Politics of Performance: the Embodiment of Violent Narratives in Cosplay

Katarina Helene Skouveroe Birkedal

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The prevalence of militarised narratives in popular culture is an intriguing
testament to their purported appeal. In cosplay, wherein people (re)create and
wear the costumes of their favourite characters, the embodiment of these
narratives is often described as liberating and empowering. Embodying the
aesthetics and performance of a character enables the cosplayer to experience
the affects of the character. These expressions are inherently linked to gender
identity, and to the manifestation of agency commonly perceived in perpetrators
of depicted violence. To investigate these issues, I made and wore my own
costumes and engaged as a cosplayer to interact with other cosplayers as an
insider, and, crucially, to feel and record the affects on my own body. This
autoethnography makes an original contribution to IR, increasing the
understanding of politics of subjective experience: specifically it provides a
unique understanding of the oft-mentioned sensation of liberation, and provides
insight to the aesthetics of such performances. This understanding can
furthermore be useful in the study of political dress, and the appeal of militarised
narratives more generally. Drawing on the writings of Butler, Baudrillard, and
others, I posit that the appeal of the embodiment of violent, militarised
narratives lies in their depicted agency.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2017
EventInternational Studies Association 58th Annual Convention: War, Aesthetics, and Embodiment 1: Creative Practices - Baltimore, United States
Duration: 22 Feb 201725 Feb 2017


ConferenceInternational Studies Association 58th Annual Convention
Abbreviated titleISA
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Violence
  • Militarism
  • Popular culture
  • Aesthetics
  • Performance
  • Embodiment
  • Performativity
  • Resistance


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