Theatre state

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In political anthropology, a theatre state is a political state directed towards the performance of drama and ritual rather than more conventional ends such as welfare. Power in a theatre state is exercised through spectacle. The term was coined by Clifford Geertz in 1980 in reference to political practice in the nineteenth-century Balinese Negara,[1] but its usage has since expanded. Hunik Kwon and Byung-Ho Chung, for example, argue that contemporary North Korea is a theatre state.[2] In Geertz's original usage, the concept of the theatre state contests the notion that precolonial society can be analysed in the conventional discourse of Oriental despotism.[3]


  1. ^ Geertz, C. (1980) Negara: The Theatre State in Nineteenth-Century Bali. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691007780.
  2. ^ Kwon, H. & Chung, B-H. (2012) North Korea: Beyond Charismatic Politics. Rowman & Littlefield, Chapter 2. ISBN 1442215771.
  3. ^ Heder, S. "Political Theatre in the 2003 Cambodian Elections", in Strauss, J. C. & O'Brien, D. C. (eds.) (2007) Staging Politics: Power and Performance in Asia and Africa. I. B. Tauris, p. 151.