Disability and Narrative Dollars

I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with the notion of “performativity” where disability is concerned, not because I’m against “doing” (re-visioning) cultural representations of the disabled body—far from it—but because disability differs from Judith Butler’s fungible sense of gender embodiment in two singular ways. Though the disabled body has been seen historically as a site of reception for pejorative and ruinous definitions, no disabled body is truly static, since, in fact, the disabled body doesn’t exist. Only architectures of opposition exist. Secondly, “doing” the disabled body is simply a reified and subjective experience, because, to borrow from Wallace Stevens, and alluding to my point above, disability is the “nothing that is not there and the nothing that is”. Only architectures exist and protesting them might be a better idea than cripping the crippled body. When I say these sorts of things I’m viewed as the Christopher Hitchens of disability studies…a contrarian…but really, I don’t like empty play. You’re not a disability activist because you’ve adopted an ironic stance toward the language of representation.


The imprisonment of devalued bodies is the work of capitalism. Only justice can change this.

And a renewed Marxist clarity. I don’t mean by the latter a fixated review of disability as trope, but a potent resistance to the crisis of economic representation that haunts what we’ve come to call the “diversity” landscape and which is, of course a misnomer.

“All the President’s Men”—“Follow the money…” To which we add: “See what the money has done.”

Black bodies in prison in the USA, disabled bodies in sweatshops in Malaysia…they are one and the same.


So I like “play” or street theater but only insofar as it refuses the autocracy of narrative dollars.


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