A minor theory of direct action politics and performance in New Orleans’ economic justice movement

In this paper, I develop a minor theory that blurs boundaries between prefigurative direct action and symbolic performance to reconsider strategies for resistance and world-building. Drawing on participant observation and interviews of economic justice organizers and activists in New Orleans in 2015, I examine two events through this minor theory: an immigration reform protest and a collaboratively written skit about income inequality. By emphasizing the performance of protest and the potential for protest through performance, I consider how these events empowered activists to make claims on spaces of the city, develop long-term embodied solidarities, disrupt dominant narratives, and enact more just alternatives. These events took place against the backdrop of intensifying racial and economic inequalities in post-Katrina New Orleans, following a long history of both repression and resistance in the city. Through performance-based direct actions, New Orleans’s economic justice movement moves beyond a reactive politics rooted in outrage and anguish toward a direct action politics constructive of a more just world.

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