Culture, Performance, and Digital Identities

Led by Abdelmajid Ridouane and Mustapha Kharoua

Culture, Performance, and Digital Identities Special Interest Group is mainly interested in violence as global culture and how its articulation through various digital ‘performances’ may contribute to cultural literacy and -through it- the establishment of solidary transnational (read digital) communities. This interest derives from Jean Baudrillard’s “Le Violent du Mondial” (“The Violence of the Global”) (2002). While the under-theorized issue of violence (i.e.  the lack of any satisfactory answer to the question “what is violence?”) may be a serious hindrance, the SIG proposes to accommodate all types of definitions ranging from narrow mainstream definitions of street, gender, domestic, ethnic violence to the more complex Foucauldian, Durkheimian, and Weberian theories related to sovereign states, state institutions, IR, international politics, etc.

Besides, the dialectical relationship between digital performance and violence, the shifting rapport between forms of digital violent performances and their virtual public reception is at the base of several complex queries the SIG wishes to address. For instance: What are the cultural, social, or psychological implications of the seductive ‘performance’ of the transfer of evanescent acts of violence from the actual time and space where they are video-taped to the borderless digital space? Is the posting agent seeking to play the role of mediation for an imagined virtual community, or is he/she unconsciously conceptualizing life threatening experiences as mere ‘performance’ to be filmed and diffused? Most importantly, what inferences can we make from the global citizen’s tendency of making a video footage of a violent act (of both perpetrators and victims) to share on the digital space instead of possibly intervening to save lives?  Is the mediator spatiotemporally taking a distance from the supposedly close and distressed subject and, instead, fantasizing acceptance and proximity with the virtual and  unidentified virtual community? Is the mediation of an actual life-threatening experience an unconscious vampire-like act of sucking life from the real victim that guarantees life in the virtual space?  Or is this a reconfiguration of the proximate subject/distanced subject binary? Several similar questions may keep popping up especially when we conceptualize the mediator as a ‘performer’, who in a stroke of banalizing violence and vulgarizing death himself/herself conceives of the object of violence as a mere ‘performer’ to be ‘liked’ and ‘shared’.

Another area of research in which the SIG is interested is how in the new digital order, both so-called ‘performers’ and their ‘audience’ are somehow trapped within a system of self-commodification. The classic binary between human performer/human audience should be recast as a systemically-driven, algorithmically-controlled interactive process whose mechanisms should be rigorously deconstructed. This special interest group will analyse these processes as a soft undercurrent that globalizes and merges identities within a worldwide order governed by supra-governmental, economic and political interests, one which nevertheless contains within itself diverse forms of cultural resistance which themselves demand equally to be identified.

While the above may be food for thought or preliminaries for research work, the SIG is also interested in the classical artistic performance of violence to measure the impact of the global on the local cultural expression of violence and to investigate the possibility that it may be an undeclared motor that drives the world to a converging commonality. One way this may be examined is through the organization of joint workshops  that compare artistic performance of violence between student groups belonging to two countries that are geographically and historically apart. Similar workshops may also be organized to compare academic with artistic expression of violence both on the local and the international plans. The SIG also envisages a plan for organizing the 2023 biennial conference in Agadir, Morocco, depending on the range of free international mobility that the current pandemic allows.