Can costume disarm? This is a larger historical question posed by Anarchopanda, the alter ego of Julien Villeneuve, a philosophy professor at the College de Maisonneuve in Montreal. As police attacks on students protesting tuition hikes became more violent, Villeneuve took to the streets in a $200 panda suit. The absurdity of a panda amidst protesters appears to have at least a marginal impact on police aggression. Apparently, it is not easy to charge a line of protesters reinforced by a panda as the docile figure emphasizes the disparity in power between baton yielding police and unarmed students and pandas. The qualities of the panda rub off on the protesters, reinforcing the peaceable nature of their action and underlining the violence of the police. See the full story here and be sure to watch the video.
There is a larger question of material efficacy here. Is the panda suit unique in disarming violence through a dramatization of power inequality. One wonders if other forms of dress might be, so to speak, suitable. The strategy here would be a version of the technology of enchantment that Gell described–a technology of pacification.