Week 4 Posts

Post your weekly response in the comments.

By the way, this disability studies conference at University of Pennsylvania on March 30-31st looks great. (Going to Philly costs about $25 by train and about 2.5 hours; it’s a fun day trip/overnight if you’ve never gone).

 

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9 thoughts on “Week 4 Posts

  1. In “Compulsory Able-Bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence”, Robert McRuer draws on Adrienne Rich’s theories about compulsory heterosexuality to form his own theory about compulsory able-bodiedness. Rich’s theory challenges language that posits heterosexuality and homosexuality as direct opposites, or homosexuality (specically lesbianism) as an alternative preference, when in reality homosexuality is always subordinate to the “normal relations of the sexes” that heterosexuality is defined as (McRuer 302). McRuer argues that it is this use of the term “normal” that takes away all semblance of any “choice” one might think exists between subordination and “normalcy”. This, McRuer states, is what makes heterosexuality compulsory (McRuer 302). In the hopes of adding to the work being done to dismantle both compulsory heterosexuality and compulsory able-bodiedness, McRuer argues that the two depend on each other in order to produce queerness and disability, and that queerness and disability, in turn, produce heterosexuality and able-bodiedness (McRuer 301, 306).

    McRuer then looks at definitions of the term “able-bodied”. He finds that “to be able-bodied is to be ‘free from physical disability,’ just as to be heterosexual is to be ‘the opposite of homosexual’” (McRuer 303). These definitions are, of course, senseless since it is a falsehood generated to maintain the marginalized status of what McRuer calls “critically” queer and disabled bodies that anyone can be completely able-bodied or heterosexual at any point in time (McRuer 305). These binaries (able-bodied and disabled, heterosexual and homosexual) are established in order to assert the dominant nature of the former over the later and to produce standards and deviations that have only the appearance of choice. This whole system is what creates the cultural consensus that “able-bodied identities, able-bodied perspectives are preferable and what we all, collectively, are aiming for” (McRuer 304). Again, the term preferable located in this often unspoken consensus leads one to believe that there is some sort of “preference”, or choice, involved in queerness and disability. It makes me think that beneath the desire to agree that heterosexuality and able-bodiedness are ideals is the desire to force those who are “critically queer” or “severely disabled” to make constant attempts to appear to be less queer or less disabled, for marginalized individuals to attempt to hide or throw off whatever it is that marginalized them, as if it were possible to do so.

    In “Bantu in the Bathroom”, Jacqueline Rose analyzes the trial of Oscar Pistorius. In what I see as her most intriguing insight, Rose argues that Pistorius had to stop making attempts to appear as normal as possible in order to create a legal defense that depended on his disability being a source of trauma for him, “when Pistorius shot through that door he himself could best be understood, because of his disability, by being compared with an abused woman, who, after years of pressure, finally snaps and kills her abuser (Rose 12). There is a lot to unpack here. Roles are switched: Oscar Pistorius becomes the victim of domestic violence in the place of his real victim, Reeva Steenkamp, whose murder at the hands of her partner forces her silence on the matter. Pistorius becomes womanish, that is to say, helpless and therefore less responsible for his actions. Certainly this production of a battered, female Pistorius is problematic in that he was the real perpetrator of domestic violence, whether or not he knew what he was doing, and also because an abused woman would be held responsible for her actions, and it’s screwed up that the defense wants to co-opt that dreadful narrative in order to procure sympathy for their client.

    Whatever the ethics of that defense may be, this moment in the Pistorius trial reminded me of McRuer’s theory that “people with disabilities are often understood as somehow queer… while queers are often understood as somehow disabled” (McRuer 304). Pistorius readily accepts the equation of his disability and a type of feminization because he hopes it will take away some of his responsibility for the murder. The more marginalization he piles onto his identity (victim of domestic violence, person with disabilities, female, queer), the more he hopes to come across as a victim rather than a perpetrator. As Rose writes, “the battle in the courtroom was now repeating the internal dilemma of Pistorius himself, as it split down the middle between the two ways we have of seeing disability: Pistorius as crippled and vulnerable, Pistorius as perfect and empowered” (Rose 15-16).

    The Economist article “Illness as Indicator” and Ann Neumann’s article “The Patient Body: Our Sick Body Politic” articulate and explore a fascinating phenomenon. According to data from The Economist, the parts of the U.S. in which Trump outdid Romney’s margins from the 2012 presidential election are also the parts of the U.S. suffering from the worst health crises. The only indicator most likely to predict a Trump win that was more accurate than the population of white folks who hadn’t gone to college in a given county was that county’s health, “The sicker the people in a county, the greater chance that the county would go to Trump” (Neumann 2). Evidently, the more a county struggles with healthcare, the more desperate that county will be for change, and this desperation becomes an important factor when it comes time to vote. This goes back to McRuer’s theory about compulsory able-bodiedness. No matter what horrors come with a Trump presidency, the main concern of Americans struggling with their health is to get help returning to a state of able-bodiedness. Not only is this true because with an able body comes more opportunities to produce labor and earn income (“Missing teeth beget unemployment, begets missing teeth,” writes Neumann), but an able body allows a white person to escape the marginalized status that disability might saddle them with. Meanwhile,it seems as if one of the dark sides of the way compulsory able-bodiedness is interacting with this demographic is that people are so desperate to be “normal”, an impossible goal, that they are willing to explicitly reinforce the marginalization of other demographics so that by comparison they have an advantage: “That ‘old order,’ deemed worthy of defense by the Religious Right, is a fever dream, of course, an amalgam of a mythic 1950s social order that put white men first, put women in their places, and put God in government.’ The America of the past,’ as Stanley calls it, is an era that 72 percent of Trump supporters told pollsters was better than our current era” (Neumann 5). Of course, the real entity doing the damage here is not the populations who are suffering with a complete lack of basic healthcare, but the institutions that both fail to provide affordable and successful healthcare and do so in full knowledge that it will help to keep Americans divided, and thus weak and at the government’s mercy.

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  2. In Compulsory Able-Bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence, Robert McRuer links the concepts of ‘compulsory’ norms as well as well-established canonical gender theory pertaining to Otherness to his understanding of disability, making it clear that these lenses shed light on disability theory and the theories he draws from equally. Starting with Adrienne Rich’s inquiries into lesbianism, he affirms that the creation of ‘alternative lifestyle’ as a discussion point implies a compulsory norm, which was critical in Rich’s field and can be cross-applied to his theory, that “the system of compulsory able-bodiedness that produces disability is thoroughly interwoven with the system of compulsory heterosexuality that produces queerness” (McRuer 301), and that the two are contingent, interwoven, and useful for the understanding of one another. McRuer then begins to break down the linguistic history of very binary hetero/homosexual definitions, which though defined as technically equal and opposite, is now understood with more complexity: that “the institutionalization of heterosexuality as the “normal relations of the sexes” allows for homosexuality (and bisexuality) to be subordinated” (McRuer 302), that there is a ‘normal’, and further, a false choice to be such. Normalcy was established in the imbricated systems of able-bodiedness and heterosexuality in tandem, and also “in the emergent industrial capitalist system… free to have an able body but not particularly free to have anything else” (McRuer 303). Because of the societal focus on the compulsory, there is no outright stratification, but choice is illusionary. However, he also points out that the reclamation of both the condition of queerness and the condition of disability “covers over the compulsory nature of the able-bodied subject’s own identity” (McRuer 303). He then solidifies the link between these two seemingly disparate states by quoting from Butler’s Gender Trouble, switching the allusions to gender with words for able-bodiedness, and also pointing out a social link as well: “people with disabilities are often understood as somehow queer… while queers are often understood as somehow disabled” (McRuer 304), in the popular imagination.
    Jacqueline Rose’s Bantu in the Bathroom was a crunchy read for me, and it intersects squarely at the space McRuer’s work occupies: The case of the paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorious’ alleged domestic murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. In this case, the defense took on the challenge of coloring a star athlete as the victim of a lifetime of abuse and otherness, drawing parallels between the ‘snap’ of the female victim of domestic abuse and the behavior of a threatened disabled man in a moment of fear. The narrative, though sound for many, I find to be frankly crass when we are dealing with a world class athlete at the height of his social and physical power. His tactic, to feminize and weaken himself, is convenient, but even more frustratingly, the very struggle of so many who consider themselves disabled. A heavily armed, in many ways hyper masculine, public figure uses the trope of his disability, his societal ‘somehow queer’-ness to establish victimhood. This clearly illustrious the ties between victimization and gender, and also gender and ability.
    The Economist’s Illness As Indicator and Ann Neumann’s analysis The Patient Body: Our Sick Body Politic, find a studding correlation between physical health and counties which decisively went for Trump, showing that “the specific subset of Mr. Trump’s voters that won him the election—those in counties where he outperformed Mr. Romney by large margins—live in communities that are literally dying” (Neumann 2). Health seems to be a factor which, having such palpable daily affect on one’s life, would also illicit a more extreme response in the polls, voting for extreme forms of change, in the case for a rogue such as Trump. In poverty, the body becomes political because the body perpetuates and receives from the political, or in Amy Woolard’s words: “missing teeth beget unemployment beget missing teeth” (Neumann 2). Regardless of his personal views on healthcare, it is clear to me that Trump is a signifier of hope in more ways than one: he is a pillar of normalcy, and of the white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied, socioeconomically advantaged perfect good which many reject, but are still always, in a compulsory sense, striving towards. Concerns of public health, of ability and disability, show in the polls, and so too do concerns of shame, inadequacy, and social mobility.

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  3. Using Adrienne Rich’s renowned “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Experience,” as a precedent, Robert McCruer explores what he calls a similar concept of “compulsory able-bodiedness.” Furthermore, he makes the claim that this compulsory able-bodiedness and compulsory heterosexuality are inherently interwoven and, in fact, contingent on each other. To illustrate this, he mentions how, just like with sexuality, having the perfect body be the natural, normal way inherently makes all people who actually identify as “able-bodied” simply perversions of this ideal. Like with limits and infinity in math, having a completely able body is an ideal that can never actually be reached, and yet we associate ourselves with it. How can able-bodiedness be a natural ideal as opposed to a constructed one when it doesn’t actually even exist in nature?
    Using the interchangeable terms “hope” and “affect” (which in this scenario define not the feeling of hope, but the literal present potential of an action), Jasbir Puar makes a case for how a change in the conversation about the body’s capabilities could affect how we as a society view the body. As a literal measure of effects, these terms are uninterested in things like “positive” or “negative.” She is mainly interested in how the body has the capacity to affect living and dying as well as debility and disability.
    The third article, written by Jacqueline Rose, explores the racial implications of Oscar Pistorius’ narrative of the night that he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. According to his story, he believed she was an intruder, which is why he shot into the bathroom door. She mentions a story she previously read about a radio show that asked whether or not it was morally reprehensible for a white woman to deny black people from subletting her house with her. The callers almost unanimously agreed with her decision because of personal preference and the (antiquated) notion that it’s up to you what you do in your own home. She uses this to explain how, if Pistorius is to be believed (an irrelevant question due to plausible deniability and the inability to prove him wrong beyond reasonable doubt), he had a “nameless and faceless… black intruder” in his mind on the other side of the door, and how he, a product of the racist society just like the radio callers, is indirectly making the statement that the only acceptable Bantu in his bathroom is a dead one. She also explores this through the lens of the history of apartheid, citing laws that prevent white masters and black servants from living together, and more aptly, defecating in the same place.
    The fourth article is about how The Economist found that a group that voted for Trump more than non-college whites was the collective (there was no singular group) group of those with obesity, diabetes, heavy drinking, and a lack of regular physical activity (not sure which of these are considered disabilities, but for those that aren’t these are examples of that aforementioned almost comedic perversion of the “able-bodied” ideal). These were chosen to be studied as part of a different study, and are therefore the only voting statistics they could use to cover the umbrella term “public-health statistics.” Together, they were enough to beat uneducated, white men by 2%. This seems to relate back to the second article, and its musings on how the body affects the world (specifically, the parts of this article that talk about how if a certain percentage more or less of alcoholics/diabetics were living in a certain area, the election would have ended differently) but I honestly didn’t really understand that article so maybe not.

    The last article takes the data from the fourth one and explores its implications (is this an example of exploring how the body affects?). The article seems to make the claim that the degenerating health of people is the primary reason Trump won, because of the statistics. I wonder if this is a reasonable leap in logic, or the whole thing about blame was was just a compelling intro to get people to think this study is a bigger deal than it actually is? Anyway, this article mainly increased my understanding of the last one because it illustrated the point that it’s not necessarily simply true that people with declining health are voting more, but it’s true that communities of people with declining health are voting more, meaning that the issue becomes important to understanding how even people who didn’t fall in these categories voted, because they too are mobilizing around the issue based on their exposure to it.

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    1. Robert McRuer’s “Compulsory Able-Bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence” is an excellent essay on the intersection of queer and disabled identities. Through a juxtaposed formulation of the notions of compulsory heterosexuality and compulsory able-bodiedness, we are able to see how both norms reiterate themselves in turn subordinating homosexuality and disability. In this vicious cycle, homosexuality and disability then constitute the dominant modes of compulsion. This is most effectively explored in the definitions of “heterosexual” and “able-bodied” which both disavow homosexuality and disability to then construct their ideal body. The conflation of disabled bodies as queer and queer bodies as disabled is also a very keen insight. I find McRuer’s offer for disabled bodies to claim the word “severe” akin to the queer bodies claiming the word “fabulous” to be somewhat hopeful. Of course, I cannot speak for an identity to which I don’t identify, but even the proposal seems to have performative potential. “[A]ccording to a queer conception,” claiming severe disability (like fabulous fagotry) “would reverse the able-bodied understanding of severely disabled bodies as the most marginalized, the most excluded from a privileged and always elusive normalcy, and would instead suggest that it is precisely those bodies that are best positioned to refuse ‘mere toleration’ and to call out the inadequacies of compulsory able-bodiedness,” (McRuer 306). This final positing of disability as a positionality or relationality is also helpful here.

      Jasbir Puar is always a demanding read for me. I’m not sure why, but her writing always takes me a second read to digest. Regardless, her argument to reposition the notions of disability and debility is certainly affective. Through a reconceptualization of the very category of ability, Puar is particularly poignant. “[I]t is about deconstructing the presumed, taken-for-granted capacities-enabled status of abled-bodies,” (Puar 166). Social hierarchy is no doubt indebted to certain classifications of bodies in terms of their physical capacity for labor or work; at the head of this hierarchy is the able-body in all of its idealized possibilities for self-maintenance and self-commodification. By shifting discourse to debility, Puar also makes an excellent point. A focus on debility means a resituating of the body as the “patient-in-waiting” or “living in prognosis” (Puar 167, 165). This means that both disability and debility must continue to engage in critical discourses of time and space which Puar also does here in her explanation of prognosis time as making “death central to life…as an active loss” (Puar 166). Continuing in a temporal discussion, the “conviviality” then of categories such as race, gender, class, sexuality is a matter of these categories being (in an almost situationalist way) “encounters” rather than entities fixed onto or merely attributed to a subject (Puar 168). Quick question, what are “exceptional queer subjects” and why is Puar so adamant on critiquing their transgression, subversion, or resistance as (almost narcissistic) self-proclamations?

      Jaqueline Rose’s “Bantu in the Bathroom” was quite witty and quite fascinating. Her assertion that the only black body appropriate enough for a white man’s bathroom is a dead black body, “a dead Bantu”, links a history of colonialism and bathroom politics to the contemporary South African court case of Oscar Pistorius. I’m particularly interested in matters of abjection, so the politics of shit is always on my mind. The phenomenon of segregated defecation spaces in colonial histories (including that of South Africa) is still written into the very ways Western bodies use and treat bathrooms, and Rose asserts this through the naming of bathroom movements as “a form of memory”, a rehearsed and repeated ritual, a performance (Rose 7). I couldn’t help but link racial inscription upon bathroom performances with a quote from Puar. “Fear of the social — that is, any notion of illness as a form of social unrest or dis-ease — becomes muted through the production of fear of one’s own body,” (Puar 168). The fragile notion of purity and the phantasmic line of bodily transgression lie at the center of Western bathroom politics as both an internalization of racialized anxieties and a disavowal or silencing of those fears through an expulsion of material filth. In the end, what we fear is what we are—dirty, unstable, debilitating bodies. But of course “expelling dirt is as self-defeating as it is murderous,” (Rose 21). What I found equally compelling was Rose’s fleshing out of the multiple modes of being Pistorius took on to incapacitate or vulnerablize himself. To make himself less heroic, narratives of abuse, disability, and effeminacy were interwoven to make Pistorius out to be the victim of his own act of murder. In turn the actual victim Reeva Steenkamp, Rose says, “becomes a silent witness in the courtroom, voiceless now, voiceless then,” (10). The explicit queering of Pistorius’s own voice for the sake of his innocence was disconcerting. Another chilling read was Rose’s point of simply listening to women. “I don’t believe that all women are at risk from all men but I do believe that a woman doesn’t say she is scared of a man without cause and that when she does we must listen,” (Rose 13). How much nicer would the world be if we just fucking listened right?

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  4. Robert McRuer’s essay “Compulsory Able-Bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence” delves into our language surrounding disability, and the similarities between Adrienne Rich’s theory of compulsory heterosexuality and McRuer’s theory of compulsory able-bodiedness. The main argument McRuer makes is that society’s concepts of normalcy completely hinder our ability to conceptualize a world without disability, as our social apparatus and linguistic structure disability, and without it, “disabled” bodies would not be labeled and therefore “normalized.” Through McRuer, I question the purpose of recognition, as presented by McRuer: “the dutiful (or docile) able-bodied subject now recognizes that some groups of people have chosen to adjust to or even take pride in their ‘condition,’ but that recognition, and the tolerance that undergirds it, covers over the compulsory nature of the able-bodied subject’s own identity” (303, McRuer). I wonder about our purpose in “owning” something, a label thrown onto marginalized peoples. Black people have started to own n*****, gay people with f*****, and even women with “nasty women.” Is McRuer arguing against this in terms of “disabled” bodies? What is the most poignant way for resistance, owning labels or disowning labels?
    Even though I am a bit confused by this reason, I think that Puar (through her introduction) is deconstructing the meaning of ability and capability, and to question how and when “disability” become debilitating. Does disability become debility when we put a name to it? If this is the case, I question how we can execute this in reality. I think this question is most pertinent to mental health issues or “disabilities;” if we proclaim commonality in things like depression and anxiety, is it helpful or detrimental? Does it act as race relations in the 90s, where we kind of dismantled race making the population blind to real racist issues?
    In Rose’s article on the Oscar Pistorious trial, she illuminates the very racial, gender, and disability issues to which this case can lend. It was tricky to read this article as I completely forgot the details of this case. Additionally, I was unfamiliar with the judge, who was in fact a disabled black woman, which made me question the leniencies that I myself give marginalized peoples just because they’ve had a harder life. Rose’s explanation provided an incredible insight into this case, one that I did not find completely riddled with racial, gender, and disabilities issues (maybe because I was 16 when this happened…).
    This article reminds us of the important issue of public health, and the threat that new, distracting Trump government poses. Is this issue the result normalizing “disabled” bodies, by taking away our language surrounding those “disabled” bodies? I am interested in discussing what a common ground could look in terms of our language of normalizing these peoples and helping them.

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  5. In Jasbir K. Puar’s Prognosis Time, Puar writes “[y]ou are only able bodied until you are disabled” (Puar). This idea was central to this week’s readings, which talked primarily about the relationship between able-bodies and disabled bodies and how our identities within either one of these groups shapes our movement within society. Paur’s text primarily focused on time’s relationship on the body, and the way age influences the way people perceive us as being able bodied or not. In that quote, Paur is saying that the line between ableism and dis-ableism is thinner than we think. However, despite this we treat dis-abled bodies with such a harsh eye. The deciding factors of normalcy are so vague. Normal is a term that is thrown around so loosely, to the point where there is no true definition. However, in spite of this lack of definition the disabled body gets marked as the other without question automatically. In Compulsory Able-Bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence, Robert McRuer writes “A system of compulsory able-bodiedness repeatedly demands that people with disabilities embody for others an affirmative answer to the unspoken question, Yes, but in the end, wouldn’t you rather be more like me?” (McRuer 304). This text and this quote argue that able-bodiedness is a fragile construction, made and perpetuated on society. Something this text made me think about was representation in the mainstream media. If a disabled body is placed on screen it is always in relation to a “normal” one and their disability is the primary arch to the story/episode. Puar touched upon this with the analysis of the film As Good As It Gets but more recently I am thinking about American Horror Story: Freak Show and the arch of that season. Why were these actors/characters only written in for the season about “freaks” and why was it these actors obligation to tell this story just because of their disability? Ryan Murphy is able bodied and does not really know about the discrimination that they face on the daily, yet made wrote an entire season to try and explain these feelings to the world. Where are the people who are trying to tell their stories about this topic and why aren’t those being shown? Because the able body figure is perpetuated so much through the mainstream media those who do not fit the mold are made to feel as if they do not exist within the world. They are placed in a constant position of adapting themselves and being overly tolerant of societal discrimination. Jacqueline Rose touches upon this in her article “Bantu in the Bathroom” when she says, “[w]hen you insist on dignity and normality the risk is that both physical and psychic suffering become invisible, denied and then have to deny themselves (“he is perfect”). Worse, such a denial veers dangerously close to the repudiation of weakness and suffering that has historically licensed a sometimes genocidal cruelty towards the disabled: because you suffer, because we have to see your suffering, we will not suffer you” (Rose 15).
    There is a component of being able bodied that is contingent upon youth an being young. In Ann Neuman’s “The Patient Body: Our Sick Body Politic” she writes, “our public health is also the health of our body politic” (Neuman). By this idea, Neuman is saying that the only discussions that are happening in the sphere of public health and that system are centered around able bodied individuals. She continues this idea by saying, “If we can say one thing about most republican plans, it is this: They are better for younger, healthy people and worse for older, sicker people” (Neuman). When placed next to Paur’s writings this makes for a very interesting conversation. Prognosis Time plays with this idea of what is a body. Paur starts off early on by saying, “What is a body in informational terms? Where does a body—and its aliveness—begin and where does it end? If we view information itself as a form of life (or life itself as a compendium of information) we might be led to ask: What is a life? What defines living? In turn, what counts as death—as dying? Why, as Donna Harroway puts it, should a body end at the skin? (1991).” (Puar). Who says what a body should or should not be and who is controlling that narrative. Death and life are in constant dialogue within the piece as well. The message that I took away from Puar is that “youth” plays a huge component to “ableism”. While we are young we are considered stronger than the old and deemed more able to perform in the world. Life is a process of active loss and death is the final component of that: “This relation to time makes death central to life in prognosis, death as an active loss—as if there were some right to a certain lifespan—rather than just something that happens to everybody at the end of life” (Puar). If society only pays attention to young able bodies who eventually become old disabled bodies then, what happens to the young able bodies when the switch happens? Is it a distinct shift into the state of societal ignorance, or does it filter away? The ignoring of a section of people has critical effects not only on an individual level, but a societal one as well. The article “Illness as Indicator” stated “[Trump] outperformed Mr. Romney by large margins—live in communities that are literally dying” (Illness). These people wanted a “change” because they felt as if they were not getting the attention they deserved. They were desperate for change and looked anywhere to find it, even with an extremity such as Trump.
    These ideas all connect back to the class because of bodily movement through space and time and systems of control. Last week we discussed Foucault and the “normalizing gaze”. The able bodied perspective is the normalizing gaze, trying to convince you to discredit and other bodies that do not fit the able standard. As exhibited through the “Illness as Indicator” article, the “othering” of these bodies can have a serious effect on this country and the world.

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  6. Puar’s concept of conviviality grabbed me. Puar writes that “[c]onviviality, unlike notions of resistance, oppositionality, subversion or transgression (facets of queer exceptionalism that unwittingly dovetail with modern narratives of progress in modernity), foregrounds categories such a race, gender, and sexuality as events — as encounters — rather than as entities or attributes of the subject… conviviality always entails an ‘experimental step’… the futurity enabled through the open materiality of bodies as a Place to Meet” (168). Puar is really inviting us to think about what we might call “our bodies” or “ourselves” as radically interwoven and interdependent with other people. The fiction (fantasy?) of our bodies as self-contained—of “me” as an individual for whom “being queer” is a central identitarian attribute—is really strong! I’m with Puar, her argument is compelling and I think we could even say hopeful, but I start to lose her when I try to map this endless series of encounters and events through which identity is staged onto my social world. Why is it so scary to lose a concept of “who I am” in this way, especially when it seems that Puar is inviting a far less restrained way of being in the world and practices of freedom that are difficult to imagine right now.
    OK—sorry for the digression—to think about affective capacities—! Can we think of the silencing of Steenkamp’s fear of Pistorius as an affective disability? The way the built social was organized in such a way as to make her mute. Can we think of Pistorius’ capacity to slide between the man with the gun to the man who sounds like a woman who screams (as the defense argued) as an affective capacity? To use McRuer’s words, how did Pistorius’ disability compromise and give the failure to his status as a heterosexual subject (304)? But in this failure as a heterosexual subject was an affective capacity (am i using this right?) unlocked to slide between genders, to displace Steenkamp as the scream and as a woman?

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  7. McRuer makes the link between disability and sexuality in order to reveal the ways in which compulsory notions of normality are produced in opposition to the difference of disability and queerness. Synthesizing together Butler’s theory of the repeated nature of gender and applies that framework to the lens of disability McRuer highlights the ways in which the language of sexual difference can be applied on a larger scale to the discourse around able-bodiedness. McRuer argues that the impossible ideal of the able body is in some ways more universal than the ideal of heterosexuality because “able-bodied status is always temporary, disability being the one identity category that all people will embody if they live long enough” (McRuer 305). The way queerness is seen as a kind of disability reveals the ways in which individuals are always in the crisis of failing to embody an ideal and encourages a continuous provoking of this crisis as a means of critiquing the assumed notions of normalcy.

    Jacqueline Rose’s analysis of the Oscar Pistorius trial reveals the ways that performance of bodies in the context of ability, gender, and race can exist in conflicting and contradictory ways. The performance of court testimony exposes the perceptions around disability and how physical difference can be transmuted into gendered difference. Rose points to the ways in which our bodies can affectively perform difference and how the reactions to these differences is directly tied to the assumptions we have about what disabled bodies can and cannot do. Furthermore, Rose provides a context for McRuer’s argument that disability can propagate other kinds of difference. To borrow from McRuer, Pistorius’s bodily queerness lends itself to produce a kind of gendered difference (i.e., crying in court and high-pitched scream being understood as feminizing him) and simultaneously covers a kind of racial difference (i.e., being in a dangerous situation without his prosthetics belies a fear of an assumed black intruder). The multitude of performances and representations of Pistorius as both victim and perpetrator provides no more clarity on whether or not he is guilty of the crime but rather work to show the ways that disabled bodies are understood to be intrinsically tied to other forms of identificatory difference.

    The Economist and Neumann articles work in tandem to illustrate the ways in which health and able-bodiedness shapes the ideologies of underserved, poor communities. And focusing on the largely poor, white communities that have mostly identified with Trump, we can better understand how ideological formations of disability are mobilized in political rhetoric. Using McRuer and Rose to unpack how disability encompasses a broad range of health related issues and is understood to be linked to race, gender, and class. Neumann’s analysis of health disparities in America exposes the fallacy of normalcy when it comes to able-bodiedness. If we can understand these underserved populations through a lens of disability, our proposals of ‘solutions’ to public health issues must be understood as an ongoing process of critiquing what constitutes a normal body.

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  8. The McRuer reading starts off by examining the concept of “compulsory heterosexuality” in order to contextualize the theory of “compulsory able-bodiedness”. This idea of compulsory forms of identity is something that is really interesting especially provided that in many ways identity is and can be fluid. The quote “heterosexual and homosexual are in fact not equal and opposite identities. Rather, the ongoing subordination of homosexuality (and bisexuality) to heterosexuality allows for heterosexuality to be institutionalized as “the normal relations of the sexes,” while the institutionalization of heterosexuality as the “normal relations of the sexes” allows for homosexuality (and bisexuality) to be subordinated” really puts into context the way in which identities have been built off of being compared to a “standardized” identity. As McRuer goes on to point out that by creating an identity as standard or normal, everything that falls outside of the defining factors of that identity become abnormal. This creates a dissonance in the “acceptability” of certain identities by labeling those that do not adhere to the “normal”. This extends to the concept able and disabled bodies. Abled bodies are celebrated for their ability to do work efficiently and produce labor within a capitalist system. Whereas it can be sometimes be interpreted that sexual orientation is a choice, the extent of the ability of one’s body is not a choice. However if sexual orientation is viewed as not being a choice as is disability, then in the context of the “normal” body, they can both be viewed as not able to perform what is expected of them within the realm of the normal. However, their “outsider” status gives them a means through which to explore, examine and disrupt the system through which they have been labeled as “abnormal”.
    I really struggled with comprehending Puar’s piece. From what I gathered, the overall theme of the piece was the way in which ability and disability dictates the ways in which society handles those within it and how time is an impacting factor of this. One thing that Puar said (through McRuer) that I thought was really interesting was this idea of “disability culturalism”. What further struck me is this idea of the subcultures that come about through those that are cast out of what is constructed as the “normal”.
    The Bantu in the Bathroom by Rose addresses the systemic racism in South Africa that remains as remnants of colonialism. What I found really interesting in this reading was the urgency to convey Pistorius as a man and as manly, through the use of his voice (the way he screamed) but also the way to victimize him through the need to utilize his disability as a justification for an “exaggerated fight response”. This in contracts with the inspiration porn of Pistorius running is something that really struck me as mechanisms of exploitation of the disabled body. There’s a sort of passing of responsibility to the disabled area that occurs in these moments. They convey that Pistorius isn’t responsible for shooting but that because of his disability he has an “exaggerated fight response”. Yet at the same time, the ads that display him running despite his disability promote this concept that he is bigger than the legs that he lacks, a direct contradiction to the point being made during his trial.

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