Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz

Violent Democracies: Performance Practices of Death and Brutality as a claim to justice in Mexico and the United States


"In the presence of constant violence, death, and disappearances carried out by police forces and politicians, citizens in democratic societies have limited avenues for democratic participation to demand justice. The gap between just participation and the unfulfilled needs of communities

seeking justice adopt non-legislative actions. Performance practice is one such expression of these demands. I evaluate these demands from recent demonstrations that gravitate around the particular themes of enacting death and violence.


As case points I examine the recent social demonstrations in Berkeley and Oakland, CA, against police brutality in a spate of murders against black lives in the USA and a corrupt political system in Mexico. My analysis centers on the act of “die-ins” and executions as calls to defund militarized police forces in the United States and as witnessing disappearances in Mexico. Across the week-long demonstrations, in which I participate as performer/participant observer, we perform die-ins at traffic intersections as disobedient acts in support of justice for unarmed black men killed by police. In support of the forty-three students that were made to disappear by local authorities in Iguala, Mexico, we use forty-three protestors to stand in execution position for the duration of the protest.


Across both performances for different causes, this paper examines the embodied manner in which performances of death and violence serve as a political practice articulating claims to rights in violent democracies."



Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz

Ph.D. Student in Performance Studies

Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies

University of California, Berkeley