Department of Geography

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Feeling Brexit: From Nationalist Atmospheres of Shame to Performing Ideas of the People

Tuesday 8 May 13:00 until 14:30
Arts C333
Speaker: Dr Angharad Closs Stephens, Geography Department, Swansea University
Part of the series: Geography Department Seminars


Feeling BrexitIt is by no means clear what kind of a ‘thing’ Brexit is or what what might yet unfold from it (Anderson and Wilson, 2017). What is clearer is that this has become a significant event in UK nation-time. In this article, I address Brexit through the question of what Brexit felt like in the year following the vote on 23 June 2016. The question takes me to the affective atmospheres that surrounded this vote and to ideas of shame and resentment in particular. I argue that such feelings lead us to questions about the limits of British multiculturalism, and must be addressed in the context of the postcolonial histories that are also brought to the fore through this vote (Bhambra, 2017). Following Brexit feelings also takes me to an experimental theatre performance called ‘The Populars’, staged by Volcano Theatre Company in April 2017, nine months following the vote, in an old, disused Iceland supermarket building on Swansea High Street. This performance engaged Brexit through dance, music and playful ideas about ‘the people’. Whilst feelings of shame and resentment tend to reproduce ideas about ‘us’ and ‘them’, this performance refused to consolidate around identity groups or political positions, and instead began from the question of what Brexit felt like from the cosmopolitanism of the street. Through a discussion of this performance, and the work of Erin Manning on The Minor Gesture (2016), I argue that addressing ‘Brexit’ through affective atmospheres and performance avoids the state-centred political frame that often forms a precondition of debates about ‘populism’. Such a state-centred political frame is both reinforced, and simultaneously exposed for all its inadequacy, through ‘Brexit’. Alternatively, this play opens up the question of the people, of culture, and of Europe, and I argue that it invites us to consider new accounts of who the European people are, and what Europe must become.

All welcome.

Download the poster: Feeling Brexit: From Nationalist Atmospheres of Shame to Performing Ideas of the People

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By: Martin Wingfield
Last updated: Wednesday, 2 May 2018