Activism and Performance (DRA2087)

StaffDr Rebecca Hillman - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to introduce students to ways in which activism has been performed in different cultural and historical contexts to achieve political, social or environmental objectives. It encourages an understanding of the performative complexity and social function of, for example, direct action, street protest, culture jamming and hacktivism. Students will engage with key terms pertinent to this area, including efficacy, risk, détournement, spectacle, performativity, and the choreography of action. They will learn to situate performance in the wider framework of issues of globalisation and neoliberalism, and will consider what is at stake for artists, activists and publics in these contexts. The module aims to increase students’ confidence and employability by developing their critical and presentational skills, and by engaging them in ethical enquiries of direct relevance to their environment. It also aims to instil in them a passion for research and an awareness of the broad applicability and transformative power of performance.


Sessions will incorporate experiential learning (‘learning-by-doing’), breaking up the discussion format with small-scale collaborative tasks and exercises, including the creation of short experimental performances/artistic interventions. Students will demonstrate their learning in small-group presentations which may include a performative element, and in which they will provide a theoretically informed analysis of activist practice. At the end of term students will have the opportunity to pursue independent research on an area/areas of particular interest, in response to a prompt set by the module convenor.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Identify and explain key theoretical terms and ideas pertinent to the study of activism as performance, and make links between past and present artistic activism.
  • 2. Understand existing intersections of performance, social struggle and political change, and imagine new ones.
  • 3. Produce a theoretically informed and creative analysis of activist practice(s) in oral format, with one or more of your peers.
  • 4. Analyse selected examples of activism from a performance-studies perspective and present your findings in essay format.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Contribute research to small groups in effective presentations; evaluate audiovisual evidence; and analyse complex material.
  • 6. Apply library and IT skills in independent additional research.
  • 7. Explore theoretical concerns and synthesise findings in practical and written tasks.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Develop personal research skills and initiative to set personal objectives, and to identify and evaluate personal learning strategies.
  • 9. Develop confidence in the public and creative presentation of researched material.
  • 10. Balance between self-direction and collaborative work; self-management, collaborative working skills, problem solving, critical analysis and valuing own and others’ ideas and beliefs.
  • 11. Develop an enhanced awareness of ethical, social and global issues of diversity and power.

Syllabus plan

Each class will be themed around a particular topic such as Situationist practice, activist performance and uprisings, feminism and performance protest, community theatre and community organising, culture-jamming, and digital activism. Weeks 1-8 will contain sessions on key skills and a practical workshop; weeks 9-12 will feature small-group presentations. Week 1 will be an introductory session; week 12 will focus on student essay projects and conclusions about the module.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities33Mixed-mode seminar activities
Guided independent Study134Class preparation (assigned reading and a/v materials)
Guided independent Study25Small-group presentation preparation
Guided independent Study108Essay research, preparation, and writing

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Small group presentation pitches10 minutes1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10verbal (from tutor)
Essay plan and rough draft1,000 words (max.)1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10One-to-one verbal (from peers and tutor)

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Small-Group Presentation4040 minutes1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10written
Essay602,000 words1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Small-group presentationIndividual Presentation (20 minutes) OR a 2,000-word essay1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

BANKSY, 2006. Wall & Piece, London: Century.

DEBORD, G. 2005. Society of the Spectacle, Detroit: Black & Red.

DRAGIÃ?�EVIÃ?�-ŠEŠIÃ?�, M. 2001. 'The Street as Political Space: Walking as Protest,

Graffiti, and the Student Carnivalization of Belgrade' in New Theatre

Quarterly, Volume 17, Issue 01, pp 74-86.

FUENTES, M.A. 2012. ‘Investments Towards Returns’: Protest and

Performance in the Era of Financial Crises, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies: Travesia, 21:3, pp 449-468.

HILLMAN, R. 2015. ‘(Re)constructing Political Theatre: Discursive and Practical

Frameworks for Theatre as an Agent for Change’, New Theatre Quarterly, Vol. XXXI, Part 4.

KNABBS, K (ed.) 2006. Situationist International Anthology, Berkeley: Bureau of

Public Secrets.

KROIJER, S. 2015. Figurations of the Future: Forms and Temporalities of Left Radical

Politics in Northern Europe, Oxford; New York: Berghahn.

LICHTENFELS, P & J ROUSE (eds.) 2013. Performance, Politics and Activism,

Basingstoke, Palgrave.

LITVIN, M. 2013. ‘From Tahrir to “Tahrir”: Some Theatrical Impulses toward the

Egyptian Uprising, Theatre Research International, 38.2, pp 116-123

MASON, P. 2013. Why it’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions,

London: Verso.

MCKAY, G. 1998. DiY Culture: Party & Protest in Nineties Britain, London, Verso.

NOTES FROM NOWHERE (eds.) 2003. We are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of

Global Anti-capitalism, London: Verso.

REED, T.V. 2005. The Art of Protest:Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights

Movement to the Streets of Seattle, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

ZITER, E. 2014. Political Performance: From the Six Day War to the Syrian Uprising, Basingstoke: Palgrave.


ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Key words search

activism, protest, political theatre, community organising, performance studies