The 2012 performance of Pussy Riot’s “Punk Prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, their subsequent release of an extended and edited video, and their ultimate arrest for committing “hooliganism” generated a large amount of interest both within Russia and on an international scale. While Western accounts and analyses were marked by their tendency to frame the political content, Russian responses were framed by references to tradition and history. Significantly, there was disagreement amongst the latter with regard to the activist value of Pussy Riot. I argue that this ambiguity arises from a profound socio-spatial anxiety that was triggered by the Pussy Riot performances but was never examined. At the core of the anxiety lies a discomfort with the implications of Pussy Riot’s spatial transgressions because the techniques used to engage in activism ultimately invoked regimes of vision and technology to exert power over the public that implicitly resembles surveillance techniques used by the very object of criticism, the Russian regime.

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© 2015 Katherine Schroeder

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