Word: Hygiene Theater On the stagecraft of sanitization.

Word: Hygiene Theater On the stagecraft of sanitization.

  • Words Precious Adesina
  • Photograph Tom Hartford

Etymology: In 2010, journalist James Fallows coined the term “security theater” in an article for The Atlantic, referring to measures put in place after the 9/11 attacks to give the general public a heightened sense of security. According to Derek Thompson, a colleague of Fallows, the coronavirus outbreak has generated similar performative behavior surrounding cleanliness. Writing in The Atlantic in July 2020, he borrowed Fallows’ phrase and dubbed it “hygiene theater.

Meaning: There are many things in life that have little or no purpose other than giving us reassurance: the sound of a car door slamming closed, the whir of a cash machine, the shutter noise of a smartphone camera. The same techniques are also used to offer a sense of security during the darkest of times.

The simp...

The full version of this story is only available for subscribers

Want to enjoy full access? Subscribe Now

Subscribe Discover unlimited access to Kinfolk

  • Four print issues of Kinfolk magazine per year, delivered to your door, with twelve-months’ access to the entire Kinfolk.com archive and all web exclusives.

  • Receive twelve-months of all access to the entire Kinfolk.com archive and all web exclusives.

Learn More

Already a Subscriber? Login

Your cart is empty

Your Cart (0)