Embodying Alternatives in Global Justice Social Movements: Radical Clowning, Giant Puppets, and Tactical Carnivals

  • Julien Cossette York University


Artistic elements have transpired Western social movements throughout the last few decades. Consequently, the efficacy of these cultural acts of resistance has been widely debated. In this paper, I refrain from reifying this sterile discussion by suggesting that its epistemological basis misreads activism through a rigid instrumentalist lens. Reflecting on radical clowning, giant puppetry, and tactical carnivals, I argue that such expressive and creative actions are not merely spontaneous materializations out of thin air, but rather well-thought modes of resistance. I seek to highlight the generative possibilities of these forms of direct action to argue that cultural activism and resistance should not be taken lightly. I submit that play is a meaningful political mode whose effects can extend beyond the performance. It is a way of exposing, but also an alternative way of learning, knowing, and being in the world. Play, however, can lose its edge. It must be understood as only one tactic in a rhizomatic assemblage with ââ¬Åmultiple lines of flightââ¬Â (Scholl 2010:160) that thrive on diversity. To this end, I conclude with a note on demographics and accessibility, emphasizing that cultural activism may not be considered as a tenable strategy by everyone.