Performing Rebellion: Karaoke as a Lens into Political Violence

Brenner, David. 2018. Performing Rebellion: Karaoke as a Lens into Political Violence. International Political Sociology, 12(4), pp. 401-417. ISSN 1749-5679 [Article]

BrennerD - Performing Rebellion - forthcoming.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (520kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

In explaining political violence, Conflict and Security Studies commonly focuses on the rational decision-making of elites. In contrast, this article considers the everyday aspirations of rebel grassroots. Understanding their lifeworlds is important, as their interaction with rebel elites shapes the collective trajectories of revolutionary movements and, thus, wider dynamics of war and peace. This article analyzes the social practice of revolutionary karaoke music in Myanmar's Kachin rebellion as a window into these hidden social dynamics of political violence. It does so by merging a relational reading of rebel figurations with a visual ethnographic methodology that moves beyond the textual study of propaganda lyrics. Instead, it analyzes the audio-visual aesthetics and social practices of revolutionary karaoke. This critical mode of inquiry reveals the emotional dimension of rebellion, that is, its appeal to affect rather than reason. It also suggests that revolutionary cultural artifacts can be more than just instrumental propaganda vehicles for instilling elite ideologies into un-agential masses. Indeed, the article shows that many young Kachin are not just passive consumers of propaganda. In karaoke bars and music studios, they actively perform rebellion. In so doing, they coproduce their own rebel subjectivities and rebel political culture at large.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):

Related URLs:


10 April 2018Accepted
5 July 2018Published Online
7 December 2018Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

28 Sep 2018 15:07

Last Modified:

10 Jun 2021 15:47

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)