This presentation combines a metacritical exploration of contemporary approaches in cultural disability studies with analysis of disability representation in popular genre fiction. Whilst scholars have rightly problematized critical approaches based on identifying “negative” images of disability, and negative image scholarship has fallen out of fashion, I suggest that many recent works adopt a positive image approach which is equally problematic. I offer a range of examples from recent scholarship in the field, arguing that, even where the terminology of “positive” or “negative” is absent, the ideology is very much present. This situation arises out of methodological tensions within cultural disability studies: scholars find themselves trying to reconcile a Disability Studies paradigm primarily interested in the effect particular representations may have on the world, with a literary/cultural studies approach which acknowledges that the meanings created in the encounter between reader and text are unfixed and may vary widely from reader to reader. Despite the widespread sense that the field has moved beyond such methods, I suggest that approaches based on identifying negative (or positive) images may still have much to offer, and suggest how they might be rehabilitated, including a shift away from notions of positive or negative representations to that of positive or negative interpretations.

However, an alternative approach is to focus on to the potentials particular texts offer for rethinking or reconceptualizing disability in an ableist world. To this end, I put forward the notion that some texts offer reflexive representations of disability – representations which encourage readers to reflect upon their own understanding of “disability” and the values they attach to it. This is done through the foregrounding of four key motifs: conceptualization, prejudice, problematization, and access. I offer illustrative examples from contemporary fiction in the popular genres of science fiction, romance, and crime – genres that, in the main, have been neglected by scholars in cultural disability studies. I conclude by suggesting that the more constrained framework in these popular genres offers significant potentials for the creation of reflexive representations, and that popular genre texts offer an important avenue of investigation for cultural disability studies.

This talk examines the contradictions in contemporary culture of being a disabled artist or actor. The primary contradiction is that disabled artists are not treated as other artists are but rather are ghettoized in their disability. Yet if they manage to escape the ghetto, then they are not considered disabled artists. Likewise, disabled actors rarely get to play disabled roles. Rather the best roles for disabled characters tend to get played by non-disabled actors. The talk considers these paradoxes and some solutions that are possible.

This presentation concerns the bioethics of world building, of how we make and use our worlds. The set of ethical questions posed are : What kind of shared world have we built together? How does the shared world we build shape the human communities we occupy together? What kinds of people share the world we build?

Much has been written about the logic of eugenics, the pseudoscience that developed along with modernity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Enacted worldwide in policies and practices that range from segregation to extermination, the aim of eugenics was to rid society of disability and, by extension, disabled people. Eliminating disability and disabled people from the world as a utopian effort to improve the social order, a practical health program, or a social justice initiative is simply common sense to most people. Against the eugenic commonplace that assumes that the world would be a better place if disability could be eliminated, this presentation will consider why, from an array of philosophical perspectives, disability is something we might want to conserve.

Recently there has been discussion about the emergence of critical disability studies (Campbell, 2009; Shildrick, 2009; Meekosha and Shuttleworth, 2009; Goodley, 2011; Morgan, 2012; Shildrick, 2012). In this paper I provide an inevitably partial and selective account of this trans-disciplinary space through reference to a number of emerging insights including theorizing through materialism; bodies that matter; inter/trans-sectionality; global disability studies and self and Other. I briefly disentangle these themes and suggest that while we may well start with disability we often never end with it as we engage with other transformative arenas including feminist, critical race and queer theories. Yet, a critical disability studies reminds us of the centrality of disability when we consider the politics of life itself. In this sense, then, disability becomes entangled with other forms of oppression and revolutionary responses.

The talk explores the contact-zones between the affect theory, recently dubbed as “affective turn” (e.g. Clough and Halley 2007; Gregg and Seigworth 2010; Staiger, Cvetkovich, Reynolds and Morris 2010) and the critical disability studies. Analysing affects and affective intensities provides disability studies not only with “a different ontology, a different conception of social reality,” but also with a new perspective on the ways social reality produces and shapes disability. If affect can be understood as “the body’s ongoing and relatively amorphous inventory-taking of coming into contact and interacting with the world”, affect offers a performative register of complicated interpersonal interactions, as well as interactions of the subject with the material world and social structure (Gould 2009: 17-18, 20); in other words, affects provide a register of performative constructions of disability.

The ‘affective turn’ has foregrounded the “open-ended in-between-ness” of affects (cf. Gregg and Seigworth 2010) and (re)conceptualise affects as embodied encounters and events of dynamic relation; these emphases promise-first-to enrich the disability discussions on embodiment and embodied inter-subjectivity, and also-second-on the embodied interactions with social and ideological structures. To illustrate my theoretical discussion of the potential productive zones of contact between disability theory and the affective turn, I will use the concrete example of the neoliberal Czech republic and explore the relation (and potential interdependences) between the politics of shaming employed by disability activists in critiques of neoliberal austerity politics with the ideological structures producing disability shame. In other words, I will explore how we can use affects to explore conditions of (political) intelligibility and the “political imaginaries and their conditions of possibility” (Gould 2009: 3).

Literature cited:

  • Clough, Patricia Ticineto, Halley, Jean O’Malley. (Eds.) (2007) The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Gregg, Melissa, Seigworth, Gregory J. (Eds.) (2010) The Affect Theory Reader. Durham [N.C.]: Duke University Press.
  • Gould, Deborah B. (2009) Moving Politics: Emotion and Act Up’s Fight Against AIDS. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Staiger, Janet, Cvetkovich, Ann, Reynolds, Ann Morris. (Eds.) (2010) Political Emotions. New York: Routledge.

This presentation considers some of the multiple ways in which disability is situated at the center of a global and globalizing austerity politics, with its lowering of government spending, cuts to benefits and social services, and ubiquitous rhetorics of deficit or debt crisis. Positioning disability as an undertheorized central component of this globalizing politics, I examine resistance movements in a range of locations, including the U.S., Spain, and Chile. The presentation then puts forward a sustained reading of the cultural logic of austerity politics in the UK, using methodologies from both queer theory and crip theory. Through queer readings of The King’s Speech, marketing for the London 2012 Paralympics, and (as a counterpoint) crip activism in the United Kingdom in response to the Cameron government’s cuts to disability rights and services, I flesh out some of the complex and contradictory ways that disability materializes in our moment. Disabled people are both demonized by and paradoxically useful to the guardians of austerity politics in the UK, the US, and globally. Ultimately, my paper analyzes the neoliberal politics of affect in circulation around disability as well as the affective politics that crip and queer activists have generated in resistance to neoliberalism.

For the most time in history there were negative representations of crippness and other extraordinary bodies. At the moment we are witness of a new neoliberal script in which, to say it with McRuer, not only representations of extraordinary queer bodies exemplifying the cultural logics of neoliberalism. Indeed it`s to notice that there is a similar development in the field of dis/ability. With regard to this I want to outline in my talk cultural modes of representations from extraordinary crip bodies in western societies. My theoretical starting point is Halls critical analyses on the “Spectacle of the Other” where he was making a little journey through present cultural representations of “race” and “ethnicity” in images from popular magazines. In his article Hall was developing an analytical toolbox along the line about forms of racial/ethnical stereotypes and their apparent transformation.

Based on this, the aim in my talk is to discuss, if there is a real change of stereotypes from extraordinary bodies in cultural representations in current neoliberal times. Further more I want to ask which stories these new representations of crippness and queerness are telling us? How far do these representations, to citate McRuer again, initiate a neoliberal implosion of the able-bodied/disabled binary as it was developed by industrial capitalism? From a cultural based paradigm of dis/ability I will query this potential collapse in the area of biopower in technology advanced society. My thesis is that we can see a reformulation of dis/ability (and heteronormativity or gender) centered on a cyborgian utopia evoked through biopolitical discourses in the sciences. An utopia of a boundless and technological intensified bodies which displace the traditional borderlines of dis/ability. One important role in these refomulations on the relationship of body, nature and culture, in my opinion, are playing popular images of the bio-technological manipulated queer/crip body which arise by neoliberal capitalism. Because of that I focus in my talk at the theoretical-methodological level on the relationship between culture, visibility and modes of othering trough popular images of queer/crip bodies. In this sense I want to highlight a cultural notion of visibility as a central normative matrix and as a key concept for the emergent Cultural/Disability Studies. Insofar I have a critical view on stereotyping as an analytical tool for Cultural/Disability Studies, as well. At the analytical level I want to analyze these new cultures of visibility at the realm of neurocultures and here especially on the phenomenon of the increasing popularcultural images of neuroprosthesis. Referring to Rabinow and Haraway I contrast the hype about the queer/crip as cyborg which blurs every sociocultural binary system with the phenomenon on a new kind of so called liberal eugenics. In short, I want to scrutinize the utopean model of the cyborg and it´s transformation as apparent increasing central stereotype of dis/ability. For this reason I will analyze some few selected empirical material in my talk.

In the era of postmodernity, the disabled body can raise acute questions about the always ambivalent relationship between embodied subjects, sexuality and biotechnology. Where in the past, the term prosthesis intended some material object that stood in for a lack that was seen as a negative but compensatable aspect of embodiment, the emphasis now is firmly on enhancement and supplement. For many disabled people, the expression of sexuality relies to a greater or lesser extent on the deployment of prosthetics, no longer resulting in a less than perfect model of normative practices, but in a highly productive alternative that inevitably queers the meaning of sexuality itself. At the same time the notion of prostheses can be transformed to encompass the Deleuzian understanding of embodiment as necessarily entailing assemblage that may take both organic and non-organic forms.

Many current accounts of minority identity assume an early association with pain, an association that is not easily left behind, with the result that minority identity is effectively disabled by pain. This paper will explore the use of disability as a prop to denigrate the politics of minority identity. It will also provide an alternative description of the so-called pain of minority identity, using disability identity as an example.