Monday, 1 August 2011

Staging Stigma


Michael M. Chemers, with a  Foreword  by Jim Ferris,  Staging Stigma: A Critical Examination of the American Freak Show (Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History), Palgrave Macmillan 2008.

Chemers argues that the freak show

is not an accidental symptom of a general tendency to marginalize persons with disabilities, by a strategic, even premeditated, process of stigma management. Often (but not always) mercenary and exploitative, freak shows nevertheless represent successful attempts by disabled people (and other stigmatized individuals) to gain control of the process of stigmatization. (Chemers 19)

Some readers may find his observations challenging; his view, for instance that we 

“are attracted to freak shows because they are discourses not only of deviance but of getting away with deviance" 

(Chemers 137).


Introduction: The Ugly Word
Staging Stigma
Prurience and Propriety
Enlightenment and Wonder
Pathology and Prodigy
Exploitation and Transgression
Conclusion: God's Own Artwork 

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