In A Cruel Theatre of Self-Immolations: Contemporary Suicide Protests by Fire and Their Resonances in Culture, Polish theatre director and scholar Grzegorz Ziółkowski examines the “derailing spectacle” of suicide protests by fire and how “protest self-burners are treated as vehicles through which the collective problems of society, its tensions and crises, are exposed” (28–29). Ziółkowski considers protest self-burnings as performances: intentional and public communicative acts that use imagery to transform the spectator and prompt political change. To position suicide protests by fire as theatre, he uses Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, particularly the notion of cruelty as “irreversible and absolute determination” that provokes the audience to action (15). Ziółkowski also borrows from anthropologist Clifford Geertz to create “thick descriptions” of protest self-immolations that draw from journalism as well as scholarship in anthropology, performance studies, political science, and sociology. While Ziółkowski is not the first to study protest self-burnings as...
A Cruel Theatre of Self-Immolations: Contemporary Suicide Protests by Fire and Their Resonances in Culture
SUSANNE SHAWYER is a dramaturg, theatre historian, and Associate Professor of Theatre at Elon University. Her research on dramaturgies of protest and theatre pedagogy has been published in Theatre Journal, Theatre Topics, Research in Drama Education, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Performance Matters, Canadian Theatre Review, and multiple anthologies. She is Affiliate Faculty—Dramaturgy Specialist with Theatrical Intimacy Education, an organization dedicated to training theatre makers in consent-based practices.
Susanne Shawyer; A Cruel Theatre of Self-Immolations: Contemporary Suicide Protests by Fire and Their Resonances in Culture. Ecumenica 1 November 2021; 14 (2): 294–297. doi: https://doi.org/10.5325/ecumenica.14.2.0294
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