This paper addresses the political role played by performance and social theatricality in the context of the inequalities in access to high-quality education produced by pervasive neoliberal reforms imposed during military regimes and consolidated during transitional periods in Chile. Performance and social theatricalities have become an essential element of political activism in contexts where re-democratization processes have relied heavily on spectacular democracy rather than participatory democracy. In the case of Chile, the critical discontent with the results of the neoliberal reforms implemented was marked by the eruption of the massive 2011 student movement that almost paralyzed the nation. An essential element of the movement success was their practical use of performance in political action to communicate protesters’ demands and to rearticulate the meaning of urban space. This essay demonstrates that these tactics, grounded on a poetics of the body, symbolically re-appropriated the neoliberal city—segregated and consumption driven—and transformed it momentarily into a lively and energized counter-neoliberal space, where a community marked by solidarity and the promotion of social change, emerged. Occupying the city became the overarching modality where students physically occupied public spaces with their bodies through demonstrations, school strikes and occupations, flash-mobs and public interventions. By massively appropriating the city through these various means, the movement became a tangible expression of both the neoliberal malaise and disenfranchisement characteristic of Chile’s transitional democracy.
Student movement, Theater
Education and Learning in a World of Difference
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session
Alicia Del Campo
Professor of Spanish, RGRLL, CSULB, United States