What is it about?

It is about the unanticipated effect of undergoing chemo as an arousing experience. This piece draws from a real-life experience with chemotherapy and a performance piece. The article frames the experience as a rehearsal in which engaging in the exploration of not-yet-known phenomena, generates a pleasant arousing experience. Arousing, as an action verb, gestures towards eroticism as well as towards openness for the creation of new relations and possibilities.

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Why is it important?

Despite the mainstream asexualization of people living with cancer, this article opens possibilities for living chemotherapy as an experience of curiosity and arousal. In so doing, it creates possibilities for people living with cancer to frame their experiences differently. It engages with performance theory, affect theory, and queer/crip theory-activism, introducing the notion of 'arousal' as doing political work for queer/crip performance theory.


Placing arousal and chemotherapy side to side might seem too unthinkable to many. This inimaginable relation is at the root of the political work I hope this piece can do: bringing eroticism to people living with cancer. I also hope to offer rehearsal as a mode for individual and collective exploration of bio-medical events as creative acts of resistance.

caro novella
University of California, Davis

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Arousing Formlessness, Performance Research, August 2017, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/13528165.2017.1414405.
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