Aesthetics of legitimacy: Resisting the effects of power with "grassroots" news & queer sasquatches

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If, as Michel Foucault argued, "truth" reflects relations of power, what legitimate cultural forms reflect resistance to those relations? In other words, how is it possible to protest "truth" without seeming foolish or simply wrong? One of the ways dissenting subjects overcome this discursive double-bind is through the use of aesthetics to undermine structures of discursive legitimacy. This paper argues that 'structures of legitimacy' maintain their discursive visibility through conditions of the legibility of power's expectations, the credibility of the conditions which have given rise to these expectations, and their appropriateness in the circumstances. The tactical use of aesthetics to both challenge 'structures of legitimacy' and assert competing 'structures of legitimacy' can be observed in citizen-produced cultures of dissent such as The Dominion magazine, a Canadian-based national citizens journalism project, and Ladies Sasquatch, a sculpture installation by artist Allyson Mitchell. The Dominion champions the epistemic authority of those least served by hegemonic conditions in Western liberal democracies and capitalist forms of economic organization; and Ladies Sasquatch (re)appropriates public space for radical political lesbian identity. The Dominion and Ladies Sasquatch, like other manifestations of cultural resistance, must encounter the conditions of their own (il)legitimacy through the practices of knowledge production in which they engage, and they do this through the tactical use of aesthetic experience. An 'aesthetics of legitimacy' offers an approach to better understanding how these practices challenge and mobilize relations of power within the discursive settings of cultural imagination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-56
Number of pages24
JournalAmerican Communication Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Aesthetics
  • Discourse
  • Domination
  • Journalism
  • Legitimacy
  • News
  • Resistance
  • Truth


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