The Tragedy of a Whistleblower. Adamczewski’s <i>Tragic Protest</i> and the Case of Chelsea Manning


Bringing most carefully guarded secrets into light, political whistleblowers deconstruct the essential oppositions upon which superpower ideologies are founded: they draw popular attention to what has been relegated to the margins of the dominant discourses. Torpedoing the reputations of the most powerful organizations in the world, and well aware of the inevitability of retaliation, they put themselves in a most precarious position. Fighting against impossible odds in the name of the greater good, facing the gravity of the consequences, they become heroes in the classical sense of the word: arguably, their dilemmas are not unlike those faced by Antigone, Hamlet and other iconic figures in history, literature and mythology. Such is the central premise of this article. The methodological frame for the analysis of the material in this study has been adopted from Zygmunt Adamczewski’s The Tragic Protest, whose theory, bringing together classical and modern approaches to tragedy, allows for the extrapolation of the principles underlying the protest of such iconic figures as Prometheus, Orestes, Faust, Hamlet, Thomas Stockman or Willy Loman to discourses outside the grand narratives of culture. His theory of the tragic protest serves as a tool facilitating the identification of the features of a quintessential tragic protester, which Adamczewski attains by means of the study of the defining traits of mythological and literary tragic heroes. It is against such a backdrop that I adapt and apply Adamczewski’s model to the study of materials related to Chelsea Manning in search of parallels that locate her own form of protest in the universal space of tragedy.


whistleblower; tragedy; tragic protest; political activism; cultural icon; protester; Chelsea Manning; ideology; war crimes; WikiLeaks

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Published : 2020-08-16

KoltunM. (2020). The Tragedy of a Whistleblower. Adamczewski’s <i>Tragic Protest</i&gt; and the Case of Chelsea Manning. Review of International American Studies, 13(1), 215-233.

Monika Koltun
University of Silesia 

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