Sunday, May 8, 2016

Feminist Queer Crip by Alison Kafer.

When I woke-up with Bell's Palsy at the end of March, I was reading Feminist Queer Crip by Alison Kafer. I didn't read for a while, since I was exhausted and my right-eye wasn't really working, but I put it aside because I wanted to make sure I wrote about it here.

It had been recommended by a friend who had read it as part of her research around ability / disability studies. She's currently working on her Master's here at Concordia. 

She mentioned the notion of "crip time" which to me kind of correlates to spoon theory, in it's approach to creating a new way of understanding the way the context of ones abilities and limitations have a direct link to their own starting point / way of being in the world. 

Kafer's book has a lot of great sections in it, but overall it turned pretty heavily academic mid-point for me, so it lost me a bit. Though it reminded me of my time in Women's Studies, it also reminded me of how alienating academic writing can be. 

The book is a great place to start if you're interested in critical disability studies. Her early sections discuss the notion of disability as a "forging" of a group identity, but also how the ways in which race, class, gender, sexuality, and location being omitted in representation create a "white disability studies" reality, one which has been more visibly present and re-centred, as is the case with all whiteness. Her positioning herself as in a queer framework means troubling these ingrained systems of power. 

She also mentions that "disability" itself-though a term that can be used to gather around-and how those that identify with or as "disabled" can seek out that community. An issue she brings up is how "moving away from a medical/individual model of disability means that disability identification can't be solely linked to diagnosis" (page 13), something that's close to me since I've had so much trouble navigating the medical system and the mental health establishment. 

Kafer's work around "crip time" is something I found very helpful, from page 37:
Thinking about diagnosis and undiagnosis as strange temporalities open the door to still other framings of crop time, of illness and disability in and through time. What would constitute a temporality of mania, or depression, or anxiety? If we think of queer time as involving archives of rage and shame, then why not also panic attacks or fatigue? How does depression slow down time, making moments drag for days, or how do panic attacks cause linear time to unravel, making time seem simultaneously to speed up and slam shut, leaving one behind?
My memory, my use of time, the way I conceptualize time,  has been and continues to be a major issue for me in navigating my life, and in lately, worrying about work and taking care of myself. 

Kafer ends her chapter on time (page 46) saying:
Disabled people- particularly those with developmental and psychiatric impairments, those who are poor, gender-deviant, and/or people of color, those who need atypical forms of assistance to survive-have faces sterilization, segregation, and institutionalization; denial of equitable education, health care and social services; violence and abuse; and the withholding of the rights of citizenship. Too many of these practices continue, and each of them has greatly limited, and often literally shortened, the future of disabled people. It is my loss, our loss,  not to cake care of, embrace and desire all of us. We must begin to anticipate presents and to imagine futures that include all of us. We must explore disability in time.
Kafer's book is thick with examples of not only discrimination but the erasure of disabled bodies. There are examples of lived lives that would be very difficult for me to summarize here, so I recommend you read the book. 

Kafer discusses individualism, and how its often used as a way of depoliticizing disability, and more so removing societal responsibilities (page 89):
Disability appears as an individual physical problem that can be best overcome (and should be overcome) through strength of character and adherence to an established set of community values ... This focus on personal responsibility precludes any discussion of social, political, or collective responsibility.
We really are on our own. Especially in cases where disability is not physically identifiable. If a chronic disease is a mental illness, or is one that takes a lot of research and a lot of "negative diagnosis" it can be a tremendous amount of emotional, logistical and mental work to attempt to help yourself. 

The book is a staple of disability studies for a reason. If this area of study, or you know, reality interests you, check it out. 

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