CFP: Crip Genealogies

CFP: Crip Genealogies
Co-edited by Mel Chen, Alison Kafer, Eunjung Kim, and Julie Avril Minich
Abstracts: March 15, 2017
Full Papers: September 15, 2017

What is the color of disability? What are the possibilities for narrating an anti-racist, feminist story of disability studies? What relationships, orientations, and practices do different histories of the field foster—or foreclose? As the field continues to develop, it has begun reproducing a hegemonic account of its emergence: the “second wave” of the field is growing; the field has finally “arrived.” But as scholars deeply committed to studying disability, illness, and health status in relation to other movements for social justice, celebratory rhetoric of “arrival” and “waves” troubles us. We, too, recognize the field’s growth, but it is an uneven growth, one that doesn’t simply progress neatly from one wave to the next. Yet as the field becomes more and more institutionalized in the US, its intellectual histories and genealogies become equally solidified and condensed. The field is sometimes introduced to non-English speaking countries through the publication of translated books, as if disability studies has only a Western origin, thereby excluding multiple sites of criticism against colonial medicine and institutionalization as well as decolonial efforts to challenge ableism and imperialism. What and who gets left out in such tellings? What gets disappeared? What forms of anti-ableist social justice work is rendered illegible as “disability studies” when this happens?

We use the word “crip” instead of “disability studies” to signal our investment in disrupting the established histories and imagined futures of the field, and to keep questions of institutionality afloat. In The Archeology of Knowledge, Michel Foucault notes that “the history of ideas credits the discourse that it analyzes with coherence. If it happens to notice an irregularity in the use of words, several incompatible propositions, a set of meanings that do not adjust to one another, concepts that cannot be systematized together, then it regards it as its duty to find, at a deeper level, a principle of cohesion that organizes the discourse and restores it to its hidden unity.” Yet as Audre Lorde reminds us, this mandate for coherence imperils the very project of building knowledge across difference: “When language becomes most similar, it becomes most dangerous, for then differences may pass unremarked. […] But it is an error to believe that we mean the same experience, the same commitment, the same future, unless we agree to examine the history and particular passions that lie beneath each other’s words.” We seek to bring together scholars whose work resolutely explores the divergent experiences, commitments, and histories that necessitate a cripping of disability studies.

Some questions become essential: How does a mandate for coherence in disability studies serve whiteness, white supremacy, and forms of cultural or intellectual imperialism? How does the insistence on a single, coherent narrative allow, above and beyond mere disciplinarity, the whitewashing of disability studies, of disability histories, and of histories of disability studies? Contradictions rarely explored—because papered over in the name of coherence—might include the insistence on the rhetoric of independence and pride within the disability rights movement and disability studies, even as such rhetoric clashes with the experiences of many disabled people; or a reluctance to engage with religion and spirituality in disability studies even as both play a key role in many people’s engagements with disability; or a longstanding refusal among many in the field to engage critically with notions of healing, overcoming, or recovery, even as such ideas are precisely how some communities prefer to engage with disability rights and justice. Each of these refusals to reckon with contradiction in the field serve to maintain the whiteness of disability studies.

In this anthology, we want to push back against the expectation of a coherent narrative of disability studies, one without contradictions, and its limited and limiting approach to race. In its place, we want stories of a disability studies very much entwined with, and indebted to, the fields of feminist studies, queer studies, postcolonial studies, and race and ethnic studies. We want to think through alternative intellectual histories and genealogies. We suggest that offering critical genealogies, ones that recognize critical race theorists’ and theory’s contributions to disability studies, counters hegemonic genealogies and in so doing re-makes the field.

We’re interested not only in tracing the vexed legacies of what Christopher Bell famously called “white disability studies” and its effects, but also, and especially, in delineating histories and habits of quiet—sometimes troubled—alliances. How might we begin to recognize the capacious and generative possibilities of a disability studies that is less interested in “incorporating” race—a formulation that suggests a tokenizing inclusion that preserves structures of whiteness—and more interested in engaging deeply with the fields, practices, and knowledges of critical ethnic studies and related areas? Moreover, naming the whiteness of disability studies can be a way of preserving that whiteness; to begin and end with a statement about dominance too often serves to obscure the work that has always been there, waiting to be acknowledged. Are there not moments when we might best be served by assuming that the field has not always been already and only white, because it might push us to expand our notions of what counts as disability studies?

Possible topics for discussion include:

  • tracing relationships between the disability rights movement and other civil rights movements (including health and ability activism within racial justice movements; labor movements; movements for reproductive freedom; resistance to police brutality and other forms of state-sanctioned violence; and anticolonial movements);
  • exploring crip theories emerging from women of color feminism, queer of color critique, transnational/postcolonial feminism, or anti-militarization movements;
  • transnational and decolonial movements for sovereignty, disability justice, and anti-ableist resistance;
    tracing critical ideas about bodies and minds in early feminist, queer, or critical race and ethnic studies;
  • linking disability studies and HIV/AIDS activism and theory or disability studies and “public health” initiatives;
  • grappling with the methodological/epistemological/political/ethical questions in doing this kind of bridge work, which always carries a risk of appropriation, co-optation, and/or erasure;
  • reflections on key figures in a scholar’s “archive” who have influenced that scholar’s disability studies work but who aren’t widely known or recognized in disability studies or did not identify as disabled;
  • discussion of various investment in the name “disability studies” and the question of whether to broaden the inclusivity of the field or pursue other ways to name scholarship and activism (e.g., crip theory; critical disability studies; debility and capacity studies);
  • interrogating the profound ableism of the academy and exploring how and why, despite current interest in the field, our research and teaching continue to be shaped by access barriers.

Please submit 500-word abstracts to by 15th March 2017; full submissions will be due 15th September 2017. We welcome questions and inquiries.

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