“The Warrior archetype, writes author Siegel, has a firm grip on 21st-century American politics and culture….Trickster archetypes have no time for vengeance or violence in their pursuit of fun, but they often expose the dirty underbelly of society and the true motives of the powerful. Films made by the Marx Brothers, for instance, use slapstick humor as a vehicle for biting social critiques of elites and self-styled authorities. Folk stories crafted by enslaved Africans in the Americas used the West African Trickster god called Eshù Elégba to flip the narrative script about power dynamics between enslavers and the oppressed; they also highlighted the ways female Tricksters utilized clever chicanery to stave off “oppressive husbands, kings, and lovers.” An activist scholar immersed in the Bay Area’s bohemian counterculture, Siegel shows a playful writing style, replete with puns and inside jokes, that mimics the Trickster archetype in using humor against the dark, powerful forces that drive contemporary politics and society. His…interdisciplinary approach…combines history, sociology, anthropology, and literary criticism….A compelling catalog of Tricksters and a convincing analysis of their power.”
Trickster, the oldest archetype known to humanity, a semi-divine character who appears in every culture, enters the world in a premoral state. Through episodes of tricking others and themselves, Tricksters stumble into moral discovery. Tricking Power into Performing Acts of Love is filled with examples of the magic that comes with this malarkey, how it upends social orders and lifts the veil on a utopic world, The Play Society.
People and cultures draw on a mix of archetypes, the attributes of personality that make them who they are—Warrior, Caretaker, Magician, Fool, Hero, Sage—and Trickster. Tricking Power into Performing Acts of Love is about how grownups who have retained the ability to playful as they were when a child view and behave in the world. Such a grownup will consciously or unconsciously engage with the Trickster, and Tricking Power is about what could happen if society made more of that animating force. Today, an infatuation with the Warrior archetype tears society apart. The best response comes out of a more peaceful and playful approach. In a time of great political frustration and culture wars, Tricking Power into Performing Acts of Love casts a clear eye on our dilemmas and proposes the pursuit of fun and the refusal to take power seriously as a timeless and potent political strategy.
“…opens up to the reader the liberating role that irreverent and playful challenges have played in undermining oppressive social and cultural structures in history and today. Siegel both defines and extolls what he means by “disruptive play” with stirring descriptions of the victories and defeats of tricksters in history. He carefully examines early human history; art movements like dada; political movements like Abbie Hoffman’s 1960’s anti-war demonstration to levitate the Pentagon; and the anti-World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle. Siegel helps us understand the critically important contribution that seemingly unproductive play makes to building successful movements to save our world from the insanity of the all-pervasive status quo assumptions.”
Disruptive Play: The Trickster in Politics and Culture is about tricking power into performing acts of love. It journeys from ancient folkloric appearances of Tricksters such as Raven and Èṣù-Elegba, to their confined role in Western civilization, and then on to Trickster’s 20th century jailbreak as led by dada and the hippies. Disruptive Play bears witness to how this spirit informs social progress today, whether by Anonymous, Banksy, Bugs Bunny, or unrevealed mischief-makers and culture jammers. Such play is revolutionary and lights the path to a transformed society.
Disruptive Play connects knowledge from mythology, folklore, popular culture, art, politics, and play theory to make its case that to be playful means not taking power seriously. At critical mass, power collapses and leaves us swimming about in the waters of the morally indeterminate Trickster. New values emerge and could lead to some version of the dystopia that currently drenches popular culture. Or, if people can discern between the authentic contact and exhilaration of play, and branded, mediated, alienated pleasure, then we just might stumble and frolic our way to the Play Society.
This book is ideal for enthusiasts of the human condition and those who hold out for the vision, however slim, of the Play Society.