Polio monologues: translating ethnographic text into verbatim theatre

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  • University of Glasgow


Mass vaccination programmes mean that poliomyelitis is almost a forgotten memory in the Global North. But in reality its effects continue as many people who contracted paralytic polio in childhood may develop functional deterioration (Post-Polio Syndrome or PPS) in later adulthood; mass migration and escape from violence means that it is also re-emerging in contemporary societies. Thus it is crucial for different audiences to have opportunities to engage with, and understand the life histories of polio survivors and their personal experiences of disease and disability across biographical and historical time. This article discusses the process of using recorded delivery verbatim techniques, with disabled and non-disabled actors, to translate ethnographic research about social history of polio into a creative accessible medium for new generation audiences to learn about the hidden, often contested, histories of disability and disease that may collide with professional, medical and public discourse. Our contention is that ethnodrama can give a voice to the voiceless, and enable them to contribute to the production of new knowledge, health interventions and policy instruments that affect their lives.

Bibliographic note

Shah, S., & Greer, S. (2018). Polio monologues: translating ethnographic text into verbatim theatre. Qualitative Research, 18(1), 53–69. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794117696141


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-69
JournalQualitative Research
Issue number1
Early online date24 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • disability, life history, polio, recorded delivery, theatre