Performing Citizenship: Acts of writing

Marino, Alessandra (2015). Performing Citizenship: Acts of writing. In: Isin, Engin F. ed. Citizenship after Orientalism. Palgrave Studies in Citizenship Transitions. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 189–206.



This chapter examines the performative quality of writing by drawing upon speech act theory and literary criticism. Focusing on Arundhati Roy and Mahasweta Devi’s acts of collecting people’s stories and deeds, I explore the subject formation of activist writers as a result of the process of facilitating the passage from oral accounts to written texts. Marginalized subjects and their acts, disqualified from the domain of politics proper, find in literature a field of struggle. After addressing how Roy and Devi’s literature promotes the visibility of ‘unimagined communities’, I turn to the performative quality of their writing, which shapes and supports citizenship struggles. ‘Small dreams’, ‘small talks’, and ‘small gods’ counteract the capitalist imperative to have ‘big’ revenues and ‘big’ development projects. Their transformation of the language of rights reveals how indigenous political subjectivity exceeds the capture of law.

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