Summer Seminar 2017

Wednesday May 10th

Dr Charlotte Jones and Dr Jen Slater
Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Time: 4.00pm - 5.30pm
Location: G.16, Brooks Building, MMU

School Toilets: Queer, disabled bodies and gendered lessons of embodiment


In this paper we argue that school toilets function as one civilising site (Elias, 1978) in which children learn that disabled and queer bodies are out of place. The small body of existing school toilet literature generally works from a normative position which implicitly perpetuates dominant and oppressive ideals. We draw on data from Around the Toilet, a collaborative research project with queer, trans and disabled people ( to critically interrogate this work. In doing this we consider ‘toilet training’ as a form of ‘civilisation’, that teaches lessons around identity, embodiment and ab/normal ways of being in the world. Furthermore, we show that ‘toilet training’ continues into adulthood, albeit in ways that are less easily identifiable than in the early years. We therefore call for a more critical, inclusive, and transformative approach to school toilet research.


Dr Jen Slater is a Reader in Education and Disability Studies in the Sheffield Institute of Education, Sheffield Hallam University, UK. Her research focuses on issues of disability, gender and the body. She is also interested in critical explorations of developmental discourse and issues of access/accessibility. Recently, musings on these topics have taken place through a cross-disciplinary, arts-based research project called, Around the Toilet, which explores the toilet as an embodied space of exclusion and belonging (

Dr Charlotte Jones is Research Fellow on the Around the Toilet project at Sheffield Hallam University and Research Assistant on the Universities Supporting Victims of Sexual Violence (USVSV) project at Brunel University London. She recently finished her PhD at the University of Sheffield on intersex people's experiences of relationships, intimacy and prejudice. Her research draws on wider debates in feminist theory, biopolitics, queer theory and critical disability studies.