Book cover for 'Acts of Conspicuous Compassion'
Google Preview

Acts of Conspicuous Compassion

Performance Culture and American Charity Practices
Sheila C. Moeschen


Acts of Conspicuous Compassion investigates the relationship between performance culture and the cultivation of charitable sentiment in America, exploring the distinctive practices that have evolved to make the plea for charity legible and compelling. From the work of 19th-century melodramas to the televised drama of transformation and redemption in reality TV’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Acts of Conspicuous Compassion charts the sophisticated strategies employed by various charity movements responsible for making organized benevolence alluring, exciting, and seemingly uncomplicated.

Sheila C. Moeschen brokers a new way of accounting for the legacy and involvement of disabled people within charity—specifically, the articulation of performance culture as a vital theoretical framework for discussing issues of embodiment and identity dislodges previously held notions of the disabled existing as passive, “objects” of pity. This work gives rise to a more complicated and nuanced discussion of the participation of the disabled community in the charity industry, of the opportunities afforded by performance culture for disabled people to act as critical agents of charity, and of the new ethical and political issues that arise from employing performance methodology in a culture with increased appetites for voyeurism, display, and complex spectacle.

“Genuinely interdisciplinary, fresh, original, and timely. This book offers a compelling trajectory through types of charity and their forms of display, offering cultural analysis and historical narrative in conjunction. It will appeal to readers in disability, performance, cultural, and gender studies as well as American studies more broadly. Both accessible and sophisticated, it would be ideal for undergraduate and graduate courses.”
—Sally Chivers, Trent University

“An important, logical step forward in the growth of disability performance scholarship.”
—Michael Chemers, University of California, Santa Cruz

Sheila Moeschen holds an Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama from Northwestern University. She is a Boston-based independent scholar and freelance writer. Her website is 

Praise / Awards

  • "Acts of Conspicuous Compassion would make a useful addition to undergraduate and graduate courses in these disciplines, and may also serve as a primer for those working within the charity industry interested in developing a more nuanced understanding of disability and representation. "
    --Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies
  • "In the face of the ongoing assaults upon the infrastructures of social welfare that have made the lived experience of disability increasingly precarious, Moeschen's nuanced and deeply researched account of the crucial ways that charitable practices have shaped public sentiment toward bodily difference is an especially vital contribution."
    --Disability Studies Quarterly

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 224 pages.
  • 9 B&W illustrations and 1 color illustration.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2013
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02927-3

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

Add to Cart
  • $28.95 U.S.

  • Kindle

Add to Cart

Choosing any of the above format options will take you to the appropriate e-retailer to complete your purchase. Pricing may vary by individual e-retailer. Please see e-retailer site for purchasing information.

For more information about our Digital Products, including reading systems and accessible formats, visit our Digital Products page.

Related Products

Add to Cart
  • $70.00 U.S.

Add to Cart
  • $28.95 U.S.



  • charity
    disability studies
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
    Jerry Lewis
    social welfare
    reality t.v.


Stay connected