Feminist, Queer, Crip
Feminist, Queer, Crip
Alison Kafer. Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2013.
When opening Feminist, Queer, Crip, it is immediately apparent that, as for so many disability researchers writing on the subject, this book is intensely personal for Kafer. She begins with recounting her own disability, and other's perception that, in becoming disabled, she has lost not just a normal body, but a future. It is this future --this perceived lack of future--that concerns Kafer.
Kafer's positioning is influenced by more than disability; it is as the title suggests, feminist, and queer. Kafer rejects the fixed identities and delineations of disabled/non-disabled and impairment/disability that restrict the social model, while also arguing for a political awareness of disability, of medical and social cares, bringing disability activism and a challenge to the depoliticisation of disability to the foreground. This approach, which she calls a "political/relation model" (Kafer 2013: 4) is not unique, but Kafer's articulation of the need for such an approach is succinct and immediately persuasive--it makes sense, it is broad without ignoring nuance, flexible without being vague, and (speaking personally, here) it fits the lives of disabled people, with room to look critically at medicine without refusing medical care, to call for independent living without denying those who need assistance a voice.
Kafer's concern for future is a crip concern; she is heavily influenced here by McRuer's Crip Theory (McRuer 2006), but also by the concept of crip time, "flex time not just expanded but exploded;... [the] reimagining [of] our notions of what can and should happen in time... [the recognition of] how expectations of 'how long things take' are based on very particular minds and bodies... a challenge to normative and normalizing expectations of pace and scheduling. Rather than bend disabled bodies and minds to meet the clock, crip time bends the clock to meet disabled bodies and minds" (Kafer 2013, p. 27). This reading of time extends to notions of futurity, examining queer time through a crip lens to expose how disability and illness are central to notions of the future, exposing how a reimagining of futures could help the current--and future--lives of disabled people.
Kafer does this through exploring several different situations and aspects that include disability, from reproduction to the environment to advertising; each approach is treated separately, building a clear picture of an interdisciplinary critical approach that is thoughtful as well as thought-provoking; even as I disagreed with Kafer at points, I understood her position clearly, and was challenged to rethink my own.
The first of these situations concerns Ashley X, who underwent what is variously called "the Ashley Treatment", or a combined hysterectomy, bilateral breast bud removal (a double mastectomy for pre-pubescent bodies) and growth attenuation through hormone treatment, which resulted in Ashley remaining physically small, as well as rendering her infertile. Ashley's thoughts on her surgeries and treatments cannot be communicated, as Ashley was born with a severe neurological defect that leaves her unable to raise her head, communicate, or feed herself. Kafer...
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