Performance and Politics

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

This second year undergraduate class will focus on the variety of ways in which performance is enacted in politics, broadly construed.

It will augment more conventional approaches to politics by demonstrating the ways in which performance either attempts to soften and legitimise or conversely challenge and subvert institutions, interests, and power. The first third of the class concentrates on the concepts behind performance (rhetorical persuasion, narrative, symbol and script) and the key elements of performance (props, costuming, the performer, and media edits).

The second third of the class considers performances put on by the state with different degrees of audience engagement (state ceremonies, trials, and elections), and the final third of the class on performance in contestation from below or outside the regular institutions of the state (protest, social movements, and the resort to violence and terror). The module concludes with a general evaluation of what makes for effective performance in politics, and the importance of the audience.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Display greater fluency in writing interpretive analysis
  • Gain heightened awareness regarding the ubiquity of performance in politics and international studies
  • Identify the component elements of performance in politics and international studies
  • Compare and contrast different styles of performance in politics and international studies


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with:

  • 2 hour seminar per week 

Method of assessment

  • Assignment 1: 20%
  • Assignment 2: 30%
  • Assignment 3: 40%
  • Seminar participation: 10%

Suggested reading

  • Shirin Rai, " Political Performance: A Framework for Analysing Democratic Politics", Political Studies
  • Julia C. Strauss and Donal D.C Cruise O'brien, essays from Staging Politics: Power and Performance (IB Tauris, 2006)
  • Shirin M Rai, Milija Gluhovic, Silvija Jestrovic and Michael Saward, The Oxford Handbook of Politics and Performance (forthcoming)
  • Wendy Hesford, "Staging Terror" in  Carol Martin, Dramaturgy of the Real on the World Stage (Palgrave 2010)
  • Elisabeth Anker, Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom (Duke, 2014)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules