Pussy Riot

Not sure if you’ve been following Pussy Riot’s tussle with the Russian state, but the lead singer Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s closing statement is absolutely thrilling. It is difficult to imagine riveting political protest in the West. While the indictment of the “Corporate State System” might apply in the United States, and the cultural disruption of groups like the Yes Men is certainly engaging, the sheer inertia and success of the system renders many forms of protest inert and off-putting. In Russia, however, it sends a thrill down my spine to read: 

Essentially, it is not three singers from Pussy Riot who are on trial here. If that were the case, what’s happening would be totally insignificant. It is the entire state system of the Russian Federation which is on trial and which, unfortunately for itself, thoroughly enjoys quoting its cruelty towards human beings, its indifference to their honor and dignity, the very worst that has happened in Russian history to date. To my deepest regret, this mock trial is close to the standards of the Stalinist troikas. Thus, we have our investigator, lawyer and judge. And then, what’s more, what all three of them do and say and decide is determined by a political demand for repression. Who is to blame for the performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and for our being put on trial after the concert? The authoritarian political system is to blame. What Pussy Riot does is oppositional art or politics that draws upon the forms art has established. In any event, it is a form of civil action in circumstances where basic human rights, civil and political freedoms are suppressed by the corporate state system.
In a short overview, Slate’s Amanda Marcotte notes that Pussy Riot is drawing from Riot Grrrl’s movement repertoire, if you will, in taking feminism out of the classroom and into clubs and onto the street. What I’m finding riveting, perhaps because I’m a Cold War Baby, is the clarity of vision possible when one goes up against a totalitarian regime. Maybe it’s my old age talking. Nostalgia for an earlier era of protest in the West (doubtless an era that never existed as such).
If you’re new to Pussy Riot, you can see what they’re in jail for (anti-Putin protest in a cathedral, video here) and what they have to say about it (FU) on Slate or at Feministing. Or read the Guardian’s profile of the group’s lead singer (here).

5 Comments

Filed under Daily Disruption

5 responses to “Pussy Riot

  1. also see excellent series of posts and related comments about pussy riot, esp from theological perspectives, by charles cameron over at the zenpundit.com blog this past ten days or so.

  2. I’ve been following the Pussy Riot trial very closely, reading the live tweets from the court room, translations of their lyrics, etc. It’s an incredible embarrassment for Russia and modernity. I live in Moscow and it’s quite unsettling for me to see how they’ve been treated by the judicial system: they’re a little bit younger than me, we’ve listened to some of the same music, and hold many of the same ideals and they’re being persecuted for it. What would happen to me if I said the wrong thing at the wrong place and time?

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve written a follow-up post on the aftermath of the trial.

  3. Pingback: After the Pussy Riot Trial | Mobilizing Ideas

  4. Pingback: After the Pussy Riot Trial |

  5. Pingback: Profane Protest on Sacred Domain: Encountering the Contradictions in Religion and Activism | Mobilizing Ideas

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