'Dis-ease' and the Performance of Radical Resistance in the Maze Prison

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In his study of Northern Ireland, Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland (1991), anthropologist Allen Feldman proposes that the H-Blocks of the Maze prison were full of ‘myths, local histories, performance spaces, carnivals of violence, symbolic kinship, death rituals, and animal totems’ (Feldman 1991: 166).2 Throughout Formations of Violence — and indeed elsewhere in the extant literature on the Maze prison — the events that took place in the Maze are described as ‘theatre’, ‘theatrical’ and/or as ‘performance’. To a certain degree these terms are deployed poetically to highlight the spectacular, internally spectated and performance-like nature of many of the events within that carcerial space. Even so, the use of such terminology in studies that are not from performance or theatre studies calls to mind the fact that, to some degree, all theatre and performance is concerned to explore presence and absence, visibility and invisibility, representation and ‘reality’. This concern with visibility or presence is precisely at the heart of the different protests performed in the Maze prison between 1976 and 1981. My contention in this chapter is that the learning of Gaelic (the Irish language), the so-called ‘dirty protests’ (1979–81) and the 1981 hunger strikes were performative attempts to rewrite the narrative of the prison space and to make radically visible the body and body politic.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerforming (for) Survival: Theatre, Crisis, Extremity
EditorsPatrick Duggan, Lisa Peschel
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9781137454270
ISBN (Print)9781349568574, 9781137454263
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


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