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Marked/Unmarked Bodies

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In the conclusion, Kirsty Sedgman examines how she came to study the ‘discourses of reasonableness’ she has identified throughout this book. This chapter describes what it is like to feel for the first time the weight of being judged by strangers, and argues that behaviour-policing causes harm in asymmetrical and culturally-located ways. It concludes by proposing theatre as a place in which we might confront wider injustices and exclusions , by rethinking our codes of behaviour within public space.


  • Cultural diversity
  • Exclusion
  • Normalisation

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-99166-5_6
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  1. 1.

    As Robyn Longhurst describes, the very act of growing another human is to disrupt corporeal boundaries ‘between inside and outside, self and other’, with expectations of respectable containment breached by the dangerous propensity of pregnant bodies to ‘seep and leak’ (2003: 84).

  2. 2.

    For example, for people from low-income families hiring a babysitter is often not in fact an easy prospect at all. I am trying here to use the term ‘intersectionality’ in the way it was originally intended by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1997): to point towards the complex power differentials and inequalities within multiple layers of social subjectivity.

  3. 3.

    As Maritza Reyes (2014) explicates, this is a problem that must be considered intersectionally: parenting disproportionately affects women over men, but not all women are affected equally: parenting impacts on working-class women, women of colour, and single mothers most deeply, and especially so where these categories overlap.

  4. 4.

    There is not the space in this book to properly address how claims of disrespect are used to deny the legitimacy of protest. Freshwater’s Theatre Censorship in Britain (2009b) shows how etiquette has been used as a defence against protesting in theatre; for a more recent example see e.g. Diep Tran’s (2018) article about the backlash for spectators protesting against ‘yellowface’ at the Muny Theater. For a broader view of how people from unaffected social groups police the appropriateness of protest see Tom Rorke and Adam Copeland’s discussion of Colin Kaepernick (backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers). Kaepernick’s ‘take a knee’ political action was intended to ‘draw greater attention to police violence against black and brown people in the United States’ (2017: 85). The authors explain how ‘[o]n October 10, in an interview with Katie Couric, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg weighed in on Kaepernick’s protest. […] Ginsburg said, “I think it’s really dumb of them. Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful”’. As Rorke and Copeland explain, ‘Ginsburg grants Kaepernick the legal right to protest, but convicts him of ignorance and a lack of respect without saying exactly what it is that Kaepernick does not know and who exactly Kaepernick is disrespecting’ (2017: 93). Dismissing people as ‘dumb and disrespectful’ is a powerful way to stifle dissent, by focusing attention on the injured party’s supposed ‘incivility’ rather than addressing their legitimate concerns.


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Correspondence to Kirsty Sedgman .

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Sedgman, K. (2018). Marked/Unmarked Bodies. In: The Reasonable Audience. Palgrave Pivot, Cham.

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