ABSTRACT

It will already be clear from my descriptions of anti-war actions that Code Pink and IVAW embrace very different protest genres, which might broadly be placed into the categories of comedy and tragedy. This arises to a certain extent from the subject identities and attitudes that the groups use as a basis of their organizing, and their historical forerunners who have passed on tactics relevant to women-and soldier-activists, as discussed in Chapter 2. The context of post9/11 protest cannot be fully articulated without regard to the genre of dominant political performance during this era. In the aftermath of 9/11, and continuing throughout the years of the Bush Administration, political narratives were largely melodramatic and hyperbolic. Indeed, conceptions of American national identity and foreign policy demands were situated inflexibly between the 9/11 tragedy on one side and the timeless soldier-sacrifice story on the other. To effectively counter domestic support for foreign policy, anti-war groups therefore needed to engage with the dominant genres at hand. The story of their protests would not be complete without some attention to the effect of tragedy and comedy on political audiences. In this chapter, I will explore this topic beginning with a focus on the dramatic frames of tragic and comic narratives and the way that scholars have interpreted the political potential of these. This involves a turn to theories of classical Greek drama, with updated insight from philosophers, theatre artists and academics of recent decades. I explore tragedy and comedy as both dramatic form and thematic content, examining incidents of laughter and violence in representative actions of IVAW and Code Pink. Ultimately this chapter will suggest the strengths and pitfalls of tragic and comedic genres in activism. It is an awkward line of inquiry to pursue, beset with potential traps inherent to the sort of false dichotomy often perceived in relation to comedy and drama. In actuality, many anti-war performances are tragi-comic, conveying absurdist scenarios arising from tragic human weakness. I also want to emphasize that neither organization adheres to these categories exclusively, and I am using their work to illustrate the potential of these genres, rather than pigeonholing them in a way that would discount the breadth of their creativity and ingen uity. Equally important is my desire to avoid a depiction of comedy and tragedy as binary opposites – in an effort to refrain from the historical privileging

of tragedy as a higher art form, whether that be in classical literature circles, in the practice of politics, or in the scholarly study of Politics and International Relations. Instead, I set up this examination with a view towards the complementary nature of these two forms, and conclude the chapter by suggesting their effective interdependency.