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Risky dialogues: the performative state and the nature of power in a postcolony

Willems, Wendy (2015) Risky dialogues: the performative state and the nature of power in a postcolony. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 27 (3). pp. 356-369. ISSN 1369-6815

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Identification Number: 10.1080/13696815.2015.1026881


Arguments on the performative state often treat performance as a practice that the state forces upon its citizens in rather monologic fashion. However, this contradicts the fundamentally fluid nature of performance, always evolving, malleable and never fixed or static. Focusing on the state-sponsored televised music gala and the genre of ‘urban grooves’, which emerged in the context of a broader revival of cultural nationalism in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, I discuss the complex and ambivalent ways in which these spaces operated as platforms of co-optation and resistance. Performance, therefore, is an inherently risky practice that does not always prove reliable in furthering the status quo. While the state was able to discipline musicians to a certain extent, restraint was limited and musicians had the ability to shape events in their own way. The practice of performance did not only present risks to those in power, but also offered opportunities to the state to solidify its affiliation with musicians, and to frame them as natural allies or supporters of the state. Ultimately, this proves that a dialogic understanding of power and resistance is crucial in order to make sense of the convergence between politics and performance in the postcolony.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 Journal of African Cultural Studies
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Date Deposited: 08 May 2015 14:53
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2020 05:42

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