Powers of the Mask: Political Subjectivation and Rites of Participation in Local-Global Protest

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Mask-wearing political protests have been global front page news for several years now; yet, almost no literature exists which attempts to engage the symbolic density and ritual role played by such mask-wearing acts. We argue that mask-wearing has political potentiality which relates to deeper-lying anthropological features of mask-wearing. The powers of the mask reside in the transformative ability of masks to unify and transcend key oppositional categories such as absence/presence and death/life, creating possibilities where conventional boundaries of the possible/impossible no longer restrict. By questioning the communicative rationality of the modern ‘public’ and the ‘sphere’ in which it operates, we approach mask-wearing as a ‘communicative opening’. Building on earlier critiques of liberal democratic normativity, we further argue that the ‘utopia of transparency’ is itself a regulatory power and that mask-wearing exposes the very notions that were supposed to form the background of modern, emancipatory politics: transparency, free speech and representative democracy.

TidsskriftTheory, Culture & Society
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)75-98
Antal sider24
StatusUdgivet - 13 jul. 2016

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