connolly 1991: 373; Martin 1998b: 7; Heyes 2007: 117). Democratic practices cannot be limited to pronouncing “a few words; no, the essence of being radical is physical” (Foucault 1989: 191). I am joined in this claim by the recent material turn across disciplines: from anthropology, archaeology, cultural geography, political theory, and science and technology, scholars have argued for the agency of things as ‘actants’ in themselves (Latour 1983), and have turned to long-overlooked bodies of non-human animals, ecologies, technologies, and infrastructure in such terms (Jackson 2000; Bennett 2001; Lees 2002; Whatmore 2006; Thrift 2007; Anderson and Wylie 2009). These scholars have sought to unsettle Cartesian binaries of animate/inanimate, object/subject, matter/agency, and have argued for the ‘rematerialization’ of theory and practice. Perhaps the literature that has contributed most to political theory’s understanding of the body in politics is that of feminist/gender studies. This is no accident: given that the body has been gendered and women-as-body have been historically excluded from domains of freedom, thought, and selfhood, feminism/gender studies has been a key source of critical theorizations of the politics of actual bodies and their role as agents  53  therein (Butler 1987: 133; Albright 1997: 6). These scholars have illustrated in various ways that “the body is a situation,” which comes to embody gender relations in “a set of corporeal styles” that maintain those relations and their effects of subordination even within those so dominated (de Beauvoir 1989: 34; Grosz 1994; McNay 2000: 25; Butler 2004: 275). While experienced largely as natural, gender – and identity more broadly – has been shown to depend upon this repetition or performance of its various symbols and mechanisms, and the expectation or presumption of a gendered “essence” (Probyn 1993; Butler 2004: 277; 2006: xv, 185). Here, the specific practices of actual bodies are found to both limit and be limited by the perceived range of possibilities for gendered identity.5 Just as the body is identified as a central means through which identity and politics are limited, these theorists note that it is through the concrete body that such limits may be effectively challenged (Butler 2006: 201). While Butler herself does not delve so much into the work of actual specific bodies, she does begin to explore the specific tactics that might play a role in such interventions, including “splitting, selfparody, self-criticism, and those hyperbolic exhibitions of ‘the natural’ that, in their very exaggeration, reveal its fundamentally phantasmagoric status” (Butler 2006: 200). Such ways of ‘practicing ourselves differently’ are linked to the broader field of what Richard Shusterman calls somaesthetics, concerned with the development of greater sensory and  5  Though they are both key contributors to the literature on gender and performativity, Judith Butler and Eva-Marie Sedgewick have been criticized for lapsing into textual or linguistic frameworks (Foster 1998: 14; Desmond 2001: 12); however, others such as Susan Bordo, Sandra Bartky, Iris Marion Young, and Cressida Heyes have examined the concrete practices of gender normalization in more detail. Bordo, Bartky and Heyes have all made revealing studies of dieting, eating disorders, exercise regimens, cosmetic surgery, fashion, and other beauty practices deeply implicated in gendered technologies of discipline and normalization, as well as the complex relationship between such practices and experiences of subjectivity as feminine, sexy, and beautiful (Bartky 1990; Bordo 1993; Sawicki 1994; Heyes 2007). Likewise, Young has explored the causal link between women’s self-limiting physical tendencies – from crossing one’s legs to “throwing like a girl” – to the common experience for women in patriarchal cultures of one’s body as object as well as agent (Young 1980).  54  kinetic understanding and capacity, in response to the same dilemma of imperfect sensory perception and physical restriction that led to the denial of the body in traditional Western philosophy (Shusterman 2008: 8, 19-20). By improving one’s knowledge of the effects on perception and behaviour of breath and posture, unconscious tension, or pain or discomfort, as well as of the unconscious embodiment of prejudice, hostility, insecurity, or fear, such practices engage the embodied mechanisms, patterns and effects of power that elide logical or discursive analysis (Shusterman 2008: 26, 41). In these ways, in contrast to Moira Gatens’s emphasis on the civil body, it is in fact this critical engagement by and transformation of concrete, particular bodies that ultimately transforms the “social imaginary” (McWhorter 1999; Diprose 2002). We will see in chapter six that even those theorists who take this corporeal dimension of politics into account often fail to examine the actual practices of specific bodies. However, any analysis that recognizes the body’s role in negotiations of power and identity must move beyond “speech about speech” (Martin 1998b: 218) to include the practices of living, breathing bodies. Thus, political – and hence potentially democratic – engagement is found to take place within the everyday practices of actual bodies; in fact, all practices that engage the imagination and meaning-making processes, that shape the “partitions of the sensible” for possible thought, action, and relation (Rancière 2004: 12). If the relations of identity/difference and their socio-political effects are taken seriously, democratic engagement that seeks to remain attentive to the excess of difference yet ‘noise’ within present terms and to redress those power relations and discursive constellations that conflate, vilify, or exclude viable differences for thought and action takes place not only in conventional publics, but in all contexts where meaning is made,  55  disseminated, and reinforced; at the level of bodies and gestures; in the realm of thought and imagination. Democratic engagement can potentially occur anywhere within the social body, wherever difference is encountered in its difference. Conclusion We have found that, in accordance with the nature of identity/difference, democratic engagement with difference is defined in terms of whether it (i) enacts a care for difference that does not conflate, exclude, assimilate or reify the differences it so encounters, thus contributing to the meaningful coexistence of as broad a range of social differences as possible; (ii) cultivates the affective conditions required for such engagement, such as receptive generosity that opens us to the ‘unsettling’ and potential transformation such care for difference entails; or (iii) redresses aspects of current society that work against such a ethos of agonistic pluralism, by rectifying asymmetries of power and broadening the range of perceived possibilities for thought and action. Though there are many forms such practices might take, we have seen how difficult these dimensions of democratic engagement with difference tend to be, given the tendency to obscure such relationality and indebtedness to difference in efforts to secure a sense of self, place, and relation. Formulated this way, this dilemma becomes an invitation: to identify those sites and practices that effectively engage identity/difference in these terms, examine the dimensions at work that contribute to as well as limit such capacity, and explore their possible implications for political theory and practice.  56  Chapter Two The Limits of Conventional Modes of Communicating Difference: Objective Gaze, Authentic Voice and Declarative Language “We welcome you, but first we must fingerprint you, interrogate you, probe you…We exempt you, we absolve you, we exonerate you, but only if you qualify for our benevolence…We forgive you, but first we must certify you, standardize you, normalize you, merge you, melt you, validate you, authenticate you, assimilate you…” (Fusco 1989: 602) Introduction We have seen in chapter one that democracy demands forms of engagement wherein the ‘noise’ of marginalized difference can become ‘sound.’ In an inevitably diverse polity, “we are always looking across borders…[t]he issue is not if, but how, we look” (Taylor 1998: 180), and democracy demands of us that we be open to being implicated, challenged, and potentially transformed by difference, if we are to see, or hear, well. And yet, though essential to democratic engagement, this openness to that which unsettles the terms of identity and politics remains one of the greatest demands placed on us as citizens. In fact, when we do bring ourselves into encounters with difference – when, in Sara Ahmed’s terms, we ‘turn towards’ rather than away from alterity (Ahmed 2004: 4) – too often our very modes of representation and interaction, how we see, speak and hear can replicate power relations that preclude the care for difference and receptive generosity of democratic engagement. Thus this chapter will show how traditional and still-common forms of seeing, speaking, and hearing difference, emblematized in the tropes of the ‘objective gaze’ and ‘authentic voice,’ fall short of this ideal of a care for difference – where knowledge acts as a form of mastery that ‘manages’ difference rather than mutual and unsettling encounter, and difference is appropriated, essentialized, and conflated even as it is  57  engaged. I will show that this is apparent even in multicultural discourses, policies and practices that are expressly designed to engage marginalized difference. In particular, I will examine how the prevalent mode of representing difference in conventional political processes, what I will call declarative language, can unwittingly structure and limit engagement across difference in these ways, preventing encounters defined by the ‘speaking’ or ‘horizon’ as a democratic ethos demands. Ultimately, I will argue that these effects of conventional modes of communication call unproblematic notions of ‘voice’ and ‘gaze’ into question. This demands not only that we become more attuned to how as well as if we engage difference in democratic politics, but that we explore alternative modes of representing identity/difference that might offer resources precisely where such conventional modes encounter the greatest challenges.  The Objective Gaze and Authentic Voice: Critiques and Revisions Chapter one discussed the tendency at an individual and social level to deny identity’s multiplicity, relationality, and performativity; how the naturalization of our terms of reference becomes “a picture [that holds] us captive” (Wittgenstein 1958: §115) that either interprets difference as threat to our own self-certainty and stability, or cannot perceive it at all; how this misreading of difference leads to further epistemic violences that work to devalue, silence, assimilate, or exclude difference rather than turning us towards the unfamiliar in productive, if unsettling, ways. This is captured, and in turn perpetuated, in one of the most influential discourses in the west, a particular mode of knowledge emblematized in the image of the ‘objective gaze’ so central to traditional inquiry within science, history, and anthropology. This mode of knowing which continues to have considerable support in each of these  58  disciplines has three core and historically significant aspects that do violence to representations of the other, and preclude reciprocal, unsettling, and potentially transformative encounters with difference. First, it is an appropriating gaze: by nature asymmetrical and unidirectional, the unmarked or ‘unseen seer’ hails the other into being through interpellation, at once denying the agency of the observed and the position of the observer as it claims the other for its own (“I know the other”). Second, it is an essentializing gaze: the other is construed as an object of knowledge, ‘an other’ that is stable, bounded, and coherent, a thing to be known (“I know the other”). And third, it is a conflating gaze: it assumes we can know the other in their entirety, that they are grasped, captured, apprehended; through a myth of neutrality and transparency it erases the distance between one’s experience and another’s understanding of it (“I know the other”). Within this gaze, knowledge of the other is a form of mastery rather than a form of mutual accountability or meeting – the knower cannot be affected by nor accountable to the other – and it thus lacks the receptive generosity that a democratic ethos requires. This is a nonreciprocal and voyeuristic gaze of “peeping and watching,” which Diana Taylor says “leav[es] the viewer safely out of the picture…[while] it invisibly posits the watching ‘us’ as the stable center.” As such, it has played a vital role in the “colonialist and militarist gesture of appropriation and internalization of the ‘other’ to reinforce the defining ‘self’” (Taylor 1998: 182; Tamas 2009). Likewise, this gaze cannot acknowledge the limits of its own purview and consequently encounter the other in their difference – what I have been calling a care for difference. Rather, where it ‘grasps’ its object, this mode of knowledge or discourse of the other facilitates a crude form of  59  empathy that erases difference, wherein the other is only known through folding it into present terms. Thus, it leads to percepticide, to borrow Diana Taylor’s term (1998), of both what is within and beyond this grasp, wherein the remainder of difference that does not fit these terms can only be felt as so much noise. This notion of the ‘objective gaze’ and the politics it puts in motion have been subject to extensive critique in recent years, leading to growing reflexivity within the fields most implicated by it. Anthropology, a field with a long-standing mythology of the neutral and authoritative observer of bounded and knowable ‘others,’ has also been one of the first and foremost to rigorously unpack this myth when the Empire began to reverse the gaze (Favret-Saada 1977/80; Clifford 1983; Geertz 1990). Within the field of history in western countries, World War One and the interwar years challenged thenprevailing notions of ‘true knowledge,’ ‘disinterested objectivity’ and accurate knowledge of intentionality, and though there was a return to objectivity in response to struggles against totalitarianism, many critical historians acknowledge the interpretive, mediated dimension of their research as a rule (Novick 1988; Munslow 2002). And with such discoveries as relativity, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and the ‘observer effect,’ science, too, has had to shake its own faith in ‘realism’ and our capacity for unmediated knowledge. These critiques of the neutral and objective “gaze from nowhere” span to other fields where this gaze has left its mark, political science, ethics and law among them, as well as democratic, postcolonial and feminist scholarship discussed in chapter one (Rorty 1979, 1989; Foucault 1980; Said 1985; Fish 1990; Bhabha 1994; Haraway 2003). What these critiques all share is what chapter one has argued for: a growing  60  attention to the complex, dynamic and historical nature of ‘others,’ the power relations and discursive limitations through which they are hailed, and hence both the situated nature of any knowledge-claims and the observer’s accountability to the observed who looks back. While there have been pulses of relativism as a part of this scholarship, in general this critique has been quite the opposite; in fact, relativism in this context is the “mirror twin” or such totalizing vision, as it equally denies its position and partiality, “mak[ing] it impossible to see well” (Haraway 2003: 395). Within this critical scholarship, acknowledgment of the partiality and politics of perspective is considered essential to the ability, as Clifford Geertz argues, to “form complex concrete images of one another, as well as the relationships of knowledge and power that connect them” (Clifford 1983: 119). These scholars have made clear that a model for knowledge other than the ‘gaze from nowhere’ is required if we are to avoid forms of benevolent imperialism that appropriate, essentialize, and conflate that which it apprehends (Spivak 1990: 59-60). At the same time as this particular gaze has been problematized within even the most scientific of fields, the parallel notion of voice as authentic ‘truth’ has come under similar critical scrutiny. The incongruence of these two embodied metaphors – from sight to sound – is no accident as it moves from perception to expression; whereas the eye roves, invisible to itself, over the external purview according to the will of the viewer, the influx of sound remains largely uncontrollable, pressing itself against the open and, when so pressed, keenly felt ear. Hence sight can afford itself the illusion of objectivity, what Joan Scott calls the “metaphor of visibility as literal transparency” (1992: 23), while sound impresses itself upon us in ways that undermine the notion of  61  autonomy in the perceiving subject. And yet, as we move from perception to expression, sound that emanates from us comes from ‘deep within,’ forged through the unique contours and hollows of our internal landscape. And so, the ‘authentic voice’ meets the ‘objective gaze’ in this myth as its appropriate counterpart; indeed, perhaps this very mixing of metaphors belies some of the contradictions and incommensurabilities inherent to this model of knowledge. Despite the shift in metaphor, recent critiques of the ‘authentic voice’ follow a similar line. Firstly, the authenticity of voice has been challenged by the fact that we are not even transparent to ourselves, let alone to others. Just as the eye cannot see itself, Terry Eagleton and others argue that “full disclosure is never as full as it appears…the absence deriving from the impossibility of grasping ourselves, even as we seem to desire full frankness” (Eagleton 2003: 214; Huddart 2008: 11). This critique pertains to collective as well as individual voice: the notion that such a voice can represent the ‘truth’ of the groups with which that individual identifies – that one can ‘speak for’ others as well as oneself – has been called into question, along with the tradition of the native informant and tokenist policies that seek to represent complex and diverse groups through a select few. And despite a long-standing therapy-driven “culture of confession” that conflates expression with liberation – that demands of us, “‘Confess yourself!’ ‘Perform yourself!’” (Atlas 1996; Chow 2002: 152) – the history of dominant reception of marginalized accounts demonstrates that voice guarantees neither authenticity nor freedom (Brown 2005). Indeed, what Julie Salverson calls an “idealization of authenticity” might actually lead to the policing of presumed boundaries of, and setting  62  asymmetrical value for, the authenticity of various voices (‘who is authentic?’, ‘are you authentic?’). Moreover, these prescriptive notions of ‘the authentic’ truncate the complexity and multiple points of entry that diversity of experience demands (Salverson 1996: 184). Though it is crucial for democracy to find ways for subjugated knowledges to find articulation or ‘voice’ on the terrain of the perceptible, as Haraway states, this is not because they are more ‘authentic,’ ‘objective’ or ‘innocent,’ but rather because they are likely to offer perspectives that are not blinded by the “god trick” of the traditional dominant gaze that denies its own partiality (2003: 395). And so, just as the ‘objective’ gaze is critiqued for conflating the inevitable distance between reality and our knowledge of it, ‘authentic’ voice can never be transparent to itself; just as the objective gaze essentializes that which defies fixed and bounded categories, so too voice cannot ‘speak for’ essentialized groups; and just as the unidirectional gaze is seen to erase the agency of the other, so too voice is far from synonymous with liberation. Modes of knowing that have defined and shaped western forms of engagement with difference, modes that assume an essential other that can be fully known by the appropriating gaze or unproblematically expressed by the authentic voice, are not only ineffective in enabling engagement across difference, but potentially dangerous by the ways they structure and limit what can be perceived.  Models of Multiculturalism: Identity Managing Difference This form of understanding ‘others’ structures engagement across difference that is in sharp contrast to the democratic ethos of a care for difference and receptive generosity, in which difference is encountered such that it unsettles and potentially transforms personal and prevailing terms for identity and politics. And, inevitably, it has  63  had very real political effects. Where it has appeared in multicultural discourses and policies – designed with the express intent of acknowledging and including social difference – this has often led to the address of ethno-national differences in ways that entail their own forms of regulation, restriction, and exclusion, what Richard Day has called soft assimilation in relation to indigenous peoples (2000, 2001). This is no more true than in Canada, where multiculturalism is often seen as a hallmark of the Canadian polity both in theory and practice. Certainly the most influential political thinkers in Canada, Charles Taylor and Will Kymlicka, are associated with building the theoretical foundations for liberal multiculturalism, rooted in a recognition and rights model respectively. Canada was also the first country to introduce national legislation that sought to protect and preserve its multicultural heritage as early as 1988, and while support for multicultural policies in Europe and Australia has been increasingly eroded, such policies, while challenged by the current Conservative government, continue to be seen as integral to Canadian identity and culture and one of its most significant exports on the world stage (Kymlicka 2005, 2007). There are some important positive dimensions to this theory and policy within Canada, including, as artist and scholar Richard Fung notes, their successes as a “lever and context for raising the question of systemic racism,” discrimination and exclusion (Fung, in Gagnon and Fung 2002: 66), and for providing an alternative to forcible assimilation into Anglo Canadian culture for Quebec Francophones and ethno-cultural minorities. At a time when many European leaders are calling for the end of multiculturalism, Canadian political theorists and practitioners remain committed to some form of multicultural policy that is designed in some sense to care for certain kinds of difference.  64  Notwithstanding these positive dimensions of multicultural theory and policy in Canada, there are aspects of liberal multiculturalism as theorized by Taylor and Kymlicka and practiced in Canada that reveal assumptions of ‘authentic voice’ and ‘objective gaze’ as described above. While claiming to reinscribe difference within and thus transform “an evolving [national] identity” (Canada 2005: 3), these policies often continue to distinguish “diverse cultures” from national culture, the former ‘tolerated’ by an unshaken dominant culture and demonstrating what Richard Dyer calls “the power of whiteness [to] colonize the normal rather than to be superior” (Dyer 1988: 44-45; Gunew 1994a: 5; Tator et al. 1998: 261). Moreover, such ‘diverse’ cultures are often not construed as legitimate in themselves, but rather validated in light of their perceived contribution to this national culture, as “fragments of culture…the [latter] simply exists, whereas minority cultures ‘exist for’,” justified as a “resource” through a discourse of enrichment (Canada 1988; Hage 1994: 31-32; Mackey 2002: 67). Similarly, traditional multicultural discourse and policy often reveal a presupposition of cultural and ethnic groups as pre-given, essentialized categories, connected to distinct history and territory, as well as cultural property that is seen to signal this identity (Segal and Handler 1995; Dávila 1999: 183). Thus official multicultural policy’s mandate to “preserve” cultural “heritage” (Canada 1988) not only reifies or, to use Fanon’s term, ‘mummifies’ cultural identity rather than enable selfdetermination and a pluralisation of self-identifications that reflect the multiplicity that is always already present (Fanon 1967: 34; Cornell and Murphy 2002: 422). It also represents the potential for state authorization of ‘authentic’ culture for the purposes of official recognition, based on representative signs for various groups (Handler 1988;  65  Dávila 1999: 183). To name cultural groups in this way, though motivated by the desire to address historical exclusion, nonetheless assumes the authority and control over stable cultural definitions (Meera 2002: 85). For these reasons, such models of multiculturalism have been heavily critiqued as a means of managing or containing difference (Hall 1991; Dominguez 1992; Gunew 1994a: 6; Tator et al. 1998: 4; Dávila 1999: 193; Dhamoon 2009). In the Canadian context, the state did not seek to erase difference, but rather attempted to institutionalize, constitute, shape, manage, and control difference…the key issue here is that despite the proliferation of cultural difference, the power to define, limit, and tolerate differences still lies in the hands of the dominant group. Further, the degree and forms of tolerable differences are defined by the ever-changing needs of the project of nation-building. (Mackey 2002: 70) What emerges as the primary issue is that liberal multiculturalism, despite its potential for addressing exclusion and discrimination, has in both theory and practice tended to replicate a discourse of ‘managing differences’ and reinforce asymmetrical relations between dominant and marginal identities. Like the discourse of the ‘objective’ gaze and ‘authentic’ voice, this dynamic of engagement both presumes a static identity politics and is premised on the dominant culture’s authority to name and thus isolate difference, “diluting,” as artist and scholar Darrell Moore writes, “the thrust of selfdetermination and control [over] our voices and our stories” (Moore 1998: 53). And as a result, encounters with difference are not generally defined by a care for difference as difference or the receptive generosity that the ‘unsettling’ and potential transformation of democratic politics require. This is a model of engagement that shores up a national identity even as it engages difference, the former in fact stabilized, validated and  66  naturalized through how the latter is engaged – a sedative rather than transformative pluralist politics. Speaking Truth to Power? The Risks of Declarative Language As the case of liberal multiculturalism makes clear, the influence of this particular mode of engagement emblematized in the ‘objective gaze’ and the ‘authentic voice’ persists in the language and logic we commonly use to engage identity/difference in theory and practice. Recognizing the role that such politics of representation play in structuring understanding and engagement across difference, as well as how this perpetuates asymmetries and exclusionary practices, critical democratic theorists have begun to interrogate particular modes of representation used to include difference in politics. Bryan Garsten (2011) observes a recent “rhetoric revival” in political theory that is doing precisely this: a growing number of scholars who are taking seriously the politics of representation within democratic theory and practice. These scholars offer crucial insights regarding those aspects of conventional discourse that stand in the way of productively unsettling encounters with difference. At the heart of these critiques is a concern with what I shall call declarative language, a particular if prevailing mode of representation that carries with it – and thus perpetuates – implicit claims of objective, transparent, and exhaustive account, and therefore particular forms of engagement that can perpetuate an appropriating, essentializing and conflating gaze that falls far from the democratic ideal of the ‘speaking’ or ‘horizon.’ While these scholars have tended to focus their critiques on common modes of deliberation, a productive overlap exists between my own analysis and theirs with respect to the discursive conditions and constraints of conventional styles  67  of deliberation, which lays the groundwork for a critique of declarative language more generally. It has been noted that democratic theory in the twentieth century is characterized by a ‘linguistic turn,’ wherein language has become the key organizing concept for accounts of how meaning is constituted and knowledge is grounded (Rorty 1992; Fultner 2001). Traditional styles of ‘rational deliberation’ – which, since Plato, have been (rhetorically) distinguished from sophistry – are seen to posit an unrealistic degree of transparency to language and direct transference of stable and bounded meaning. For when language is understood as far from neutral and always embodied or situated, communication and understanding become highly interpretive and partial processes. Indeed, since Habermas it has become commonplace in democratic theory to consider knowledge a discursive activity, requiring validation through language rather than appeal to objective or transcendent fact (Habermas 1984). As Hans-Georg Gadamer, hermeneutic theorist par excellence, has noted, “the way we experience one another...constitute[s] a truly hermeneutic universe” (Taylor 1994; Haraway 2003; Gadamer 2004: xxiii). This ‘linguistic turn’ has been developed in recent years in two notable ways. The first is a greater attunement to the political effects of specific forms of speech. As critics have argued, styles of ‘rational deliberation’ that have come to predominate democratic engagement often take as neutral or universal very culturally specific modes of engagement – specifically, the ‘disembodied,’ ‘disinterested,’ and deliberative communicative modes of white, Western, middle-class, able-bodied, and educated men. These communicative standards tend to privilege this demographic and discount those  68  whose different “speech cultures” value alternative forms, often including articulations of ‘difference’ only insofar as they can be conveyed within these culturally specific terms (Young 2000: 38-40; Dahlberg 2005: 114). Consequently, some democratic theorists acknowledge that formal inclusion within public engagement does not equate with inclusion per se, as the “discursive hierarchies” within them structure relative access for some people over others (Fraser 1992: 118; Warner 2002; Howe 2009: 248). These theorists seek to extend the Habermasian project of equalizing power relations and increasing inclusivity within democratic engagement, by examining these undertheorized dimensions of power and exclusion within deliberative modes of speech. The second project within the recent ‘rhetorical revival’ has been to revisit and reclaim the role of affect and rhetoric in political communication. In privileging ‘rational’ and ‘disinterested’ speech, critics observe that conventional deliberative models often maintain a long-standing distinction between reason and emotion, the former defined by Habermas in part by its lack of affect and ‘autonomy’ from the latter’s ‘coercive’ force (Habermas 1975; Abizadeh 2001, 2007). In contrast, those who have contributed to the ‘rhetoric revival’ argue that the aesthetic-affective does not work at cross-purposes to substantive meaning, and in fact is integral to it. Tone, volume and pace of voice, facial expression, gesture, affective expression, and rhetorical devices play key roles in conveying and interpreting meaning, such that, as Richard Rorty concludes, the line between rhetorical persuasion and the ‘force of argument’ “begins to fade away” (Young 1987: 73; Lash 1994; Rorty 1997: 18; Hoggett and Thompson 2002; Massumi 2002: 3; Walzer 2002; Dahlberg 2005: 114-116). Indeed, in this light the dispassionate, clear, and direct “speech culture” that is often taken as a sign of objectivity in  69  deliberation is revealed to be its own form of rhetoric. The beneficial role of speech’s rhetorical dimensions is also acknowledged even by theorists who still posit a clear line between substance and form, as rhetoric is seen to “open people to deliberation, draw them together into a functioning deliberative community, and help transform their opinion into policy” (Gutmann and Thompson 1996; Dryzek 2002, 2010; Chambers 2009; Garsten 2011: 163). Here, again, how one speaks is as crucial to understanding as if one speaks at all, and these theorists show in various ways that far more is involved in – and essential to – democratic engagement than the mere ‘force of argument.’ These theorists are a part of a movement within democratic theory that takes seriously the extent to which discursive conditions structure and limit democratic participation. They signal a move away from unproblematized notions of ‘objectivity’ and ‘rationality,’ towards both a careful critique of the subtler forms of power that circulate in political discourse, and a broadening of the commonly held terms for what counts as such. Moreover, these scholars see this move as essential to increasing inclusivity in democratic engagement. While this project is already underway in democratic theory, I will argue that we can go further, by examining a broader discourse or ‘voice’ for representing and engaging difference, of which deliberative styles of communication are only one example. These critiques begin to gesture to the implicit assumptions and discursive limitations of what I shall call declarative language. This is a discourse characterized by the literal and factual, where adverb follows verb follows noun, each taken to signify an external reality that is stable, coherent and relatively transparent. It might be difficult to see, because it is everywhere: this is the standard discourse in the west – from  70  journalism, academics and politics to the colloquial conversation – and privileged by almost all models of ‘legitimate’ democratic engagement. Like the deliberative speech culture Young and others critique, declarative language is often assumed to be universal or neutral, but in reality it belies a cultural specificity wherein, as Henri Giroux observes, “clarity becomes a code word for an approach…that is profoundly Eurocentric in both context and content” (Giroux 1993: 166). But while this cultural specificity is itself a source of exclusion of alternative “speech cultures” as Iris Young suggests, I further argue that the particular structure and implicit claims of this language also entail distinct challenges to representing identity/difference in the terms it requires. Most importantly, declarative language by nature erases its own absences – by implicitly claiming direct, bounded and stable referents, by asserting itself as faithful account of the factual, by its presumed opposition to and ostensible absence of rhetorical or aesthetic modalities, the language that predominates in the everyday masks its own performativity. And so, though deliberation in theory and practice takes as given that meaning is far from objective, exhaustive or directly perceived, the grammatical structure of declarative language used in deliberation implicitly asserts such claims. In fact, though it has been used by critical theorists such as those discussed in chapter one to effectively argue for and even draw reflexive attention to the situatedness of knowledge-claims – as this sentence is doing now – we have to work very hard to signal such performativity within this mode, as this erased absence is built into its very grammatical structure. This is the language that Plato famously contrasts with the unruly emotion of poetics or the imperfect mimesis of aesthetics, a language that claims to capture reality and truth in its utterances. Indeed, even when one uses such language to  71  argue the opposite (“Identity is complex, non-exhaustive, and in process”), the grammatical structure of declarative language necessarily makes these statements into truth claims that deny their own remainder. As such, it not only fails to represent the totality of its referents but in the same gesture its structure implicitly claims to do precisely this, a tendency that reflexive speakers must toil against with careful caveats and qualifications. As Della Pollock argues, literal speech “displaces, even effaces ‘others’ and ‘other-worlds’ with its partial, opaque representations of them, not only not revealing truths, meanings, events, ‘objects’, but often obscuring them in the very act of [representation]” (Pollock 1998: 83). This tendency in declarative language to obscure its own absences shares in common certain tendencies described in chapter one of erasing one’s own frame of reference and claiming what is contingent, relational, multiple, and partial to be universal, essential, autonomous, cohesive, and exhaustive. As such, declarative language lends itself to representation and interpretation in these terms – what Julie Salverson calls the “lie of the literal” (1996). Consequently, it too easily perpetuates certain forms of epistemic violence when positions that do not fit prevailing terms seek audience. Whereas these critical democratic theorists have begun to examine the political effects of such discursive practices, this area of study in democratic political theory is recent and fairly limited, compared to disciplines historically more attuned to discursive considerations such as postcolonial theory, cultural studies and critical anthropology. And while democratic theorists keep their focus primarily on styles of deliberation – what is really a subset of declarative discourse – postcolonial theory, trauma theory, and  72  cultural studies have examined the effects of declarative language conceived more broadly. The most notable and extensive critique of this kind is to be found in the literature around testimony and autobiography. Tellingly, the risks and dangers identified in both of these genres are directly linked to their declarative dimensions when used to represent marginalized difference. While testimony and autobiography are not explicitly or uniformly identical to the conventional discourse analyzed in democratic theory, this literature can contribute to our understanding of democratic engagement nonetheless, by providing profound insights into the political effects of specific communicative modes and thus, ultimately, how the ‘noise’ of marginalized difference can become ‘sound.’ And so, to develop a full account of the political effects of declarative language, this chapter moves from critical democratic theory to testimony and autobiography in order to better understand the nature of such language in more depth. Testimony and Autobiography: How the Medium Affects the Message The risks of declarative language in engagement with marginalized difference are most directly and thoroughly analyzed in the literature on testimony and autobiography. This analysis is particularly relevant to this context, as not only are both genres structured according to the declarative mode of truth-telling, but both are used commonly to represent marginalized difference to audiences of what Spivak calls “a less oppressed other,” for the purposes of representing absent others and rectify historical wrongs (Yúdice 1996; Spivak 1998: 7; Hatley 2000: 20). Sidonie Smith notes of autobiography that it has often been, using Homi Bhabha’s turn of phrase, “taken up by those who…have been ‘overlooked’ – in the double sense of social surveillance and psychic disavowal – and, at the same time, overdetermined – psychically projected, made  73  stereotypical and symptomatic” (Bhabha 1994: 236; Smith 1998: 38). Likewise, testimony represents ‘truths’ of experience that, as Shoshana Felman observes, “have not settled into understanding or remembrance…events in excess of our frames of reference” (Felman 1995: 16). As such, they are both common modes of representation for what Deborah Britzman calls “difficult knowledge” that can be challenging or painful to hear, such that “many people would prefer not to see it” (Britzman 1998; Park-Fuller 2000: 36). As Young and Means argue regarding narrative more generally, these are modes of representation that enable the articulation of experiences, needs and values that are yet “pre-discursive” in dominant terms, and so help ‘bring difference to the table’ (Young 2000; Means 2002). Indeed, the recent popularity and academic interest in testimony emerged out of a growing concern over “the recuperation of voices and traumatic experience deemed lost through state, academic, cultural or literary discourses” (Cubilié and Good 2004: 4). Further, testimony and autobiography require the receptive generosity that characterizes democratic engagement, a receptive audience as witness much as a gift requires a recipient. As Heather Lash notes, they are addressed “specifically to me, it implicates me” (Madison 1998: 278; Lash 2006: 222). Such personal narratives are thus more than individual confession; they are, rather, social and political acts that concern the interface of the individual with what Ori Avni calls “the narratives and values by which this community defines and represents itself” (Avni 1995: 216). Moreover, though such reciprocity demands something of both speaker and listener, when used to represent marginalized difference to a broader community these speech acts occur on uneven ground, such that, as Salverson notes, “people do not take  74  risks equally” (Salverson 1999). To hear such a speaker, akin to the dynamics of receptive generosity developed in chapter one, the listener must “radically uproot who they understand themselves to be, and, with the question of how they will respond, introduces a fundamental challenge to what they intend to become” (Salverson 1996: 182). At the same time, the speaker runs their own emotional and political risks, as they labour to represent experiences that defy the terms of dominant discourse, and in the process expose themselves to possible indifference, unsympathetic scrutiny or reactive defense, as well as the emotional impact of recalling trauma (Salverson 1999; Gilmore 2001: 4; Park-Fuller 2000: 24). Both “to speak the unspeakable” and to listen in this way, as Diana Taylor and Linda Park-Fuller write, therefore “entai[l] a responsibility, a risk, and a danger” (Taylor 1998: 184; Park-Fuller 2000: 24). The demands of the declarative are also clear in both of these discourses: though testimony and autobiography always entail a certain dramaturgical element, these modes of public address tend to mask their own performative dimensions. They are designed to – and demands that speakers – “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” a discursive demand in which truth is often equated with and restricted to the ‘facts,’ facts that are understood as objective, bounded, stable, and independent from both speaker and audience (Park-Fuller 2000: 26). Testimony and autobiography are thus often constrained by what Leigh Gilmore calls an “almost legalistic definition of truth telling…[a] preference for the literal and verifiable, even in the presence of some ambivalence about those criteria” (Gilmore 2001: 3). Consequently, the aesthetic dimensions of such acts are not only downplayed but are often interpreted as working at cross-purposes to and indeed, if too pronounced – much like emotional or rhetorical  75  displays in deliberation – undermining the validity of their truth-claims (Tierney-Tello 1999: 79-80; Waterson 2010: 513). And here certainly, where one’s ‘authentic narrative’ is taken as evidence of absent truths, a culture of confession has often equated such declarative modes of ‘truthtelling’ with liberation, seen to ‘break the silence’ and ‘speak truth to power’ (Felman and Laub 1992; Felman 1995: 16; Yúdice 1996: 44; Park-Fuller 2000; Cubilié and Good 2004: 4). The use of both autobiography and testimony – particularly in the form of truth commissions worldwide – has risen dramatically in recent years (Gilmore 2001; Cubilié and Good 2004); in fact, in almost every state that has transitioned from authoritarian rule or civil war, and even in those still fraught with violence and oppression but hopeful of transition, “there has been interest in creating a truth commission” (Hayner 1994: 23). This is because these declarative modes of giving account are seen to 1) enable a re-appropriation of voice and reconstitution of self; 2) reveal experience of marginalized peoples and promote civic change; and 3) constitute a liberatory epistemology. (Park-Fuller 2000: 21) Certainly, particularly within testimony, this form of truth-telling has played an essential role in correcting the historical record of colonialism, racism and other forms of violence and exclusion whose dominance often comes with – and is legitimized through – erasure and denial. The facts matter: such evidence has enabled the development of collective counter-narratives that cannot be denied, and so has provided marginalized communities both catharsis and leverage for political and structural redress. Thus testimony and autobiography are often defended as means by which those who are ‘voiceless’ may not only represent themselves but also engage in politics – in other words, sites where ‘noise’ may potentially become ‘sound.’  76  And yet, just as multicultural policy has structured how marginalized difference gains entry in politics even as it opens up previously foreclosed space to do so, unproblematic notions of truth-telling within autobiography and testimony as inherently liberatory or conciliatory overlook how these genres structure understanding and engagement across difference. Those who have analyzed these forms of marginalized representation find some limitations, strikingly similar to those described earlier with respect to declarative language: it can replicate an ‘objective gaze’ and sense of ‘authentic voice,’ which structure and limit what can be represented and how this is engaged. In short, it encourages a sense of an appropriating I who fully knows an essentialized other. Thus, critical literature on testimony and autobiography provides specific insight into the role that declarative language plays across difference and power. While the representation of such marginalized experiences or positions is essential to the democratic project, the terms and structures of declarative language, alive in both of these modes, can often replicate asymmetries and perpetuate misrepresentations and harms even when the intention is to challenge and redress these selfsame processes. Testimony and autobiography, though often assumed to be and used for purposes that are progressive or interventionist, are not inherently so, and many of the ethical dangers that occur have been linked to declarative language’s particular form of truth-telling (Cubilié and Good 2004: 6; Spivak 1998: 9). The question becomes, then, as Sidonie Smith asks, “If to take up the autobiographical mode is to take up certain discourses of selfhood and truth-telling, what are the performative liabilities and possibilities?” (Smith 1998: 38) Or to put it another way, do the demands of a particularly declarative language – even within avenues that at  77  first glance appear to be more amenable to voicing and listening to the experiences of marginalized experience such as autobiography and testimony – create barriers to communication and therefore democratic engagement? And, if so, are there other modes beyond those that use the declarative, that could allow a fuller expression of voice and a receptive listening in the terms identity/difference politics requires? The Appropriating Gaze: “I know the other” As many scholars have noted, there is a power asymmetry inherent within the testimonial mode as much as within many forms of democratic engagement across difference. While testimony seems to entail a certain reciprocity and responsibility on the part of the listener that is meant to guard against the voyeurism of spectacle, this responsibility is a demand rather than inevitability, and may or may not be taken up by the culturally dominant audience. Even if one has a receptive and responsible audience, testimony is by definition articulated on uneven ground wherein one seeks to make marginalized experience comprehensible to a dominant listener. Thus autobiography and testimony can, as Julie Salverson and others observe, “reproduce a form of cultural colonialism that is at the very least voyeuristic” (Salverson 1996: 181). As such, given the tendency of declarative language to signal a transparent account of experience, knowledge production within this dynamic can privilege the listener as interpreter: The situation is not unlike the old anthropological one…The production of testimony is also not unlike the classic psychoanalytic situation. The analysand is persuaded…to give witness to his or her own truth, to which the analyst has access by virtue of tracking the graph of the metapsychological machinery… (Spivak 1998: 7) For this reason, Spivak goes so far as to say that “[t]he subaltern’s inability to  78  testify is predicated upon…a failure of responsibility in the addressee,” wherein the agency of the speaker is usurped by the notion of the passive victim interpellated by the listener (Spivak 1998: 9). Knowledge produced in this way, even if it is knowledge of marginalized experience, can have the adverse effect of allowing listeners to, as Doris Sommer argues, “presume mastery and maintain a sense of superiority” (Sommer 1993: 141-3). If truth is conceived as an object of knowledge represented directly through declarative speech, within such asymmetrical relations these truths can too easily become objects for the listener to actively ‘grasp’ through their knowing rather than subjects that look and speak back to its audience, which would challenge the very premises of the status of the listener upon which the power to grasp depends. Thus, as defined above, the observer becomes the ‘I,’ the appropriating gaze which is asymmetrical and unidirectional, the unmarked or ‘unseen seer’ hailing the other into being through interpellation, at once denying or limiting the agency of the speaker as it claims the other for its own. The Essentializing Gaze: “I know the other” As Spivak’s now-famous work on whether the subaltern can speak argues, even with a highly receptive and respectful audience who admire, celebrate and seek to understand the other, the gesture of listening to others often presumes this ‘other’ to be a stable, bounded, and essential identity that ‘we’ can come to know. When this is the case, our efforts to ‘give voice’ to or understand ‘the other’ actually reduce the multiplicity, dynamism and open-endedness of identity to narrow, simplistic and prescriptive categories (Spivak 1999). There are three ways that testimony and autobiography can feed into such  79  essentialisms, which speak to the broader concerns I raised above with respect to democratic engagement generally: first, by such declarations being taken as ‘authentic’ – as expressions of stable, coherent, pregiven identities transparent to both speaker and listener; second, by such declarations being taken as representative – ‘speaking for’ a broader identity category; and third, by the identities so declared being defined by their victim status, by the experiences they represent rather than the complexity, agency, and open-ended ‘becoming’ of identity. In the first instance, we have seen how declarative language claims to represent certain truths about the speaker. Testimony and autobiography, in employing this same kind of discourse, tend to erase their own absences and mask the performative nature of their narrative, facilitating a misreading of what Spivak calls “the text’s desire as its fulfillment in the text,” creating the illusion of an authentic and unmediated account of concrete experience (Spivak 1998: 21). Moreover, declarative discourse’s emphasis on the literal and verifiable for truth-telling can create within these genres what Sophie Tamas calls “portals [that] are too narrow and…demands [that are] too restrictive”; testimony and autobiography that tend to positivist renderings can essentialize and simplify the complexity of experience and meaning, “the othered aspects of ourselves” that defy a single bounded identity and at times don’t “make sense” at all (Tamas 2009). Particularly when giving an account of experiences of trauma or marginality that have yet to prove salient within dominant discourse, testimony and autobiography can entail “telling our messy, unreasonable stories in a tidy, reasonable voice” that, as Tamas and Gilmore argue, can be “an exercise in alienation” (Tamas 2009; Gilmore 2001: 3). And in their reception, the notion of the ‘authentic’ can invite judgments that are a source of  80  further harm: as Gilmore notes regarding autobiography, “when the contest is over who can tell the truth, the risk of being accused of lying (or malingering, or inflating, or whining) threatens the writer into continued silence” (Gilmore 2001: 3). The risks of ‘truth-telling’ in this way are further increased by their cultural specificity: akin to Iris Young’s critique of the exclusionary effects of discursive norms within democratic engagement, Sidonie Smith notes that autobiography – and one could similarly argue, testimony – conform to western, modernist notions of the autonomous individual. As a result, using these modes to represent oneself “is to reiterate a culturally normative subject position and to become intelligible within the terms of the dominant culture” – a use of “the master’s tools” which, as Audre Lorde famously stated, “will never dismantle the master’s house” (Smith 1998: 39; Lorde 1979/1984: 112). Though a particularly strong stance that overlooks the significant political work testimony and autobiography have historically effected, these critiques demonstrate that an emphasis on the literal and verifiable within personal narrative introduces certain risks associated with assumptions and policing of authenticity. Moreover, when truth is declared and interpreted as ‘authentic’ in this way, these declarations can be taken as representative, and are readily transformed into what Wendy Brown, in her compelling analysis of silence, calls “a regulatory truth about the identity group: confessed truths are assembled, deployed as ‘knowledge’ about the group” (Brown 2005: 91-2). Hence the personal narrative of autobiography and testimony is often taken to ‘speak for’ absent others as a kind of native informant; though such individual narratives are, in a sense, representational, when the specificity and partiality of such accounts is lost from view these representations work to exclude the  81  heterogeneity of group identity and silence those whom it seeks to represent (Spivak 1998: 9; Sommer 1994: 535-6; Park-Fuller 2000: 32; Hantzis 1998). Lastly, the tendency to essentialism in testimony and autobiography has often privileged the category of ‘victim,’ reducing the speaker to the sum of their marginal experience; to use Wendy Brown’s poetic phrase, “temporally ensnaring” them by defining them through their past, and reinforcing asymmetries between speaker and listener (Benton 1995; Brown 2005: 92). Spivak’s example of Halima Begun demonstrates this keenly, whose articulate account of the violence of western industry and her own acts of resistance were reduced to a byte of sensationalist human interest; a faint victim’s voice providing proof, yet again, that the South needed precisely the kind of aid that this woman was resisting. It is in the context of hundreds of such examples that it may be said: the subaltern often cannot accede to testimony. (Spivak 1998: 9) When representations of experience can be read as direct and transparent, the agency of the speaker and complexity of experience too easily disappear from view. Whether taken as the unproblematic sum of individual experience, representation of an essential collective experience, or signal of victimhood rather than subjectivity and struggle, these declarative modes and the positivist ‘truth’ they are taken to represent introduce significant challenges to the articulation of marginal positions and the challenge to dominant discourse they often seek to incite. Thus in these various ways, the literature on autobiography and testimony provides deeper and more detailed insights into how an essentializing gaze is created through declarative language, where the other is construed as an object of knowledge which is stable, bounded, and coherent (“I know the other”).  82  The Conflating Gaze: “I know the other” Critics of testimony and autobiography have also repeatedly argued that these declarative modes facilitate what Doris Sommer calls “an unproblematized appropriation which closes off the distance” between speaker and listener. By using language that declares ‘this is the truth,’ even the truth of personal experience rather than general claim, the listener is granted the illusion of direct access (Sommer 1993: 141-3; TierneyTello 1999: 83). This presumption of one’s ability to truly grasp another’s experience essentially closes the gap between self and other, another’s experience and our understanding of it, that is essential to encountering difference as difference. This has two effects on the ability to listen well. The first is a crude form of empathy that is an overidentification with the other. Sophie Tamas makes the significant point that the scientific discursive norms of “the scholarly authorial voice” – the voice that privileges clarity, reason, the literal – can cause a clinical distancing from the affective dimensions of experience, hence preventing an empathic response that motivates us to act (Tamas 2009). But personal accounts that use declarative language can, where affect is engaged, also foster a simplistic form of empathy that substitutes, in Diana Taylor’s words, “the ‘you’ with the ‘as-if-it-were-me’,” losing the specificity of the other, the need to appreciate their alterity, and a sense of one’s own limits in understanding them (Sommer 1995: 925; Taylor 1998: 10). Doris Sommer, who has at length questioned presumptions of easy access in conditions of asymmetry, notes that this is a form of “intimately possessive knowledge” and dismissal “that passes for love,” and as such, rather than incite a sense of co-implication and responsibility, this “rush of short-lived sentimental identification that over-steps the bounds of positional  83  propriety…lasts hardly longer than the [telling]” (Sommer 1994: 535, 529). John Beverley notes, with others, that it is precisely “[t]he erasure of authorial presence in the testimonio, together with its nonfictional character” – in other words, its declarative dimensions, which allow onlookers the presumption of “rationality, identification, and comprehension” – that makes this conflating form of empathy possible (Beverley 1992: 97; Tierney-Tello 1999: 84). Intimately linked to this form of ‘empathy,’ the second effect is what Diana Taylor (1998) calls ‘percepticide’ or self-blinding regarding anything that exceeds the terms of reference with which the other is conflated – here, what demands attention in a democratic moment can only remain white noise. In both cases, the listener’s ability to listen well – to attend to the excess of difference that defies one’s present terms, and thus unsettles the naturalized authority of these terms – is truncated, as the other is conflated with the self and the limits of understanding disappear from view. Thus, we come to see how declarative language also creates a conflating gaze that assumes we can know the other in their entirety, through a myth of neutrality and transparency that erases the distance between one’s experience and another’s understanding of it (“I know the other”). Conclusion Declarative language, then – epitomized in the seemingly open and facilitative genres of testimony and autobiography, but used conventionally in political discourse and civic engagement – carries with it certain notions and conventions of ‘truth-telling’ that can, in fact, create obstacles to the receptive generosity and care for difference required for democratic encounters with difference. It erases its own absences, and so,  84  though identity’s closures are, as Stuart Hall argues, a “fictional necessity” as they make “both politics and identity possible,” the discursive norms of declarative language facilitate a forgetting of this performativity and with it the “exclusions, the denials, the blindnesses on which they are predicated” (Hall 1987: 45; Caruana 1996: 96; Mohanty and Martin 2003: 100). Rather than foreground the agency of the speaker, it privileges the listener as interpreter of the other as object of knowledge; rather than gesture to and leave room for what remains unrepresented, multiple and in process, it can erase its own absences, leading to essentialist and reductive readings of individual and group identity; rather than maintain a crucial distance between self and other that is essential to encountering difference as difference, it can overlook its own limitations. As such, rather than generating the conditions for productively ‘unsettling’ encounters with difference that democracy demands of us, these accounts of marginal positions can reinscribe rather than disrupt dominant discourse and the asymmetrical relations they maintain (Alcoff and Gray 1993; Park-Fuller 2000). When this is the case, the very truths seeking resonance on the discursive terrain remain so much noise – ironically or perhaps poetically, in part due to this very emphasis on a literal mode of truth-telling. While this is not to say that declarative discourse necessarily functions through or reinforces this form of nonreciprocal seeing, it is clear that how we represent and engage difference is as crucial as if we do at all. It cautions us that unproblematic notions of representation and reception, of voice and gaze, overlook the role that discursive conditions play in engagement with difference. And it is an invitation – perhaps a demand – to investigate alternative modes that might work somewhat differently, and so  85  offer generative modalities for democratic engagement, as well as implications for how such engagement might be configured within more conventional sites. The next chapter takes up this invitation by examining the particular dynamics at work within artistic performative modes of engagement, long and still largely overlooked within political theory. Here we find that the very aspects of artistic performance that have led political theorists to handle them gingerly, if at all, are the source of a radically different way of engaging identity/difference, one whose strengths lie precisely where declarative discourse encounters the greatest challenges.  86  Chapter Three Artistic Performance as Democratic Engagement Introduction Chapter one identified the characteristics of democratic engagement that constitute a care for difference and receptive generosity. Chapter two analyzed how declarative language, conventionally used for democratic communication, can inadvertently reinforce dynamics of an ‘objective’ gaze and ‘authentic’ voice that create obstacles to democratic engagement with alterity. The question still remains, however, as to what kinds of practices either demonstrably enact this ethic of care for the complex, relational, and contingent relations of identity/difference, or cultivate the receptive generosity towards difference that such a politics requires. In this chapter, I will argue that in contrast to declarative language, the evocative nature of artistic performance, due to its particular modes of representation, inquiry and interaction, possesses a distinct capacity to engage identity/difference with a care for difference and cultivate the receptive generosity required to do so. What is most fascinating, perhaps, is that it is the very qualities of artistic practices that might be deemed ‘unruly’ and unmanageable within conventional theories of democratic engagement that give them this capacity to engage identity and difference in radically democratic ways. This chapter will begin by examining current developments within critical accounts of democratic engagement that open the possibility for artistic modes to be seen as legitimate sites of such engagement. While the reason for incorporating such aesthetic-affective modes of engagement is usually framed in terms of the greater inclusion of diverse voices it enables, this chapter will argue that it is also due to the fact that there are particular things that happen within such artistic practices, particular forms  87  of engagement that these practices facilitate. In light of performance’s polyphony, affect, embodiment, explicit artfulness, imaginative inquiry, liminality, and creative agency, these artistic encounters with difference generate – while by no means inherently or exclusively – the possibility for negotiations of identity/difference that may enact a democratic ethos of both care for difference and receptive generosity. Aesthetic-Affective Engagement with Identity/Difference: Insights and Trajectories From Democratic Theory As discussed in chapter two, critical democratic theorists have increasingly recognized that power and exclusionary practices function through the very discourses, behaviours, and norms that shape political engagement. The speech culture that characterizes many deliberative models is found to exclude not only those positions articulated in different terms, but the vast resource of communicative modes available to – indeed, already functioning within – practices of engagement (Dahlgren 1995; Young 2000; Rabinovitch 2001; Hoggett and Thompson 2002). Critical democratic theorists have sought to increase inclusivity in democratic engagement by broadening the terms of legitimate communication to include more expressive, affective forms (Barber 1984: 177; Benhabib 1986: 334-39; Wellmer 1991; Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 134-7). The task here becomes one of not bracketing or governing aesthetic-affective communicative modes – as if we could – but of “mobiliz[ing them] towards the promotion of democratic designs” (Mouffe 1996: 756; 2002; Bennett 2001: 132). As a consequence, these critics have increasingly enabled the ‘noise’ of aesthetic-affective modes of communication to be heard as ‘sound’ within democratic theory.  88  The democratic theorist who has arguably examined the political role of aestheticaffective modes of communication most comprehensively is Iris Young, in her expansion of the terms of political communication to include greeting, narrative, and rhetoric. In all three cases, Young argues that incorporating these modes of communication allows a broader range of positions and experiences to ‘get to the table’ of democratic engagement. Greeting, for instance, fosters trust, receptivity and discursive equality. Rhetoric – emotional tone, figures of speech, non-verbal modes of communication, and all affective, aesthetic and stylistic dimensions of communication – is seen to “help to get an issue on the agenda,” reach a particular audience, and “motivate the move from reason to judgment” and from judgment to committed action. Likewise, narrative assists in articulating emergent or marginalized identities and positions that yet have no “language for expression” (Young 2000: 57-77). Acknowledging the extant contributions of such communicative modes thus challenges the ostensible neutrality of dominant styles of political communication, and makes possible a more inclusive and critical engagement of diverse positions, logics, and experiences. While a strong argument for the legitimization of aesthetic-affective modes as political discourse, this account ultimately maintains the distinction – and an implicit asymmetry – between these and ‘rational’ aspects of engagement. As Bryan Garsten similarly argues in his critique of both John Dryzek and Gutmann and Thompson’s accounts of rhetoric or “nondeliberative means” (Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 135; Dryzek 2010; Garsten 2011: 163), a defense of rhetorical dimensions of speech construed as a means to ‘bring difference to the table’ ultimately depicts these aesthetic-affective  89  aspects of communication as somehow separate from, if complementary to, the ‘meat’ of content, reason and reflection in democratic engagement. I would argue, however, that including diverse modes of communication not only ‘brings difference to the table,’ but the particular dynamics, logics, and modes of representation within such aesthetic-affective practices actually facilitate distinct forms of encounter; they do a particular kind of democratic work that other forms of communication cannot do. Angelia Means, in her work on indigenous narrative as legal testimony, begins to gesture in this direction: it is not simply, as Young states, the role of narrative to give shape to what defies present terms of salient political discourse. Narratives have their own logic, their own ‘reasoning.’ Certainly, narrative and rhetoric work as Young describes, to move individuals to hear and be affected by marginalized positions. But, as Means argues, “narrative arguments that displace ignorance and counter emotional refusal do so by offering us reasons in what may turn out to be a more reasonable (if ‘different’) discourse of reason-giving” (2002: 225). To make this argument, Means shies away from the affective role in such representations, perhaps to more effectively legitimize their ‘reasonableness’ and their work of “mutual justification (‘giving account’) in a rigorous sense” (2002: 225) – certainly to downplay the association of narrative with a romantic conception of empathy as ‘feeling with’ others that works to collapse distance and erase “significant strangeness” (2002: 225-6). We will see, however, that while there is certainly the risk of lapsing into this crude form of empathy, affect proves integral to generating ethical and transformative encounters with difference. Means’s account of narrative also reveals a dangerous optimism concerning the ability of intercultural communication to provide “insight into  90  the authentic experiences of a cultural tradition,” and so “defeat the differend” and allow “all wrongs to be articulated” (2002: 230, 237, emphasis added). This is dangerous, as I have argued in previous chapters, because it presumes a predetermined gap between preformed identities that might be entirely closed, even in a specific moment of encounter. However, we have seen that identity is a thing in process, ever multiple, ever partial, and ever mediated through particular systems of meaning-making. Consequently, the claim of and search for ‘authenticity’ not only reifies and simplifies but can also work to police the boundaries of identities and groups. In contrast to Means’ account, narrative is a form of communication that draws attention to the situatedness, the specificity, the interpretive dimension of its claims, and the ineradicable difference between experience and representation, even as it gestures to possible generalizations. Certainly, narrative (and a critically receptive engagement with it) has the capacity to “change both the knowledge of the tribunal and what counts as knowledge for the tribunal” (Means 2002: 230), and in so doing enables meaningful engagement with marginalized differences and the transformation of terms and norms in the process. And yet narrative – nor aesthetic-affective modes more generally – cannot “defeat the differend” any more than other modes of communication. It can, however, draw attention to this very limit inherent in speech acts and knowledge-claims – which, we will see, is a profound resource and stark contrast to conventional modes of representing difference discussed in chapter two. Means, however, provides a significant contribution to an understanding of aesthetic-affective modes such as narrative by demonstrating the “reason-giving” and critical engagement possible within them.  91  It is interesting that both Young and Means remain centred on the literal dimensions of aesthetic-affective modes when they entertain the possibility of such critical capacity. This is certainly no accident: it reflects, in fact, the western privileging of rational speech that it seeks to disrupt. Narrative, for example, is the artistic mode most closely related to declarative language used in conventional political spheres; it seeks to verbally represent an external reality in detail and with accuracy. However, we have seen in chapter two that it is precisely this literal quality that runs certain risks when engaging difference, and I will argue that it is actually narrative that runs the risk more than other artistic modes of generating the dangerous form of empathy that Means critiques. Where rhetorical dimensions accompany speech, they are recognized as having a contributing role in meaning-making and reasoning (Young 1987: 72; 2000: 64-5). However, forms of rhetoric that do not use speech, according to Young, might be used from the margins to gain much-needed attention, such as with “visual media, signs and banners, street demonstration, guerrilla theatre, and the use of symbols in all these contexts” (Young 2000: 64), but they are not presented as possessing the capacity to function as sites of sustained democratic engagement in themselves. Indeed, due perhaps to the “overemphasis on the verbal” in the West, the most critical of deliberative democratic theorists still envision public dialogue as limited to speech (Hanna 1979: 147; Kohn 2000: 410; Benhabib 2002: 107) This is understandable; these aesthetic-affective modes are definitively ‘unruly,’ and given their acknowledged efficacy in stirring emotion, rhetorically framing reality, and employing those modes of representation and relation for which we have the least developed means of evaluation, they present a very  92  real challenge to those who wish to maintain, however reflexive and provisional, manageable bounds and norms for democratic engagement. However, and as these hesitations acknowledge, there is more going on in these artistic forms of engagement than merely ‘bringing difference to the table.’ They are not justified merely in terms of the knowledge-claims they represent, nor insofar as they support meaning and reason-giving, but because they can perform a distinct kind of work themselves, which both reflects and enables radically democratic engagements with difference. Young’s account of rhetoric hints at this possibility, if it stops short of developing it. While she notes that rhetoric helps one ‘to be heard in different contexts,’ we will see that it also enables the coexistence of simultaneous heterogeneous perspectives and points of contact and coalition. While rhetoric is seen to ‘move one to judgment,’ we will see that aesthetic modes can also work to dissemble totalizing judgment and foster critical and creative inquiry. And while she describes narrative as that which helps articulate ‘before language’ or established identity, we will see how the arts can negotiate identities as complex, multiple, and dynamic, without reifying or limiting such categories. It is this kind of work, the particular forms of encounter that artistic modes can enact, which will be examined in the remainder of this chapter. Moreover, the very possibility of such democratic engagement will be shown to be grounded in art’s most ‘unruly’ characteristics – its polyphony, affective intensity, kinaesthesia, imaginative inquiry, explicit interpretiveness, liminality, and creative agency – the very characteristics that have presented the biggest challenge to theories of democratic engagement.  93  Dissembling Compositions: Artistic Encounter and Critical Thinking “Art does not represent the visual world, it makes things visible.” – Paul Klee The Globe and Mail published an article in November 2010 entitled, “How to Appreciate Abstract Art” (Nov 15 2010, L3). The premise is familiar to many: art that does not clearly represent determinate meanings can feel intimidating; one feels somehow caught out that they don’t ‘get it,’ that there is some arcane vocabulary they do not speak and secret meanings to which only a privileged few are privy. In interviewing audience members of a contemporary dance performance in 2005, I was struck by the convergence of two patterns in responses: everyone I questioned about the performance was among the ‘initiate’ by some association with the dance world, and yet without exception they all began by apologizing preemptively for not being an ‘expert’ (Moore 2006). While seemingly contradictory, I see these two patterns as deeply connected: the expectation that art must communicate like other modes can make encounters with art feel alienating, and can work to further ghettoize such practices from engagement by the general public – or, conversely, reinforce a long tradition of art appreciation as a form of cultural capital reserved for the elite few who have had time and resources to become versed in such tastes and experiences (Bourdieu 1986: 241-58; Adorno and Horkheimer 1986). Artistic representations communicate – they are definitively a communicative engagement between creator/performer and audience. Moreover, the meanings they generate, while diverse and open-ended, are by no means arbitrary or limitless. But the nature of such communication is notably different from conventional communicative modes; not just in abstract art, but in all artistic forms of representation, meaning-making processes are evocative more than referential; generative rather than argumentative; open-  94  ended rather than determinate. Indeed, many of the challenges for liberal models of pluralism – lack of consensus, direct reference and transparency of communication, and pre-given and stable identities and meanings – are taken as vital resources within artistic modes of engagement. Meanings are represented as interpreted, and likewise the reception of such meaning is a creatively interpretive act. In the words of Kitty Scott, the director of visual arts at the Banff Centre who was interviewed in this article in the Globe and Mail, “The most important thing about art is how you experience it, not whether you can decode the artist’s meaning” (15 Nov 2010, L3). Indeed, even in the case of dancers performing a choreographer’s work, participation does not require they share the same understandings (Moore 2006). As art scholar Jill Bennett argues in the case of traumarelated art, art is “best understood as transactive rather than communicative,” where ‘communication’ stands in for faithful translation or representation of “the ‘secret’ of personal experience” (Bennett 2005: 7). The question becomes, then, as Gilles Deleuze asks, not ‘What does it mean?’ but “How does it work?” (Deleuze 1995: 21). It is in precisely this form of rendering meaning that the democratic dimensions of artistic engagements reside, as it is through such processes that artistic representations become ‘dissembling compositions,’ engagements that can: (i) hold multiple, dynamic, even contradictory meanings and identities together simultaneously; (ii) interrupt and unsettle one’s ‘partitions of the sensible’ to make room for critical thought beyond mere ‘recognition’; (iii) generate contexts for imaginative experimentation with the perceived range of possibility for thought and action; (iv) mediate challenging experiences, claims and positions such that they are easier to acknowledge; and (v) foreground the interpretive nature of such  95  meanings, which in turn may highlight the capacity to intervene in and transform political life, chasten knowledge-claims about the very identities so constituted, and foreground the creative agency of those who communicate in these terms. As such, artistic modes of engagement have the capacity to function as democratic ‘speakings’ that enact a care for difference – where the complex and dynamic relations of identity and difference may be negotiated in their complexity, contingency, and intersectionality, where connection and coalition are possible through rather than in spite of difference, and where democratic engagement emerges within moving ground rather than resting places. The remainder of this chapter will examine how various dimensions of performative modes of communication – polyphony, affect, the body, imagination and explicit interpretation, liminality, and creative agency – might contribute to democratic engagement across difference. Polyphony and Polysemy: Holding Difference Together, Holding It Lightly All forms of communication are multi-dimensional: the body gestures, the voice intonates, the spatial dimensions and interrelational dynamics of a given academic presentation or public debate contribute to the shape such engagement takes for its participants. However, artistic practices are unique, perhaps, in the extent to which they embrace and make use of this multidimensionality of meaning-making, and thus have a fluency in polyphony and the democratic dimensions entailed therein. “Polyphony” is, as the word implies, “multi-leveledness and semantic multi-voicedness” (Bakhtin 1984a: 20) – the multiple layers of communicative modes circulating within representations. Mikhail Bakhtin most famously used this term to describe the multiple perspectives represented by various characters within Dostoevsky’s novels, polyphonous insofar as they presented  96  a kaleidoscope of “equally authoritative ideological positions” (1984a: 18) that does not tell the reader what to think, nor even clearly what Dostoevsky thinks, but rather provides a heterogeneity in constellation with which the reader must critically engage. Moreover, it is this multi-voicedness and consequent representation of the multifacetedness – even internal contradiction – of meaning that Bakhtin finds responsible for the capacity of Dostoevsky’s novels to gesture to the opacity and hence “unfinalizability” of identity and understanding (Bakhtin 1984a: 56, 166). As we have seen in chapter one, identity is inherently complex, multiple and in process; polyphony enables the representation of it as such, holding together in “apparently impossible simultaneity” (Ang 2001: 201) what so often becomes simplified, reified, or conflated in other forms of assertion. While Bakhtin focuses on multiple characters, I take this term to also signify the multiple ‘voices’ of artistic modes, the visual, kinetic, sonic, spatial, affective, and symbolic among them. By engaging meaning through polyphonic means, artistic modes of representation are able to hold multiple, complex, and dynamic meanings together “in multidimensional and fluid orders,” providing space for their expression and reception without demanding their reconciliation and thus domestication or reduction (Papastergiadis 1995: 8). This “multifaceted polylog” enables art to contend with multiple themes, coexisting positionalities, and intersectional identities in their complexity (Shohat and Stam 1995: 12). As such, it has the capacity to not only engage identity/difference with a care for its complexity, ambiguity, even ambivalence, but by revealing otherwise suppressed interrelationships, polyphony provides the aesthetic with a unique ability to identify and describe the operations of political, social, cultural, and economic power. As  97  Young and Means argue regarding narrative, aesthetic practices can “disrupt these rationalizing, generalizing modes of analysis with a reminder of human beings and their…textured vitality” (Minow 2008: 258). As we will see in the following cases, this gives aesthetic practices the capacity to expose, disrupt and tease apart monolithic discourses and the relations of power they sustain, whether that of racism and apartheid, traditional gender identities and roles, or othering discourses of homeless and mental health communities. In contrast to Martha Nussbaum’s (1999) famous skepticism regarding the political capacity of a fragmentary identity politics, we will see that it is precisely this polyphony that effectively unsettles such monoliths. Moreover, it does so in such a way that does not lend itself easily to didacticism or fundamentalism. As in the case of Dostoevsky’s characters, this polyphony makes difficult any totalizing claims to final ‘resting place’ for meaning; this is due to the inevitable and explicit ‘excess’ and ‘absence’ of meaning such polyphony generates. There is an inevitable ‘excess’ and ‘absence’ of meaning in any communication; as democratic theorists have also argued and as the nature of identity as non-exhaustive account makes clear, communication always simultaneously generates more and perceives less than intended. As such, all forms of representation always conveys more than it intends; and it is never totalizing. The ‘excess’ meaning conveyed by representation creates a supplement that makes multiple and resistant readings possible. Despite the excess, representation produces ruptures and gaps; it fails to reproduce the real exactly. Precisely because of [its] supplemental excess and its failure to be totalizing, close readings of…representation can produce psychic resistance and, possibly, political change. (Phelan 1996: 2) The difference lies, perhaps, in art’s recognition of the inevitable multiplicity of interpretation, and consequent acknowledgement that different readings do not  98  necessarily signify mere miscommunication. The polyphony of artistic modes makes use of and enhances this dimension of communication, generating multiple and open-ended readings as the work is engaged in varying contexts, by different people, in specific moments. The excess of art’s meaning is precisely what opens up possibilities for articulation and exploration of identity beyond the tight scripts of fixed social identities, making “multiple and resistant readings” possible. But in facilitating rather than explicitly defining meaning, art’s polyphony does more than simply allow the expression and negotiation of identity’s complexity and interrelation. Presenting such multiplicity without its negation or resolution, in “a perpetual self-preserving instability,” it makes impossible claims that such meaning is fixed, exhaustive or unmediated (Zagala 2002: 25). Moreover, engagements with the inevitable ‘excess’ and ‘absence’ of such representations can help to cultivate a tolerance for ambiguity and complexity, and for the limits of one’s own understanding. While critical deliberative theorists have challenged the notion of consensus in public dialogue, advocating instead “the open-ended process of conversation” (Kohn 2000: 420; Benhabib 2002: 109), this form of engagement with identity extends this ideal of open-endedness to take into account the multiplicity and ambiguity of meaning itself. While art can be a powerful means to speak ‘from the margins’ as Young and others have argued, it thus may also serve as democratic process in its own right, and this capacity is closely linked to such polyphony. There is certainly art that conveys a clear political message, and even ‘tells’ audiences what to think. But by collapsing the dynamic complexity that sets the practice apart, didactic art too easily becomes propaganda, or in one artist’s words, “one-  99” (Escobar 1994: 39). Adorno famously critiqued such didactic or polemic art, epitomized for Adorno in the political theatre of Bertolt Brecht, as “intolerant of the ambiguity in which thought originates: It is authoritarian” (Adorno 1997: 242). The democratic power within artistic practices lies precisely in its ability to open up rather than foreclose meaning, to foster critical inquiry rather than provide determinate answers. Moreover, given the polyphony within artistic modes, multiple and even contrary readings are made possible even in the most restrictive or didactic projects. Where art capitalizes on this capacity to speak simultaneously through multiple modes to represent meaning as complex, heterogeneous and openended, it uses as communicative resource what is an inherently democratic dimension to its praxis. As all art is far from democratic despite this latent capacity, various artists have examined the particular artistic tactics that enhance this “prismatic quality” (Said 2000: 567). Among them are the move away from conventional narrative strategies and other forms of over-determined signification, pastiche, métissage or the creolization of various forms and signs, “double-voicing,” parody, syncretism, and other tactics that make seamless readings and over-identifications impossible (Glissant 1981: 462-3; Lionnet 1989: 4; Wah 2000: 51-53). These artists recognize the political significance of ambiguity and complexity, that “opacity and obscurity are necessarily the precious ingredients of all authentic communication” (Lionnet 1989: 4). These tactics work to augment and subversively play with the polyphony of artistic modes, enabling “a whole new be told, with fragments, with disruptions, and with self-conscious and critical reflections,” facilitating the articulation of “a plural self, one that thrives on ambiguity and  100  multiplicity, on an affirmation of differences, not on polarized and polarizing notions of identity, culture, race, or gender” (Lionnet 1989: 16; Bannerji 1990: 134). Moreover, this multifaceted, multisensory mode opens up, through heterogeneity, multiple points of contact: thus, one might connect with, be affected by, find resonance or meaning through multiple “modes of inhabitation” however divergent one’s own experience may be from that of the creator or other observers (Crenshaw 1995: 33; Bennett 2005: 12). Again, this challenges the notion that a fragmentary identity politics precludes coalition and mobilization; in fact, it is through such polyphony and the evocative nature of its meaning-making that affiliation and coalition in the terms a politics of difference demands are possible. We will see this in chapter four in the case of South African protest theatre, where the multiplicity of communicative modes enabled communication and a sense of solidarity to flourish among diverse and far-flung communities and was powerful in countering through multiplicity such a profoundly monolithic form of power as apartheid. Indeed, often movement away from verbal modes of communication to more symbolic, visual, or embodied forms of signification can facilitate both the dynamic play of complex meanings and the spaciousness for affiliations across profound difference, as we will see in the cases of both protest theatre and contemporary dance. However, as the following cases will make clear, the explicitly interpretive nature of such representations also guards against the tendency to confuse affiliation with identification and so erase difference through such connections. Through the explicit ‘excess’ and ‘absence’ of polyphony, art presents multiple “interconnecting axes of affiliation and differentiation” through which individuals may connect across and through  101  difference without fear of either “reduc[ing] the other as the negative of identity” (Papastergiadis 1995: 8; Felski 1997: 12) or erasing difference through conflation; in short, akin to democratic ‘speakings’ or ‘horizons’ described in chapter one, it enables individuals of divergent positions to “converg[e] but…not [be] conflated” (Mohanty and Martin 2003: 100). Affective Impact: Moved in Spite of Ourselves This experience of simultaneous heterogeneity and the polysemy, or multiple meanings, it generates is intimately linked with the dimension of affect within artistic engagements. As chapter one has argued, the affective is always-already at work in politics – we are invested in certain truths and norms, attached to certain identities and relations; we experience visceral resonances and dissonances in contact with others and affective associations in light of such experiences, which through repetition shape our orientations towards and away from others. In this way, social configurations – who ‘we’ and ‘they’ are, as well as the ranking and movements of these bodies in relation – are shaped by what Sara Ahmed calls “affective economies” (Ahmed 2004: 8). It is precisely through such affective attachments that fascism derives its power, or historical wounds can create enduring identities, or signs become ‘sticky’ and saturated such that they can only be read through a given affective association (Brown 1995; Beasley-Murray 2001; Ahmed 2004: 194-5). These affective experiences and our interpretations of them create and sustain the very shape of politics. Similarly, we have seen in chapter one that a pluralist democracy requires affective dispositions towards difference characterized by receptive generosity and a shared commitment to living together-in-difference; “They do and should matter to each  102  other because they are bounded together by the ties of common interest and attachment” (Coles 1996; Parekh 1999: 4). Where encounters with difference are unsettling, uncomfortable, even undermining, what moves us to engage or to challenge the ground we take as given? It is, as many scholars have noted, the affective dimensions of experience that move us in these ways, even in spite of ourselves. If openness and closure to difference operates at the pre-reflexive level of affect, the task then becomes a matter not of “finding good or bad feelings” and expressing them, but of finding ways to become aware of, disrupt, and open up alternatives to entrenched patterns of feeling, thought and behaviour by engaging such affective and somatic attachments (Diprose 2002: 121; Ahmed 2004: 201). Artistic engagements are structured to generate such experiences, and indeed, these affective encounters can work to dissemble those patterns and perceived (or unperceived) limits to thought, action and relation that preclude more democratic configurations. Through the polyphony of its modes, by the “concrete relational density” of its representations, by the great pressure this creates of “the whole on the particular,” art creates intensive affective encounters that move beyond, between, and beneath preestablished codes of interpretation (Adorno 1997: 187; Altieri 2003: 14). When Jill Bennett states that art is “transactive” rather than “communicative” in the narrow sense, it is because the arts stimulate certain kinds of experiences of a vivid present more than they transcribe and relay a determinate message or represent an elsewhere – and these experiences can be deeply political.  103  On this point Immanuel Kant finds, if unlikely, common ground with Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.6 While Kant holds that aesthetic moments might inform and support moral codes, Deleuze and Guattari desire the proliferation of such unruly acts of creativity divorced from transcendent law; however, they each describe aesthetic encounters in terms of the “free play” of the faculties apart from the strictures of rigid conceptual frameworks or practical justifications, due to the formal dimensions of artistic modes of representation (Kant 1987: 230). In Kant’s terms, aesthetic work is “purposive” rather than purposeful, as our experiences therein do not depend on transcendental categories or predetermined concepts. Deleuze describes this process of dissembling in terms of the “encountered sign” – as opposed to explicit statement, the encountered sign “is felt, rather than recognized or perceived through cognition” (Deleuze 1972; Bennett 2005: 7, 36). Working this way, art “does not need concepts in order to think,” and so engages us at once emotionally, mentally and sensorially (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 164, 216; Zagala 2002: 21). These affective moments are thus seen to temporarily suspend recourse to practical vocabularies, dislodge the percept and the affect from habitual associations, and enable the ‘play’ or “disinterested interest” of creative interrelation and the generation of new cognitive assemblages (Kant 1987: 18-20). One enters the world of the work, becomes absorbed in sensation; “at one and the same time I become the sensation and something happens through the sensation, one  6  Several theorists have noted this theoretical convergence regarding the ‘dissembling’ effects of aesthetic encounter. See, for example, Davide Panagia, The Political Life of Sensation (Durham and London: Duke University Press 2009); Jane Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2001); Charles Altieri, The Particulars of Rapture: An Aesthetics of the Affects (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2003); Melissa McMahon, “Kant’s Critique of Judgment: The Question of the Mediating Role of Aesthetic Judgments” (unpublished typescript, Dept of General Philosophy, University of Sydney, 1995); Stephen Zagala, “Aesthetics: A Place I’ve Never Seen,” A Shock of Thought: Expressions After Deleuze and Guattari, ed. Brian Massumi (London and New York: Routledge, 2002).  104  through the other, one in the other” (Deleuze 1992: 31). In such moments of sensation, one cannot merely ‘recognize’ and thus reinforce pre-established meanings when engaging with art – the excess and intensity of artistic forms do not ‘represent’ determinate meanings in this way – and due to opening up a ‘world’ of the work that is experienced rather than mimetically reproduced, one must navigate by different means. The immediacy and excess of sensation and its affects shake one’s “recourse to the networks, practices and relays of attachment that sustain representation” and create moments of epistemic crisis that render doxa visible and negotiable, and enable the excess of difference to move from ‘noise’ to ‘sound’ (Bourdieu 1993: 164-5; Panagia 2009: 10). For this reason, Davide Panagia has identified this “disinterested interest” described by Kant as a “radical democratic moment” (Panagia 2009: 44). This ‘unruliness’ of affective encounters seems closely linked to Bakhtin’s notion of the carnivalesque, defined by the undermining of authority, anarchic unleashing of creative and chaotic energies, and dynamism of flows and fluids (Bakhtin 1984b). In both cases, intensity and dynamic polyphony enable the play of possibility that ruptures and potentially reconfigures otherwise stable circuitries and structures. This is not to say that thinking does not happen in artistic engagements, but the ‘interest’ or, we might say, affective attachments to established cognitive frameworks and pre-judgments are interrupted and challenged, and a different form of ‘thinking’ is possible. These cognitive frames – as they do with affect more generally – still provide the backdrop to perception, and in this way aesthetic moments are not ‘unmediated’ to the extent that Kant seems to propose. Moreover, these moments of immersion or intensity ebb and flow, and so these cognitive meaning-systems exist in dialectic relationship with  105  the ‘vivid present’ affect engenders. Kant distinguishes two moments in aesthetic judgment, the aesthetic experience that dissembles and the pronouncement of aesthetic judgment that reassembles, to highlight this. However, in the affective impact a dissembling excess impresses itself upon us, captures us, and in so doing can work to disarticulate the viewer’s “partitions of the sensible” and investments in them, and make it possible “to figure the newly thinkable” (Rancière 2004: 12; Panagia 2009: 16). Exposure to new information alone is not enough to move us in spite of ourselves. We have seen how affect shapes the very terrain of politics, how it creates investments in certain regimes of perception and the material relations they legitimize, attachments that resist critical unsettling. Prevailing norms and codes are “comfortable for those who can inhabit [them]” (Ahmed 2004: 147), and given affective attachments to what shores up identity in the face of uncertainty, something more than information is required to disrupt these patterns of thought. The aesthetic-affective dimensions of art are productive more than descriptive, evocative rather than assertive, and it is art’s lack of determinate meaning that makes possible an immersion in sensation that exceeds and unsettles one’s ‘partitions of the sensible’ – it hook us, captures us, and so often compels critical thinking. Sensation “acts immediately upon the nervous system, which is of the flesh...[rather than being] addressed to the head” (Deleuze 1992: 31). As such, it is an experience that affects us, that engages the “non-linear complexity” and “never-to-beconscious autonomic remainder” of affect beyond, between and beneath cognitive sensemaking systems (Massumi 2002: 30; Clough 2007: 2). It can get under one’s skin, it can provoke discomfort, excitement, or unease, it can set off “a movement that extends my world beyond the intimate and familiar. A disturbing experience motivates the creation  106  and transformation of concepts” (Diprose 2002: 133). In short, it can cultivate receptive generosity that makes a care for difference possible. In this way, Deleuze sees the aesthetic-affective as “what leads to thought” (1972: 161) – from predefined thought (territorialized nomos) to the unsettling and creative process of thinking (deterritorialized nomad) (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 380-82). Levinas, in his own account of engagements with alterity, describes this transformative unsettling as “think[ing] more than [one] thinks” (Levinas 1987: 54; original emphasis). For Deleuze, as for Kant, aesthetic experiences can move us to think differently, to engage “in spite of ourselves” (Deleuze 1972: 161; original emphasis). Such art ‘works’ politically not so much in how it conveys political ideas, but by how it interrupts the perceptual field that bars engagement with the ‘noise’ of difference. It works via generating what Brian Massumi calls a “shock to thought,” that “cannot simply give us the answer – which would, of course, merely short-circuit critical thought – but needs, in a sense, to relinquish the moral position in order to enable ethical inquiry” (Massumi 2002; Bennet 2005: 90). For this reason, Guattari describes “the work of art...[as] an activity of unframing, of rupturing sense, of baroque proliferation or extreme impoverishment which leads to a recreation and a reinvention of the subject itself” (1995: 131). To agree with Kant, Deleuze and Guattari about the dissembling capacity of aesthetic-affective encounters is not to argue that all art and the intense experiences they evoke necessarily foster critical thinking, nor that art needs to be ‘intense’ or ‘sensational’ in conventional terms to have affective intensity. ‘Intensity,’ used in this way, refers not to extreme experience per se, but to rare and fleeting moments of being fully present,  107  unmediated by the cognitive circuitries of perception that encode experience and so “place us at a remove from what we claim to know” (Altieri 2003: 188).7 Moreover, as Jill Bennett has shown with merely ‘shocking’ imagery as opposed to thought-provoking traumatic art, “the link between the graphic image and ‘education’ is far from axiomatic” (2005: 64). The affective dimension of art, unlike polyphony, is not inherently democratic; as we have seen, affect can work as much to create attachments to undemocratic as well as democratic social norms and orders. It is a strange irony that those who have been responsible for the world’s most totalitarian regimes seem to have been among the most keenly aware of the power of art’s affective dimensions, demonstrated in both the systematic elimination of artists once in power or the manipulation of this affective force within their own spectacles.8 On the other hand, even with these totalitarian projects, they are effective precisely because the intensity of the encounter bypasses cognitive frameworks and jolts, dissembles, moves observers even in spite of themselves. In fact, the very efforts to suppress or harness aesthetic-affective practices by authoritarian leaders attest to the recognition since Plato that such modes are disruptive to an antidemocratic politics. The affective dimension of artistic encounters, when wrested for artistic projects that represent ‘subjugated knowledges’ and foster critique, can work via the excess of the encountered sign to dissemble habitual cognitive patterns, decentre 7  Again, these moments are ‘mediated’ in the sense that they are in dialectical relationship with conceptual processes, and both openness to them and interpretation of them is shaped by perceptual dispositions, but when immersed in them, we lose our ‘bearings’, and so open possibilities for reconfiguration. 8 The use of pageantry and symbolism during the Nazi regime is the most famous of such cases, though Slobodan Milosevic, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung and Joseph Stalin were also known to use aesthetic-affective means to hold popular sway. Similarly, the Khmer Rouge spent three months working to eliminate Cambodia’s artistic community, along with the broader intellectual community; Augusto Pinochet imprisoned and ‘disappeared’ most of Chile’s artists in the 1970s; and East Germany’s Stasi routinized the intimidation of artists. We will also see this kind of targeting of artistic expression in chapter four, by South Africa’s apartheid state.  108  identities, and cultivate what Rosalyn Diprose calls the “nonvolitional generosity”9 – what I have been calling receptive generosity – that motivates further inquiry (2002: 68). And due to the “multiple and fluid orders” of aesthetic modes that are able to hold complex, heterogeneous meanings together without their resolution or negation, such inquiry is given more ‘dynamic play’ than assertive modes, and we might very well surprise ourselves in the process. This account of affect through art requires one further qualification. Scholars like Jill Bennett, Davide Panagia and others, taking cues from Kant and Deleuze, locate this capacity to move from recognition to critical thinking in the abstract or purely formal aspects of art; in contrast, the figurative is that which is seen to “subordinat[e] the eye to the model of recognition and los[e] the immediacy of sensation” (Smith 1996: 41; Bennett 2005: 31-35; Panagia 2009: 39). I see no problem with this conception of the figurative or nomological, as it certainly works through ‘recognizable’ signs in order to function and so might be said to “subordinat[e] sensations to...‘making sense’” (Panagia 2009: 38). However, this fact leads Panagia and Bennett, along with Deleuze, to focus on abstract art forms that avoid narrative or figurative dimensions (Bennett 2005: 35; Panagia 2009: 38-9). Thus, while narrative has received the most robust defense by deliberative and liberal theorists such as Means, Young and Nussbaum – due, arguably, to its proximity to testimony – it is precisely this artistic mode that is critiqued by these aesthetic theorists as prone to recapitulating ‘authentic’ essentialisms and reading culture through a static 9  Diprose understands such generosity in terms of openness to alterity, as well as the risks to self-identity such engagement entails; for her, then, critical thinking requires us to be and is, by definition, generous (2002: 13). While Diprose focuses her account on intercorporeality rather than the dynamics of aesthetics as catalysts for such critical generosity, she shares ground with these theorists in defining such generous interrelation as somatic and affective, using much the same language as these aesthetic theorists.  109  politics of recognition. If identity is understood as in process and the disruption of ‘regimes of perception’ is taken as integral to a project of pluralisation, the dangers of ‘recognition’ cannot be overstated. However, I venture that though figurative significations do interrupt the dissembling process of affect by mediating the experience through meaning-making systems, these points of reference, presented through polyphonous and affective encounters, can and do serve as grappling points rather than stumbling blocks, can move and be moved in dialectic relationship with the dissembling processes of sensatio