Flying above Bloodshed

Performative Protest in the Scared City of Damascus

in Contention
Ziad Adwan Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

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Syrian activists adopted the flying demonstration protest form in 2011 during the Arab Spring. A flying demonstration occurs for a few minutes, and then the demonstrators run away. Protestors mainly chose this form to avoid deadly confrontations with the regime’s secret police. This article examines how flying demonstrations challenged the Syrian state’s media allegations that no demonstrations were taking place. Action, spectatorship, aftermath, and catharsis were key concepts from the theater and performance fields that allowed Syrian activists to intensify the demonstrations and achieve certainty, making flying demonstrations a consistent phenomenon in the capital, Damascus. I analyze the flying demonstrations theories brought from Richard Schechner’s performance theory and Augusto Boal’s invisible theater. Although demonstrators were not considering theater during their protests, I conclude that flying demonstrations’ theatrical characteristics were essential to making this phenomenon visually compelling, encouraging more participation, and, to some extent, guaranteeing safety during deadly Syrian events.

Contributor Notes

Ziad Adwan is a theater practitioner. He earned his PhD in Theater Studies at Royal Holloway, working on “Mistakes in Theatre.” He taught performance theory, system of rehearsals, and mask techniques at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damasucs, Syria. He has acted in several plays and movies. He was the artistic director of Invisible Stories—street theater events staged in different places in Damascus. He lives in Berlin, directs theater, and runs the workshop “Using Theatre Games to Harmonise in New Places.” He is currently affiliated with the Global Theatre Histories research project at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

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The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest

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