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.
Performative Protest in the Scared City of Damascus
In Les Mots, the fatherless Sartre (‘Jean Sans-père’, to parody the title he had originally envisaged) records that: ‘Rather than the son of a dead man, I was given to understand that I was a miracle child’ (Les Mots, 13). This ‘good fortune of belonging to a dead man’ (14), he recalls a little further on, assured his status as ‘[a] marvel … a conspicuous favour of destiny, … a gratuitous and always revocable gift’ (14-15). The first delightful yet ambiguous consequence of this abstract provenance is an ‘incredible’, and sometimes unbearable, ‘lightness of being’ (13). A later and more menacing consequence is that the ‘imaginary child … from six to nine years old’, living in and through the ‘imagination [of his] intellectual exercises’ (92), discovered when he went to bed at night that he was becoming ‘a solitary adult, without father and mother, without hearth and home, almost without a name’ (94).
Lightness , Edith Turner (2006: 5) speaks of anthropology “as a discipline [that] walled off poetry, magic, and religion.” She describes the ways that anthropology disciplined her and Victor Turner’s ability to speak openly about their own embrace of