Monday, September 8, 2014

We do not all desire the same futures

After the last 24 hours, several of you may be more interested in disability studies. There are many excellent places to start, but I might suggest you start with Alison Kafer's beautifully written Feminist, Queer, Crip.

Fellow rehab patients, most of whom were elderly people recovering from strokes or broken hips, saw equally bleak horizons before me. One stopped me in the hallway to recommend suicide, explaining that life in a wheelchair was not a life worth living [...] Although I may believe I am leading an engaging and satisfying life, they can see clearly the grim future that awaits me: with no hope of a cure in sight, my future cannot be anything but bleak. Not even the ivory tower of academia protected me from these dismal projections of my future: once I made it to graduate school, I had a professor reject a paper proposal about cultural approaches to disability; she cast the topic as inappropriate because insufficiently academic. As I prepared to leave her office, she patted me on the arm and urged me to “heal,” suggesting that my desire to study disability resulted not from intellectual curiosity but from a displaced need for therapy and recovery. My future, she felt, should be spent not researching disability but overcoming it. [...] If disability is conceptualized as a terrible unending tragedy, then any future that includes disability can only be a future to avoid. A better future, in other words, is one that excludes disability and disabled bodies; indeed, it is the very absence of disability that signals this better future. The presence of disability, then, signals something else: a future that bears too many traces of the ills of the present to be desirable. In this framework, a future with disability is a future no one wants, and the figure of the disabled person, especially the disabled fetus or child, becomes the symbol of this undesired future. To want a disabled child, to desire or even to accept disability in this way, is to be disordered, unbalanced, sick. “We” all know this, and there is no room for “you” to think differently. It is this presumption of agreement, this belief that we all desire the same futures, that I take up in this book. (pp. 1-3).