Affirmative Freakery, Freaky Methodologies: Circus and Its Bodies without Organs in Disability Circus

David Fancy


This paper uses the immanentist philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari to explore how a circus and disability project called The Recounting Huronia Cabaret involving intellectually disabled survivors of institutional abuse helped develop what I describe as an “affirmative freakery” in participants. This mode of affirmation of difference provided marginalized bodies with the opportunity to exceed the schematic normative/nonnormative binary in which disabled bodies are often constrained. In the Recounting Huronia Cabaret, the differently virtuosic potentials of the disabled body are explored in juxtaposition to more traditionally normative notions of circus virtuosity. The also paper asks how can we think through and beyond what has come to constitute the relatively impermeable distinction between “(mainstream) circus” and what is often called “social circus”—that “other” of circus (proper) that is understood to engage the social and political more directly than its allegedly more politically disinterested and aesthetically accomplished relation.

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