Parodic parasitism
Clowning and mass protest
in Humour, subjectivity and world politics
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Chapter 5 interrogates the use of parody by global social movements. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s concept of ‘grotesque’ or ‘Ubu-esque’ power, in addition to Judith Butler’s writing on parody, it focuses on the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA), a group who played a prominent role in several large actions in the mid-2000s. The chapter makes the case that the carnivalesque parody characteristic of CIRCA and the so-called ‘global justice movement’ more widely intervenes into the prescriptive and established ‘reality’ of global capitalism by representing it in unfamiliar terms as something strange and ‘grotesque’. In particular, the chapter argues that the parodic militarism of the Clown Army served this function by highlighting the violent practices that enable global capitalism to operate on a day-to-day basis. CIRCA’s ‘parodic parasitism’ draws on a long tradition of comic performance whose lineage can be traced back to ancient comic drama – and indeed, to the parasite. Questions arise, however, about the political meaning of parody – and indeed of humour more generally – in an age where various political figures, including the President of the United States, openly embrace the grotesque as a mode of governance.

Humour, subjectivity and world politics

Everyday articulations of identity at the limits of order

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