Activism as a mobile aesthetic form (Jeannine-Madeleine Fischer, Thomas Kirsch)

In activism, social grievances and political claims are made publicly visible and are in part communicated through the protesters’ bodily motions. Activists perform their resistance in specific ways and, in doing so, give rise to aesthetic forms, such as the toyi-toyi dance in South Africa. Such enactments of collective corporeality are opening up a political space of articulation that is linked to the emotions and affective horizons characterizing local people’s everyday experiences.

We are interested in the question of the embeddedness of such activist aesthetic forms within particular social arrangements, and in how the spatial-temporal mobility of these forms leads to variances of their affective and semantic qualities. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the South African city of Durban we look at the transnational and transregional circulation of activist aesthetic forms in order to examine the ways in which they are adjusted to local conditions, are made part of complex social networks, and come to form mobile assemblages. More particularly, we shed light on how activists articulate local vulnerabilities (such as concerning the human body, a given residential area or precarious social relations), enacting these vulnerabilities through the means of aesthetic-affective forms that are not of a purely local nature.