Should I Not Scream?: Performative Anger in Rafeef Ziadah's Spoken Word Poetry
In this paper, I examine Palestinian Rafeef Ziadah’s spoken word poetry, focusing on how her performative anger turns her poems into acts of decolonial resistance. Specifically, Ziadah's performance mobilizes the painful memories and impact of the 1948 ethnic cleansing on Palestinian communities and challenges false narratives about Palestinians in the global public culture. In her poems, Ziadah draws on what Audre Lorde called a “well-stocked arsenal of anger” and focuses it “against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being.” Drawing on Judith Butler and J.L. Austen’s understanding of performativity, I show that in her spoken word poetry, Ziadah’s performance of anger via body language, vocal inflections, use of repetitious speech, and other means do not merely describe but they also enact reality, turning her poems into “speech acts” that resist Orientalist stereotypes and Zionist narratives about Palestinians. Finally, she uses her performative anger to implicate her privileged audience as complicit and to stir them from their apathy toward action on behalf of the Palestinian cause.