Staging Uncivility, Or, The Performative Politics of Radical Decolonial Iconoclasm


  • Matthias Pauwels North West University



Decolonisation, Iconoclasm, Colonialist Heritage, Performative Politics, Frantz Fanon, Jacques Rancière


In this article I reflect on the deployment of crass vandalism in contemporary decolonial and anti-racist struggles, as exemplified by the recent activist campaign against Belgium’s colonialist patrimony. Through a consideration of two internal, “enlightened” critiques of such vandalist activism, I argue that an irresolvable, recurrent conflict between two fundamental performative politics, based on the performance of civility and barbarity respectively, plays itself out here. In recourse to arguments by Benjamin, Žižek, Jameson and Fanon, I offer a redemptive critique of the second type of politics and examine the “paradoxical efficacy” of “staging barbarity” for decolonial, anti-racist purposes.

Author Biography

Matthias Pauwels, North West University

Matthias Pauwels is a post-doctoral researcher at North-West University’s School of Philosophy. His doctoral thesis critically investigated Jacques Rancière’s work on aesthetics and politics (2015). His current research focuses on socially engaged art practices, popular protest movements, and radical decolonial politics in contemporary South Africa. Some of the results have been published in the academic journals Cultural Politics, the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, De Arte, and Theoria, as well as the volume African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics (Brill, 2020). Pauwels’ early publications in cultural-political theory include the monograph Too Active to Act: Cultural Activism after the End of History (Valiz, 2010) and the volume Cultural Activism Today: The Art of Over-Identification (Episode, 2007).



How to Cite

Pauwels, Matthias. 2022. “Staging Uncivility, Or, The Performative Politics of Radical Decolonial Iconoclasm”. Krisis | Journal for Contemporary Philosophy 42 (1):61-76.