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Organizing Around Difference

smalina's picture

"A lot of disabled dancers I know are glad for the opportunity to dance with other dancers to whom different forms of embodiment are not strange, but familiar in their individual strangeness" (Kuppers 2).

I'm interested in the idea of a community organized around difference, rather than a subgroup of people who unite around one unifying quality or preference. To me, this is what makes the concept of "queer" community so special and distinct from parts of the LGBT community (rather than organizing men who are interested in men, the queer community includes anyone who experiences sexuality and/or gender in their own, unique, not-entirely-heterosexual-or-cisgender way. The power in this concept seems to rest in the fact that "organizing around difference" than around sameness can so easily be expanded to create worldwide community--while organizing around sameness inherently means and constitutes exclusion, literally everyone in the world can be included in a community that is founded around accepting and celebrating difference and diversity. 

Kuppers takes it a step further when she acknowledges that not everyone may identify with the idea of "culture" or "community" as she does: 

"There is not only one disability culture in the room, a term that might not even make sense to some of the disabled people assembled, but also other national and ritual ways of being in the world, shaped by different heritages" (13).

So often in the Western world we assuem that all people have the same desire to organize at all, let alone aroudn a specific quality that multiple people share. Even in certain parts of the United States, we see that this is not the case (I'm thinking about expressions of queer identities in rural communities--identity may not even be claimed in the first place, which does not mean that these people are disempowered). "Togetherness" can mean so many different things, and to found a community on difference means an acceptance and acknowledgement of this. 


courtney's picture

One of my recent readings for my Junior Seminar English class was about how difference can signify meaningfulness. When reading a book, the thing that stands out or surprises us is usually a hint of something important, whether that may be fore-shadowing, a symbol, or a moral, just to give a few examples. I think it's super interesting to think about the popularized and oftentimes expected "desire to organize...around a specific quality that multiple people share" (you, haha). I wonder if difference is ever interpreted as a reason in and of itself to organize a group based on that shared difference, and what meaningful communities might arise in a paradox of unity based on the shared experiences of difference.

alesnick's picture

I appreciate this reminder that "to organize" is not of interest and is not the same the world over. People used to organizing in a certain way might not know how to recognize other forms of organizing or choices for something other than organizing.  Perhaps this is a way into a more creative way of working against the imposition of good intentions, and the tendency to speak about and to speak for, rather than to speak nearby.  This could let "us" know better when we ARE nearby!