Creating Space for Shakespeare with Marginalised Communities

Mackenzie, Rowan Mia (2021). Creating Space for Shakespeare with Marginalised Communities. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis adopts an interdisciplinary approach to topics which have traditionally been studied individually, examining the communication opportunities Shakespeare’s work can offer for marginalised people. It considers the way Shakespeare can be used by and with incarcerated people, people with mental health issues, people with learning disabilities and people who have experienced homelessness, all fields in which academic enquiry is usually isolated to one single type of marginalisation. The thesis is structured around a framework which draws on the work of spatial theorists, such as Lefebvre, Foucault, Soja and Bourdieu and builds on existing research in marginalised theatre as well as detailed ethnographic study and a significant core of research as practice. My central hypothesis is that Shakespeare can be used to affect the spatial constraints of people who feel imprisoned, whether literally or metaphorically, enabling them to speak and to be heard in ways which previously may have been elusive or unattainable.

The read-across for those who are marginalised is significant with many people experiencing multiple issues of marginalisation and it is therefore vital that research moves from the current siloed approach and embraces this intersectionality to enable it to represent the reality of life for those on the fringes of society. This thesis aims to begin this work with the hope the dialogue across these areas continues to expand as a result of the foundations this work provides and the legacy which has begun to be created through the establishment of permanent, collaborative in-prison theatre companies and the annual Applying Shakespeare Symposia which draw together practitioners and academics. The thesis is structured according to spatial activities; considering the creative, performative, reflective and mediated spaces in which Shakespeare can both be used and also have the effect of manipulating and altering the space in which the activity takes place.

My research as practice embodies trauma-informed principles, examining the ways in which consistency, longevity, trust and collaboration enabled the development of personal resilience, positive autonomy and stronger communication skills. Through analysis of a wide-range of UK and international initiatives this thesis demonstrates the ways in which Shakespeare’s work can be used to alter and remove communication constraints. Space can be created for people to find their own way of expressing themselves in a way which mainstream society can understand, whilst at the same time challenging society to ‘see better’ and to hear better. This is not a process of social homogenisation but about encouraging positive interactions and removing the stigma of marginalisation.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, The Shakespeare Institute
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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