"Prefigurative politics" describes activists' creation of a desired future world in the present. The term has been used to describe social movements (from Occupy to Tahrir Square to the Movement for Black Lives); Black and interracial intentional communities pursuing racial justice (including the Harlem Ashram and the Highlander Folk School); and experiments in radical pedagogy (such as Freedom Schools). Prefiguration takes many forms: in staging a new world, activists might establish systems of mutual aid or other models of care; promote a model of participatory democracy; challenge the relationship between the state and its citizens; establish new histories and myths; reimagine economic models; and/or create new aesthetic forms. Political theorists and sociologists have much to teach us about prefigurative politics and the many debates that surround it. For example, what is the relationship between prefiguration and political strategy? Are the two at odds, or compatible? Students enrolled in this course will work assiduously to assess this literature. We will then put the contemporary scholarship on prefigurative politics into conversation with a set of conversations emerging from performance theory that traverse similar terrain, among them debates about performance, utopia, and futurity; explorations of rehearsal and simulation; and the performativity of assembly. We will use our work to make sense of our contemporary moment, consider the performance and performativity of politics, and draw inspiration from those who have worked and continue to work to build "a new world in the shell of the old."
Section 01Prefiguration and Performance
INSTRUCTOR: Paige McGinleyView Course Listing