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Saturday 7 December 2019, Rob Lyons

What does it mean to be normal?

Listen to the debate from the Battle of Ideas festival 2019.

There is something of an obsession with ‘normality’ today. Sally Rooney’s novel, Normal People, was widely acclaimed for its sensitive portrayal of everyday contemporary relationships. The TV smash hit Fleabag was likewise praised for its unflinching portrayal of ‘normal’ British middle-class sexual mores. But attitudes towards ‘normality’ seem difficult to get a handle on today. On the one hand, campaigns to raise awareness for a variety of social or psychological ills seek to show it is not ‘abnormal’, for example, to experience depression and that such people ‘are not alone’. But on the other hand, the proliferation of identity characteristics encourage people to be celebrate difference, uniqueness and not being ‘normal’. What are we to make of this shifting understanding of what it is to be normal? Should we just accept that everything is unstable, that we can’t expect a single category of ‘normal’ to be helpful? Does society need a concept of normality, if only to define common sets of beliefs and values or does it enforce conformity? Should we celebrate being normal?

DR FRANKIE ANDERSON
psychiatry trainee; co-founder, Sheffield Salon

DR ASHLEY FRAWLEY
senior lecturer in sociology and social policy, Swansea University; author, Significant Emotions and Semiotics of Happiness

DR BETH GUILDING
academic, Goldsmiths, University of London; co-editor, Narrating the Passions: new perspectives from modern and contemporary literature; columnist, Times Higher Education

VANITY VON GLOW
internationally ignored superstar; cabaret performer; host, The Vanity Project

CHAIR: JANE SANDEMAN
chief operating officer, The Passage; convenor, AoI Parents Forum; contributor, Standing up to Supernanny

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RELATED EVENT

Battle of Ideas Festival 2019

9:30am, Saturday 2 November 2019, Barbican, Silk Street, London

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