The Play in the System

The Art of Parasitical Resistance

The Play in the System

Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 53 illustrations, incl. 19 in color Published: October 2020

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Media Studies > Digital Media, Theater and Performance > Performance Art

What does artistic resistance look like in the twenty-first century, when disruption and dissent have been coopted and commodified in ways that reinforce dominant systems? In The Play in the System Anna Watkins Fisher locates the possibility for resistance in artists who embrace parasitism—tactics of complicity that effect subversion from within hegemonic structures. Fisher tracks the ways in which artists on the margins—from hacker collectives like Ubermorgen to feminist writers and performers like Chris Kraus—have willfully abandoned the radical scripts of opposition and refusal long identified with anticapitalism and feminism. Space for resistance is found instead in the mutually, if unevenly, exploitative relations between dominant hosts giving only as much as required to appear generous and parasitical actors taking only as much as they can get away with. The irreverent and often troubling works that result raise necessary and difficult questions about the conditions for resistance and critique under neoliberalism today.


“Anna Watkins Fisher's figure of the parasite offers us insight into the contemporary condition in which, due to ubiquitous appropriation and financialization, every oppositional gesture seems to have already been coopted in advance. Her explorations illuminate the space in which artists and others are forced to operate today and outlines ways in which it may still be possible, albeit quite ambiguously, to maneuver, resist, and express opposition.” — Steven Shaviro, author of The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism


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Price: $27.95

Open Access

Spring 2020 Sale
Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Anna Watkins Fisher is Assistant Professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and coeditor of New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader.

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Table of Contents Forthcoming
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0970-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0884-2