Materialising dissent: Pussy Riot’s balaclavas, material culture and feminist agency

Chambers, Paula (2020) Materialising dissent: Pussy Riot’s balaclavas, material culture and feminist agency. In: Feminist Art Activisms and Artivisms. Valiz. ISBN 9789492095725

Abstract

This chapter explores the specific material qualities of the balaclavas made and worn by the Russian feminist performance group Pussy Riot. The balaclavas are analysed as objects of activist feminist materiality with reference to the ‘feminine’ qualities of the materiality itself (tights), also to processes of material engagement (hasty hacking, the home made object), both materiality and making seen here as the manifestation of feminist dissent. In the essay What is a Feminist Object? Feminist Material Culture and the Making of the Activist Object, (2016) Alison Bartlett and Margaret Henderson propose a feminist system of objects within which the material culture of feminist activism is defined by the primacy of the object’s political agency. Bartlett and Henderson identify four major categories of feminist objects: corporeal things, world-making things, knowledge and communicative things, and protest things. I examine Pussy Riot’s balaclavas in relation to the identificatory criteria of each of these categories, as such presenting the balaclavas as objects of material culture with feminist agency.

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