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Performing Citizenship through Creative Intervention

The next speaker in this AoIR 2011 session is Ashley Hinck, whose focus is specifically on the 2011 Wisconsin Protests against the eradication of collective bargaining rights. These protests involved conventional in-person protests and demonstrations, calls and letter-writing, but also a range of online activities from simple expressions of sympathy to more sophisticated forms of organising; this may impact institutions, but may also simply be an expression of personal identity – but yet it’s also more than these two basic forms of citizenship.

What’s necessary, then, is to consider citizenship beyond these conventional definitions – to consider how citizenship is performed: the modalities of citizenship. Voting out of a sense of duty to a candidate, or voting to prevent the election of another candidate, are two very different actions, for example.

Online videos posted to support the Wisconsin protests exhibit different performances of citizenship, for example; they are political in nature, and demonstrate rhetorical agency to intervene within the social. Citizenship requires agency; it emerges through political acts which require agency – creative endeavours that are political can therefore be read as performances of citizenship. They are inventions which intervene in the social world.

Some of the key videos about the Wisconsin protests presented the protest activities; some provided meaning to the protests by interviewing the protesters; some created permanent records of the ephemeral flashmobs which occurred, stabilising them. This demonstrates the value of creative expression as a form of performance of citizenship in the context of these political protests.