Loughborough University
Hazel McMichael PhD Thesis.pdf (2.43 MB)

The art of being spoken through: Ventriloquism as feminism after conceptualism

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posted on 2023-06-26, 07:49 authored by Hazel McMichael

What does it matter who is speaking? Voice is a vital concern, strategy, and trope in twenty-first century feminist discourses, where it is inextricable from identity politics. Imperatives to “speak out” have increasingly been superseded by cautions to “speak as” rather than “speak for”. Ventriloquism has frequently been invoked by feminists as a dead metaphor to name and problematise practices of speaking for others. This thesis questions what ventriloquism can contribute to feminist practices and politics of identity, location, and voice. Ventriloquism is reanimated as a political practice that has throughout history been predominantly deployed by women figured as oracles, witches, and hysterics. These figures are brought into transhistorical dialogues with a heterogeneous set of contemporary ventriloquial practices in Billie Whitelaw’s performances and Company SJ’s site-specific installation of Samuel Beckett’s Not I, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s performance video Mouth to Mouth, Caroline Bergvall’s book and performance Drift, and Vanessa Place’s book and performance of rape jokes. Close readings of these case studies examine how recitational and transmedial approaches that emerged in art, performance, and writing after conceptualism are mobilised to speak and witness various voices and stories that have been culturally, legally, and/or violently silenced. These include hysterical and “contained” women and children in residential institutions of postcolonial Catholic Ireland, women of the Korean diaspora in the US and US military sex workers in Korea, Black African migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea and queer citizens in Europe, and men who tell rape jokes on social media and feminists who “call out” and “cancel” them. Each chapter responds to the question of when and where it is strategic to speak as, for, with, and through other voices, bodies, and spaces.


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Loughborough University

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© Hazel McMichael

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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Marsha Meskimmon ; Jennifer Cooke

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  • Doctoral

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