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OBERIU / RI-OBERIU (a cura di Simone Guagnelli e Laura Piccolo)

V. 15 (2022): OBERIU / RI-OBERIU

Performativity and Interpellation in “Elizaveta Bam”



This paper examines how Kharms uses performativity in his 1928 play Elizaveta Bam to explore the relationship between the subject and the state. The play follows Elizaveta as she attempts to escape a murder charge by cycling through a series of radically different and strange personae. Her many transformations obfuscate her actual identity and personality; in the context of her flight from men who would kill her, this ability to transform is a survival mechanism. Ultimately, however, she is caught, and Kharms frames this as an inevitability. This approach to the relationship between state and subject corresponds to Althusser’s concept of interpellation, which tracks the deep connection between individuals and the ideologies that surround them. This paper argues that Kharms makes the actor’s performance into the central device of the play, and in so doing, he uses the tools of theater itself to depict (futile) resistance to overwhelming state power.