In 2011, Time Magazine named the "protester" person of the year, arguing that protest has become "the defining trope of our times" and the protester "a maker of history".

More than anything, however, this making of history is a creative process. The post-democratic experience of disempowerment at the grass-roots level of many European societies coincides with the urgent need for new visions of social prosperity and wellbeing as revealed by the recent crisis of economic, environmental and social sustainability.

In the wake of this multiple sustainability crisis, unexpected forms of political and cultural activism (e.g. Occupy, Femen, Indignados, Wutbürger) have gained momentum and public visibility. Under the close scrutiny of an equally hopeful and skeptical public, these protest cultures are reconsidering older revolutionary positions and forging new cross-cultural visions of alternative wellbeing.

While counter-cultural protest movements had already been a motor of major socio-cultural change in Europe, they have been profoundly reconditioned by complex trends of (dis)engagement, (de)politicisation, (trans)nationalisation and (post)democracy since the mid-1990s.


The three-day international conference Performing Protest. Re-Imagining the Good Life in Times of Crisis draws attention to protest movements, activist arts (literature, film, performance, theatre, visual arts), theoretical considerations of protest, and the dynamic interaction between them. It discusses these modes of engagement with a special focus on artistic practices that imagine social wellbeing and respond to the experience of political disempowerment and democratic dysfunctionality. Fostering dialogue between scholars, arts performers and political activists it questions the extent to which artistic practice opens up new forms of protest and articulates new models of democratic participation while also testing their viability in virtual concretization.

What will be discussed is thus the role of artistic production as a test arrangement, both probing and problematizing new models of civic participation.

Since participants will include academics as well as artistic practitioners and policy makers, this event aims at fostering a true interdisciplinary and interartistic dialogue, in which the study of literature, film, visual arts and theatre goes along with theoretical and philosophical reflection on discourses of protest and visions of utopia.

In order to integrate different approaches and viewpoints, the conference will employ a variety of formats of interaction, ranging from academic papers over workshops and roundtable discussions to performances and screenings.