Messy Connections: A Posthumanist Approach to Performance Practice Engaged with Recovery from Addiction.

Sloane, Catherine (2020) Messy Connections: A Posthumanist Approach to Performance Practice Engaged with Recovery from Addiction. Doctoral thesis, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.


In this thesis, I examine UK performance practices that involve people in recovery from addiction. I offer a theorising of such practices as recovery-engaged. By this, I refer to applied performance activity that is imbricated with an understanding of lived experiences of addiction and the particular practices used to maintain a recovery-orientated way of life. My research intervenes in the contemporary context in which advocacy for ‘arts on prescription’ has gained momentum in UK public health discussion, yet a cohesive network of recovery arts practices does not yet exist. Supporting the development of a network, I identify the distinctness of this arts practice.

Specifically, by drawing on posthumanist concepts of addiction, I identify recovery from addiction and performance practices with people in recovery as contingent on the varied assemblages comprising particular interactions with people, objects, space and socio-political systems. Building upon Manning’s discussion of the body as ‘an ecology of processes’ (2013), I offer the term bodies-in-process to frame recovery as an ongoing ecology of survival and regeneration. Connection with supportive others and atmospheres is considered vital for the continued development of recovery-orientated ways of being.

I apply my discussion of the ecology of recovery to my analysis of recovery-engaged performance practices and theorise these as systems of messy connections. Performance activity is thereby conceived as bodily encounters with other bodies-in-process, objects and their surroundings. These encounters are driven by the sensorial force, or affect, instigated through interaction with others, objects, space and socio-political environment. Through these layers of interaction, I offer what I consider to be the ethical and political priorities of recovery-engaged practice and indicate where further development might emerge. In particular, I consider the political potential of this performance activity to generate ‘atmospheres of recovery’ (Duff 2016) by instigating collaborative communities of recovery that facilitate active citizenship and, thus, become a potential site of ‘radical democracy’ (Mouffe 2013).


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