Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Poetry of Revolt (Egypt, 2011)

On Poetry and Protest, from "The Poetry of Revolt", exploring rhymes and chants of the Egyptian Revolution.

Anyone who has ever chanted slogans in a public demonstration has also probably asked herself at some point: why am I doing this? what does shouting accomplish? The question provokes a feeling of embarrassment, the suspicion that the gesture might be rote and thus empty and powerless. Arguably, this nervousness is a form of performance anxiety that, if taken seriously, might remind us that the ritual of singing slogans was invented precisely because it has the power to accomplish things. When philosophers speak of “doing things with words,” they also remind us that the success of the locutionary act is tied to the conditions in which it is performed. This is another way to say that any speech act is highly contingent—its success only occurs in particular circumstances, and even then, its success is never a given. Success, if it is to occur, happens only in the doing of it.


Lyle Daggett said...

Having chanted things in public demonstrations many times during my life, I can say that one of the things I've noticed, and -- for me -- central to the act, is that it becomes quickly a communal experience.

My momentary shyness and hesitation melt away quickly in the heat of the many other voices all around me chanting the same things. It becomes an almost tactile way of reminding myself that I'm not alone.

Philip Metres said...

Lyle, thanks for checking in; yes, it is the embodiment of a collective, a recognition that we're not alone.