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Performance Anxiety: An exploration of spectacle, spectatorship and moral panic in the twenty-first century

Newman-Storen, Renée (2010) Performance Anxiety: An exploration of spectacle, spectatorship and moral panic in the twenty-first century. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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In the last decade there has been an explosion of new technologies that enable discourse, power and truth formations to be produced, contested and dispersed. As communication and information technologies continue to evolve, so too do the ways in which individuals construct identities and form communities. The notion of a moral panic is utilised to describe those critical moments in time and space when social norms are perceived to be under threat. I suggest that the complex interplay of spectacle, spectatorship and moral panic involved in such instances can be both conceptualised and interrogated as performance. This dissertation draws upon two distinct performance paradigms – one theoretical and the other practical – to inform a critical reading of three significant ‘social events’ of the last decade: the drug-trafficking trial of Australian woman Schapelle Corby in Indonesia in 2005, the end-of-life legal case focused on American woman Terri Schiavo, which culminated in 2005, and the race relations associated with the ‘Redfern riots’ which occurred in Sydney in 2004. Informed by a range of theoretical positions from Michel Foucault, Zygmunt Bauman, Giorgio Agamben, Judith Butler, Baz Kershaw, and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, this dissertation fleshes out contemporary understandings of mediatised spectacle and spectatorship, with the aim of revealing the ways in which they contribute to creating and sustaining moral panic. A critical finding of the dissertation is that through both subjectification and objectification processes the central players and the spectators become indivisible from the spectacle itself, thus maintaining the interweaving cycle of spectator, spectacle and moral panic. By exploring the ways in which people interpret and respond to social phenomena, the possibilities for performance and social theory can be extended.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Grehan, Helena
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