With Russia entering into war on their neighbour Ukraine, and the daily wave of images, cruelty, posturing, social media savvy, political statements, propaganda, I can’t but help thinking about what the performativity of war in this case is made up of, next to the very real suffering inflicted. For Putin it seems to be very much of about performative aspects like status, asserting strength, even if that hasn’t worked out as such entering the third week of fighting. It is the performativity angle that will determine whether there’s an off-ramp for him, or whether escalation is the only ‘logical’ route. It was definitely performativity that built up to this over many years, as I encountered in my work in the region, percolating through even to the expressed opinions and vocabulary of those who actually should have seen it for what it was. It also leads to performative acts by other governments, a dance macabre playing out on a seperate stage from the actual fighting and bloodshed, and for a different audience. For Europe it is likewise a performative effort to firm up geopolitical positions, at an uncommon speed born I suspect from Brexit and pandemic experiences, with some at least forward looking aspects such as more quickly cutting fossil fuel use.

Having read Stephenson’s Termination Shock early this year, in which the performativity of war played a big role as well as geopolitical rebalancing, I think I set myself up for confirmation bias w.r.t. performativity, while fighting to quit doomscrolling every other minute.

One reaction on “The Performativity of War

  1. This is something that hits me the hardest now, especially since in terms of languages and social networks I am exposed to all sorts of different performances that have real costs for real people between my connections.

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