ABSTRACT

The next two chapters of this analysis will focus on modes of characterization in anti-war actions. By this I am referring to the ways that activists present themselves to the public and the modes of reception induced in onlookers as a consequence. In contrast to the previous two chapters, this section will focus on the ways that political actors indicate the nature of their being to audiences and with what intent. This provides impetus for continuing the work of IR theorists who concern themselves with the complex dynamics of identity formation and propagation. However, the line of thinking is shifted here to emphasize the deliberate artifice involved in performed identities, or “characters”. We commonly accept that the people we watch onstage or on screens in commercial arts and media – not to mention on political stages worldwide – are presented to us in a particular way to convey their type and the potential of their roles. In everyday life, each of us at some level of consciousness composes a characterization of self to be presented to the world, and this characterization varies depending on circumstance and situation. For performance theorists, Robert E. Park’s work was foundational in detailing the way that personhood is comprised of the wearing of various masks. Park wrote that it is through the donning of social masks that we come to know both ourselves and others, and that throughout an individual’s life these masks, or characterizations, are employed with a greater or lesser degree of conscious deliberation for varying social functions (Park 1950, 249). This serves a dual purpose: for those constructing characters, the object is to induce a particular mode of reception on the part of onlookers. For viewers of performed actions, characterization of others is a reflexive process driven by the desire to easily interpret and comprehend the actions and discourse of another – by reducing the implications of a viewed performance to an understandable and usually previously encountered character, audiences make sense of the communications presented to them. Essentially, the masks of characterization operate simultaneously and reciprocally at the level of self and other. We can see here that there is a significant overlap with studies of national identity. In the case of this study, however, “character” is defined separately from identity as a fluid, topographical component of identity that can shift and be heavily debated through dialogic interpretations and representations. Alongside

other aspects such as geographic setting and time, character is a component of political identity, and one of the possible instigators of transformative liminal events. Frequently, individual characterizations are extrapolated by elite politicians as evidence of national mores. However, as we will see, the process can operate in reverse as well, through a carnivalesque reinvention of character by dissenting forces. In this way, political activists can operate as rogues, clowns and fools, achieving freedom from social identity strictures and inviting criticism of encoded power rooted in social constructions of identity. The next two chapters will consider these aspects of characterization from both the point of view of performance producers and public audiences. I will begin my discussion of anti-war characterizations with an analysis of costuming – the sartorial choices made by political activists with a specific intent to influence audiences and convey an ideological message. When individuals or groups embark on protest actions with the view of attracting attention and being watched, the choices they make about what to wear (or what not to wear) become central. In the same way that aspects of time and space induce chronotopic expectations among viewers, so too does costume. We expect to see certain ranges of clothing and accessories in a particular setting, and not in others. The type of clothing worn by political actors signposts the social and political parameters of the resulting interactions. My discussion of this topic will consider how costumes are used in both sincere and irreverent ways. I will evaluate the impact of wardrobe choices on both political activists and those they seek to influence. In the next chapter, I will follow this up with a closer look at personal characterization, including both stereotypical masquerades and fully detailed biographies.