In motion, out of place: The public space(s) of Tourette Syndrome

Kat Kleman Davis, Jeffrey Sasha Davis, Lorraine Dowler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


According to Doris Humphrey, "Nothing so clearly or inevitably reveals the inner man [sic] than movement and gesture...the moment you move you stand revealed, for good or ill, for what you are" (The dance notebook, 1984). Tourette Syndrome, characterized by motor and vocal tics, elicits stigma for just this reason: the tics and movements it causes have revealed Touretters as something beyond the 'normal.' This paper examines the ways Touretters are perceived and received in public spaces, using published illness narratives and film documentaries to address the question of why the reactions TS invokes are so severe. We will demonstrate how the stigma surrounding the disorder stems from the perception of Touretters as disruptive to the order and health of public spaces. To describe the production of stigma and the violent reactions to TS individuals, we draw upon theories of bodies and performativity from feminist studies, Catherine Waldby's work with the imaginary anatomy, and geographical perspectives on the social construction of space. The geographic studies of space are used to illuminate discussions of people's life experiences by showing how body movements associated with illness produce stigma by transgressing the unwritten codes that govern particular public spaces. Our intention in this paper is not to introduce new empirical data, but rather to analyze the mechanisms of stigma formation produced by the complex relationships between the functioning of social spaces and individuals' experiences of illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-112
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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