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Never Mind the Ballots

The Edible Ballot Society and the Performance of Citizenship

Matthew Hayes

During the 2000 Canadian federal election, members of the Edible Ballot Society (EBS) protested what they considered to be the “futility of electoral politics” by eating their ballots. This article argues that these actions, while illegal, were performances of citizenship intended to produce a creative rupture in the given definition of the Canadian state and electoral process. The analysis is informed by critical scholarship on protest and humor, and draws on Mikhail Bakhtin’s analysis of carnival and Engin Isin’s framework of “acts of citizenship” to situate the EBS protest as a form of prefigurative politics that is embedded in and yet challenges neoliberal discourse. The EBS action attempted to highlight the Canadian state’s refusal to accept its own emergence as an ongoing political project rather than a static entity, and was pushback against the proscribed voting process designed to open up new spaces for democratic reform.

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Frauke Mennes, John P. Hayes, David Kloos, Martha Lagace, Morten Koch Andersen, Somdeep Sen, Matthew Porges and Sa’ed Atshan

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