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"Natural Worlds and a Politics of Cure": Towards Day 20 (Thurs, 4/2/15)

Anne Dalke's picture

On this warm, sunny day, Marian is situating us in the Cloisters

I. WELCOMING ELI CLARE! (and Kelsey, who brought him to us...)

II. very brief coursekeeping

* Caleb's report on Tuesday's class?

* Joni
selects class site for Tuesday, when we will be
moving into the fourth/final section of the course:
"Locating Agency: Acting on Our Desires." If you have been
wondering why this counts as a gender studies course?--this is
also where we start to get serious about eco-feminism. We begin with
a very short, accessible reading, the first two chapters of Rachel Carsen's
1962 classic, Silent Spring, plus two other short texts--a review of a
new biography of her life, and a photomeditation on
"living in a porous world in porous bodies."

Following all our work on eco-linguistics, I will of course want us to
attend to Carsen's prose style: her word choices, grammar and genre
(she starts with a "fable"--what's that accomplish?)
I'm also going to want to attend to her argument, so
I think we'll structure our conversation with a 'fishbowl.'
Come having written out a statement--on a piece of paper
you can give me to: a question for Carsen (or your classmates),
a challenge, a puzzle, a query, which we'll use to organize our discussion.

* For the site sit due this weekend, try experimenting some more
with environmentally friendly alternatives to goal-directed grammar
(avoid anthropomorphizing, try out nominalization, create more process-focused accounts...
just play with some of Goatly's ideas...keep experimenting...)

* Ditto for your third (collaborative) web-event, due Monday @ midnight,
when all of you will be attending, in some way or another, to form.

II. today's treat is a visit from Eli Clare!

Marian to tell him what he's walked into (what the larger conversation is...?)

Nkechi and Rosa (who read Exile and Pride last semester)
introduced you to his work in Tuesday's class.

Years and years ago, Kristin Lindgren introduced me to Eli's writing;
we first met when he came to BMC in ....?
met up again in Delware, @ the Disability and Disclosure conference in Oct. 2013,
where I was co-presenting with a BMC alum, Clare Mullaney, about mental health issues
@ Bryn Mawr, he asked us to reflect on our privileged orientation,
how our presentation focused only on the closed world of academia. We met again @
the Society for Disability Studies (where he is something of a rock star) in Minneapolis last June,
where he gave a version of the essay we asked you to read for today.
I have taught his earlier memoir, Exile and Pride, many, many times,
including in classes w/ Rosa and Nkechi last semester. And some of us
were @ last night's very powerful event, which focused on shaming, and vivid resistance to it.

For today, Eli asked you to read his new Meditations on Disabled Bodies, Natural Worlds, and a Politics of Cure,
and I asked you to select a sentence, phrase and word to read aloud from that text,
as well as a word of yours to describe what you took from it. So get those out now...
and we'll begin with a read-around, let Eli hear what we are hearing in his work,
and then talk from there....?

III. Anne's Reading notes
We started by asking what difference being embodied meant/by naming the particular ways in which being raced/classed/gendered affected our experience of the natural world. Clare turns this upside down: what might thinking ecologically, about restoration of the tall-grass prairie teach us about the desire for a cure of disability?

beginning with restoration of the tall-grass prairie,
distinctions between natural/unnatural/normal/abnormal:
both meaningless and very powerful
“defect, retard, monkey,” condescension of “special”
need for a broad-based politics of cure,
speaking from inside contradictions re: multiple meanings of health
(from bodily comfort to social control)
cf. “restoration”: undo the harm,
rebuild dynamic system that has been broken--
with return always incomplete:
rooted in belief that original state was better than what is current
cf. w/ “cure”: mandate of return to former, non-disabled state of ind’l body
disability politics resists ableism in framing by focusing on social injustice
but original non-disabled body doesn’t exist arises from imagination
of what my body should be (normal, natural)
turn to story to reach into messiness of politics of cure
chronic fatiguing hell pain is not healthy variation/natural bodily difference
½-sarcasm: TABS, temporarily able-bodied
natural moments of disability? Who determines natural?
need to hold both desire for restoration and value of bodily difference
how embrace “brilliant imperfection,”
which we would not have actively chosen?
no politics of cure that declares anyone’s experience abnormal, unnatural
all the ways disabled bodies are used as cautionary tales,
to make the case against environmental degradation
how resist injustices that damage bodies and make peace with them?
complex desire for restoration bound to loss, yearning for what was;
cure offers return, restoration powerful resolution to grief, fear, despair
for entire communities, ecosystems…but sometimes it isn’t possible:
need to tend to the unrestorable: “hate the military, love my body”
restoration in medical and env’l science arises
from certainty of damage desperately needing to change
are disabled bodies akin to cornfields, restored prairies like disabled bodies?
too neat to suggest that, without disability,
humans recreate ourselves as a monoculture, lacking diversity,
but absence of disability diminishes bio/cultural diversity
long-standing, broad-based desire for/practice of eradication
disabled bodies and restored prairies resist impulse toward monocultures
profound difference between complex valuing of disability as cultural/
ecological diversity and persistent devaluing of disability as damage
civilized valued over the savage: Other, unnatural, abnormal
brutality of “monkey”: humans made animal in natural/savage world
illogic/intense contradictions of natural, normal, unnatural, abnormal
prairie not a retreat but ground for question-asking….