Performing Antigone in the Twenty‐First Century
This chapter examines some productions in the late twentieth century (Fugard's The Island, Gambaro's Antígona Furiosa, and Glowacki's Antigone in New York) that have employed Antigone as a kind of homo sacer, and then applies this analogy in a more detailed discussion of Seamus Heaney's version of The Burial at Thebes at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 2004. Heaney's version was inspired by President Bush's ‘war on terror’ and the detention and ‘rendition’ of suspected terrorists in prisons beyond legal redress. The language deployed in the play echoed statements made by President Bush and evoked his administration's unwarranted invasion of Iraq and torture of prisoners. By comparing recent versions of Antigone that represent her as homo sacer, subjected to a liminal state between life and death, the chapter demonstrates how the ‘state of exception’ theorized by Georgio Agamben has become normalized in the twenty‐first century. It draws parallels between the ‘exceptional’ actions of governments such as the Bush administration and the Argentinian dictatorship, making up the laws as they go along, removing people from their homes and environment, and incarcerating or disposing of them outside the polis, outside the reach of their friends and families. Moreover, it shows that Western governments are taking advantage of the ‘war on terror’ to develop new methods of social control (such as increased security measures by the US Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, including more intensive customs inspections, omnipresent CCTV cameras, heightened threat alerts, etc.) that deprive citizens of their civil rights. By applying Agamben's notions of ‘homo sacer’ and ‘state of exception’ to these adaptations, as well as Slavoj Žižek's and Judith Butler's comments on recent political developments, it demonstrates the claim that Antigone makes on behalf of the disenfranchised of the world.
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