On being cast: Identity work

Kirstin Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This article examines the relationship between being cast and identity, arguing that casting not only functions as an index of identity in a given context, but also reveals quotidian identity work. I analyse Zawe Ashton’s Character Breakdown, framing it as an example of an actor’s effort to decolonise casting (in a British context). Drawing on Judith Butler and Randy Martin, I define identity work as negotiating between value abstractions, social discipline and intimate corporeality. Character Breakdown depicts a search for different ways to cite identity and thereby different ways to labour. I explore how an actor materialises in being cast, the surrogation involved in identity work, and the possibilities that resistant casting practices have held for reconstituting that work. I contextualise the portrayal of present-day casting in Character Breakdown with archival sources documenting the history of casting and being cast in the United Kingdom. Casting in the present is portrayed as both haunted by repertory typologies and engaged in new, still limiting forms of stratification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-51
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • casting
  • identity
  • work
  • Casting in the UK

    Kirstin Smith (Speaker)

    12 Jan 202213 Jan 2022

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

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