Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Plenary 3

Performing Democracy on a Grand Scale

Susan Haedicke

imagesusan On Thursday, 4 May 2006, surprised Londoners discovered a large smoking wooden rocket embedded into the broken tarmac of Waterloo Place. This unadvertised event heralded the start of the large-scale durational performance of The Sultan’s Elephant, created by Royal de Luxe, one of France’s most famous and oldest street theatre companies. From May 4-7, 2006, a forty-two ton elephant as tall as a threestory building and a seven-meter tall little girl visited London. Their walk through the ceremonial center of the city stopped traffic, disrupted business as usual, and drew crowds of over one million people. “Performing Democracy on a Grand Scale” (an excerpt of a chapter from the forthcoming book, Contemporary European Street Arts: Aesthetics and Politics) contrasts the “feel-good” utopian performatives of a participatory democracy in the primary narrative surrounding the event with an edgier set of radical democratic performatives in the counter-narrative.

Performing democracy: actors, roles and stages

John Parkinson (Warwick)

In an era when democratic theory values rationality highly, political theorists generally treat drama as either a mere metaphor or normatively dangerous. This paper argues, on the contrary, that thinking of democracy without attending to narrative and dramaturgy is not only descriptively impoverished but carries its own normative dangers in turn. Drawing on recent work in political communication, public policy and political representation, the article focuses on the distinction between democratic roles and the actors that play them; and the staging requirements that go with particular roles. These features, it is argued, helps makes sense of some otherwise-puzzling features of real-world democratic action.