The Politician as Performer: A Practical and Theoretical Assessment

Kimberley D Mullins
Arts and Social Sciences, Northumbria University of Newcastle, UK
November, 2006
 

Abstract

The following thesis examines the possibility that the contemporary Western political leader can be assessed and understood as a performer. It subsequently highlights the various repercussions of this statement, from theoretical, practical, historical and cultural perspectives. Through an extensive, multi-disciplinary literature review and case specific examples, the author argues that researching the politician as a performer has both practical and theoretical value.

Included in this review are analyses of key contemporary issues surrounding political performance. The various uses of contemporary media, including the skills and semiotics that they generate, are discussed. Questions are raised regarding the audience’s ability to interpret the information they receive through mediated performance. A working definition of audience is developed, to include those who consume and interpret political performance.

Also explored in relation to political performance are questions of contemporary celebrity, performativity, and feminism. The thesis suggests that not only is the politician a performer, but that the related theories of performance have an impact on political dialogue at a variety of levels. As is highlighted in the thesis, existing literature has not examined the politician from this perspective. Therefore the work does contribute to the body of knowledge around performance and cultural studies.
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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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