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Performing Rebellion: Karaoke as a Lens into Political Violence

Brenner, David (2018) Performing Rebellion: Karaoke as a Lens into Political Violence International Political Sociology, oly013.

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In explaining political violence, Conflict and Security Studies commonly focuses on the rational decision-making of elites. In contrast, this article considers the everyday aspirations of rebel grassroots. Understanding their lifeworlds is important as their interaction with rebel elites shapes the collective trajectories of revolutionary movements and, thus, wider dynamics of war and peace. This article analyzes the social practice of revolutionary karaoke music in Myanmar’s Kachin rebellion as a window into these hidden social dynamics of political violence. It does so by merging a relational reading of rebel figurations with a visual ethnographic methodology that moves beyond the textual study of propaganda lyrics. Instead, it analyzes the audio-visual aesthetics and social practices of revolutionary karaoke. This critical mode of enquiry reveals the emotional dimension of rebellion, i.e. its appeal to affect rather than reason. It also suggests that revolutionary cultural artefacts can be more than just instrumental propaganda vehicles for instilling elite ideologies into un-agential masses. Indeed, the article shows that many young Kachin are not just passive consumers of propaganda. In karaoke bars and music studios, they actively perform rebellion. In so doing, they co-produce their own rebel subjectivities and rebel political culture at large.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Politics
Authors :
Date : 5 July 2018
DOI : 10.1093/ips/oly013
Copyright Disclaimer : © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Studies Association. This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in International Political Sociology following peer review. The version of record: David Brenner; Performing Rebellion: Karaoke as a Lens into Political Violence, International Political Sociology, oly013, is available online at:
Uncontrolled Keywords : Political Violence, Revolutionary Art, Visual International Politics, Rebel Governance, Myanmar/Burma
Depositing User : Users 8 not found.
Date Deposited : 13 Apr 2018 07:41
Last Modified : 05 Jul 2020 02:08

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