Performances of autonomy: Feminist performance practice and reproductive rights activism in Ireland | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Performance and Ireland
  • ISSN: 2044-3714
  • E-ISSN: 2044-3722

Abstract

This article considers feminist performance practices in relation to reproductive rights campaigns in an Irish context. Following the successful campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment in 2018 and the decriminalization of abortion in Northern Ireland in 2019, I explore the significance of feminist performance practices in developing discourses concerning reproductive autonomy and challenging the idealizing of motherhood. Through a discussion of key works by Áine Phillips, Amanda Coogan and myself, I outline how in deploying their bodies in their work live artists make visible the impact of oppressive gendered constructs and resist the policing and shaming of reproductive bodies in an Irish context. I demonstrate how through performing transgressive acts, live artists have ruptured the silencing surrounding both abortion and maternal experience. My article further critically reflects on the performances of the London-based direct-action performance group Speaking of IMELDA, drawing on my first-hand knowledge gained through my participation in the group’s successive performative interventions between 2013 and 2018. I discuss the group’s collective public vocalizations and, sometimes brazen, use of performance to unapologetically advocate for reproductive rights within an Irish context in a variety of social and geographical settings. I situate the performance activist aesthetics of IMELDA in voicing the intergenerational perspectives and solidarities of the London-Irish feminist diaspora as contributing to broadening understandings of Irishness. In outlining how the various performance practices discussed within this article have operated against cultural constructs of femininity and unashamedly advocated for reproductive autonomy, I locate performance as contributing to the development of feminist discourses.

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2020-12-01
2024-02-21
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