Difference and Inclusivity


with Marjana Johansson, Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow

The aim of this project is to explore the mobilising potential of diversity festivals - i.e. festivals by and for socially marginalised communities - while also assessing whether their staged, ‘spectacular’ quality may render their diversity politics neatly contained and commodified. We thus seek to evaluate the challenges that such festivals face in intervening in existing architectures of inclusion.  

To explore how we might understand the meaning of bringing bodies together in festival space, we draw on Butler’s (2015) politics of assembly. Butler argues that it matters that bodies assemble; in doing so, they exercise their right to appear, and demand to be recognised. What becomes important to understand is that who or what appears is regulated so that ‘only certain kinds of beings can appear as recognisable subjects’ (p. 35). Whether somebody is legible and therefore allowed to appear in the social sphere partly depends on the ‘infrastructural conditions of staging’ (p. 19), a notion which here takes on a particular meaning as festival organising is precisely about staging.    

Further, following Puar's (2007) critique of disciplinary containment, we ask whether festival as spaces of staged inclusion serve in fact as an instrument of panoptic power that 'feed the epistemological will-to-know of control societies' (p. 115). We thus ask:


If we are to understand inclusion as an act of normalisation, and therefore a violent act, is there a way to recuperate the spirit of inclusion? Can the space of festival(s) help us think through the possibilities of inclusion as something other than violence?


Butler J (2015) Notes toward a performative theory of assembly. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Puar J (2007) Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham: Duke University Press.