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Friday, March 2, 2012

Dis/Abling Sex

I want to build off my last post titled “Desiring Disability” which I wrote not knowing the academic flames surrounding the issue had already been well stoked. Indeed, an academic flamethrower had already narrowed its sights directly at the target, although it remained unpublished at the time of my post; namely the new collection of essays titled Sex and Disability editedby Robert McRuer and Anna Mollow.

The book was published at the beginning of 2012 and I just picked up a copy I had the library order and so I’ve only read Anna Mollow’s essay Is Sex Disability?, but already the book seems rapturous and sophisticated in both scope and nuance.

Mollow develops an interesting thesis most clearly stated in the penultimate sentence of the essay:
Intrinsically obscene, yet inherently asexual: rather than attempting to assume a different position within this impossible paradigm, disability theory should perhaps underscore its pervasiveness as evidence of a disability drive; as a sign, that is, that our culture’s desexualization of disabled people functions to defend against a deeply rooted but seldom acknowledged awareness that all sex is incurably, and perhaps desirably, disabled (Mollow, 310).

Mollow builds upon Robert McRuer’s  crip critique of liberal humanism’s fantasy of a utopic politics which would allow all identities to harmoniously coexist. Her analysis emerges against a backdrop of psychoanalysis and queer theory.Is Sex Disability? Constitutes  a ‘counterpject’ which which opposes the humanizing impulse which comprises much of the contemporary disability rights advocacy landscape. While explicitly critical of ‘politics as we know it’ thework does not completely disavow Politics, or the importance of liberalist desires for political recognition or social inclusion. Instead, it envisionsitself as what Paul Longmore descirbes as “the academic counterpart to disability rights advocacy” (Burned, 2),even if that means it is in tension with the disability rights movement at times.

Fuck Tiny Tim, please!

“Fuck Tiny Tim, please!”: rid us, please, of this most reviled textual creation. And also: if it is our cultural mandate to embody this pitiable, platitude-issuing, infantilized, and irritating figure-well, then fuck us, everyone. Fuck us because, figuratively, we are already “so fucked” by our culture’s insistence. Through this figure, that the disabled are not fuckable.

Sound familiar?
Like an echo to an earlier insistence on fucking?
How are we to read such a statement?
Mollow deliberately and thoroughly builds upon Lee Edelman’s work in NoFuture as a means of radically refiguring even well-meaning leftists' relationship to disability. Mollow writes that “this insistence, No Future gives us the tools to understand, must be understood as a displacement; propelling every cultural representation of disability as undesirable, I propose, is a “fearful ardor,”an unacknowledged drive” (Mollow, 296).

Fuck here is meant initially as literally to eradicate, remove, ‘the hell with’ Tiny Tim. This can be interpreted in a few ways though. There’s obviously the initial conservative over-tone, such as wow that sounds like Eugenics. But there’s also Fuck the figural image of Tiny Tim, the boy from the Christmas Carol who enjoys to sit up front during church services so that he may serve as a reminder of stories where Jesus made the blind see and cripples walk again. So there is the sense that we ought to eradicate Tiny Tim as a figure of pitiable fascination or existential revulsion.  And then there is another reading in which we understand Fuck Tiny Tim in the overtly sexual sense.

Mollow argues that there is an indissoluble link between sex and disability; not to conflate the actual experience of losing a limb to an IED, or the lack of a wheelchair ramp, or blindness to an orgasm. But that within our cultural imagination sex and love are understood as literally disabling; love leaves one stammering and speechless, overcome with unreasonable fits of passion, love can be blinding, or one may become ill as a result of lovesickness. Mollow develops the concept of the 'Disability Drive' or “the ways in which, in the cultural imagination (or unconscious), disability is fantasized in terms of a loss of self, of mastery, integrity, and control, a loss that, both desired and feared, is indissociable from sexuality” (Mollow 297).
Disability and Sex dance to a contradictory, ambivalent and yet rapturous tune. One may notice a peculiar double bind persisting: 

On the one hand the disabled body is perceived as either asexual or excessively sexual. Someone with a disability may be thought of as not being able to engage in sexual acts and/or embody reproductive futurism either as a result of an impairment or disability or due to forced sterilization programs – whether really existing or enforced at the level of cultural imagination. Or the disabled body may be seen as hypersexualized from certain fetishes to the idea that sex addicts are themselves suffering from a pathological disorder to the idea that disabled people are literally unable to control their sexual desires and emotions.

Yet our cultural imagination simultaneously imagines and desires the loss of self, mastery, and control as the ideal sexual act. Is not the orgasm itself the passing over into a state of impotence par excellence? Is not love itself a state of mindless attraction? Mollow mentions The Symposium as evidence of the ancient roots, but is not The Phaedrus almost a better example in which love is very rationally categorized into a systematized understanding of Madness. Sexuality is destructive, it marks the dissolution of the subject, the breakdown of the phantasmic illusion of a seamlessly unified and whole self. Mollow further traces the genealogical associations of sex and disability to Freudian psychoanalysis which has interpreted sex as “that which is intolerable to the structured self (Mollow, 301). Mollow then proceeds to uncover this connection as more explicitly developed in Bersani’s essay “Is the Rectum a Grave?” which argues that “the most radical originality of psychoanalysis…has to do with a disabled consciousness” (Mollow 300). Sexuality is constituted and exhausted by the “abortive, incomplete and undeveloped ‘essence’ of sexuality” (Mollow, 300). This is what is at the heartof the Disability drive, the mystery ofsexuality is that we seek to both eradicate and repress this self-shattering tension, yet also can’t get enough of it.

Where fetishization merges with morbidity, sex meets disability.
Thus all sexuality could be thought of as a tautology for disability.

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Workers Defense Project Re-Claims the Oikos

This week the Workers Defense Project published what it called a "Supporter Spotlight."

Here's the abstract version:

Elvia Mendoza, a supporter of Workers Defense Project, recently hosted a House Party to raise money for 5604 Manor and Workers Defense Project. We asked her to share some feedback about hosting the party. Here is what she had to say. If you are interested in hosting a House Party, please contact Candace at 512-391-2305.

The post went on to romantically narrate the house party as a scene of solidarity. 

For example: 
We not only shared food and drink; they shared memories, desires, and visions.
A house party turned into an affirmation of critical historical consciousness:
[S]omehow a way of understanding and affirming their histories of migration as well. While the party was a success, some people did not come, and I wondered why and if something could have been done differently to have them. The struggle is critical and we can’t afford to leave anyone behind. Perhaps there were conversations that needed to happen; perhaps we needed to think of other strategies to spread the word. The event itself was a force of nature–from the phone call it took to spark it; to Café Rebelde feeding us; to Jaime Cano weaving music for us; to the trabajadores giving purpose to the event, to the gathering of people in the space of home, so that even if just for a moment in a series of many, cada quien ponga su granito de arena.

The post reclaims the home, the ancient oikos, as a sacred space for struggle: 

With all the attacks and impositions made on our homes, our communities, our bodies, our spirits, our minds–our histories, we are told our homes don’t matter. We are told that we can’t rely on our neighbors, our families and friends, our memories, or ourselves. We are taught to leave our communities and seek remedies elsewhere—that what we know with our own flesh has no significance. Me niego a tragarme estas mentiras, and opening our home to not only support PDL, but to recognize and honor the history that brought about its existence, was a deliberate act of refusal. It is an act of going home, coming home, being at home, (re)claiming home, and haciendo hogar. And in the name of keeping it real, I recognize that home is often fraught with struggles, tensions and violations that closed doors and windows cannot keep out. Home is not always a place of safety and the things we fight against outside of our homes find a way of seeping into our homes and into our desires. It is in recognizing and naming the volatile origins of these unsafe spaces and divesting ourselves of them that becomes all the more crucial.

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Demos as Media Ecology

‘… unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their  motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power:  that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the  same thing. … However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes that do  fall apart.’ 
        —Philip K. Dick (1995: 262)

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ontotheology of the Democracy of Objects

Don’t ask: what must Mind be like in order for the world to appear as it does? Ask: what must objects be like in order for our engagement with the world to make sense?

The Other Journal - Church and Postmodernism

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