Miasmatic Performance: Women and resilience in carceral climates

McPhee, Molly. 2018. Miasmatic Performance: Women and resilience in carceral climates. Performance Research, 23(3), pp. 100-111. ISSN 1352-8165 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article distils and disinters the socio-legal airs of a term, miasma, largely known in the contemporary period as a discredited theory of disease causation. For millennia miasma has been a confused diagnostic, ascribing religious, medical, social and legal pronouncements in an attempt to define the origins of corruption: not (purely) of air, but corruptions of persons passing through the commons. Today, miasma’s fogs continue to envelop and shape society within climates of stigma. Returning to miasma, I suggest here, can offer ways of articulating the performance registers of social stigma as a carceral power. In this article I develop a concept of miasmatic performance as a way to subvert and counter-map the criminalizing impact of stigma in carceral society. I contend that considering miasma as a performance register of law can also help to indicate its climates of extra- and interlegality.

Miasmatic performance describes theatre’s ability to create dissident connections and intensify audience awareness of their own social performance from within carceral society. Performance strategies in the works I investigate here reposition criminal identities as porous, intersubjective conditions; they circumvent perceptions of the stigmatized as other, avert redemption narratives, and delay or deny cathartic resolution. Miasmatic performance makes stigma part of the collectivity of a performance as it subtends and twists temporalities, social and legal conditioning, and the limits of the collective body.

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Theatre and Performance (TAP)


20 August 2018Published Online

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21 Jun 2023 15:09

Last Modified:

22 Jun 2023 10:51

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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