Pussy Riot and the Politics of Profanation: Parody, Performativity, Veridiction

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Abstract

The article addresses the performances of the Russian feminist-punk band Pussy Riot as a paradigm of the politics of profanation developed in the recent work of Giorgio Agamben. Drawing on Agamben's genealogies of the concepts of parody, blasphemy and profanation, the article challenges the depoliticising interpretation of Pussy Riot's scandalous performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow in February 2012 as a blasphemous parody of religious rituals. Instead, we argue that their ‘punk prayer’ exemplifies the logic of profanation that reclaims the performative force of prayer by wresting it away from the conventions and rituals governing its possible use. While not conforming to J. L. Austin's conventional ‘felicity conditions’ of the performative act, practices of profanation resonate with the experience of performativity as ‘veridiction’, analysed by Michel Foucault with reference to the ancient Greek parrhesia and by Agamben in the context of Pauline messianism. The article concludes with the discussion of implications of this profanatory performativity for political subjectivation and wider social transformation.

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