Performing Democracy: Non-verbal protest through a democratic lens

Selen A. Ercan, Hans Asenbaum, Ricardo Fabrino Mendonça

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contemporary protests draw on a rich variety of performances to communicate their messages, attract attention to societal problems and display potential solutions. In addition to verbal and textual expressions, protesters employ various forms of nonverbal expression, such as images, sounds, silence as part of their public performances. This article offers a way of making sense of nonverbal protest performances, relying on insights from contemporary democratic theory. It proposes a ‘democratic lens’, which supplements the ‘performative lens’ often used to comprehend performative protests and their effects on diverse audiences. The democratic lens enables us to distinguish between deliberative, agonistic, and antagonistic modes of democratic engagement and examine the ways they are enacted in performative protests. The article illustrates the utility of the democratic lens by focusing on the nonverbal performances of Black Lives Matter in the USA, pot and pan protest in Brazil, and the Knitting Nannas in Australia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-37
Number of pages12
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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