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Research at St Andrews

Performing Emergencies: Staging disaster from Global Warming to Islamic State

Research output: Book/ReportBook


School/Research organisations


In the twenty-first century, the ‘emergency’ has become ubiquitous as an instrument of governance. From terrorism and economic crisis to immigration, our governments formally and informally invoke states of emergency with frenzied regularity. Emergencies can justify foreign policies, increase domestic mandates, provide opportunities for financial development and, as Walter Benjamin pointed out, transform the oppressive exception into the status quo. They also annex the present from any sense of temporality, since emergency protocol by design overrides any and every alternative perspective. The perpetual implementation of states of emergency thus robs the present of the context of a past, or the hope of a future.

Performing Emergencies will offer the first substantial theorization of the ways in which emergency is realised in – and as – performance. Acts which apparently precipitate states of emergency occur as (often spectacular) performances; these are then embedded in crisis-narratives built on display, mise-en-scène, scripting and participation, and broadcast to targeted audiences. Considering emergencies as ‘performances’ can therefore help to expose their operational mechanics, and suggest methods by which the futureless hegemonies they implement may be addressed. This argument will be developed through case studies into the so-called Islamic State, the Charlie Hebdo attacks, OCCUPY, the 2011 England riots, financial recession and ecological deterioration. Throughout this analysis, the book will concurrently examine the ways in which states of emergency have been reflected – and disassembled into their constituent theatrical elements – in contemporary performance practices.


Original languageEnglish
PublisherPublisher tbc
StatePublished - 2019

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