Start Date

28-6-2010 10:45 AM

End Date

28-6-2010 12:15 PM

Description

This presentation is part of the Disability and Dependence track.

Audre Lorde: “In a society where the good is defined in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, there must always be some group of people who, through systematized oppression, can be made to feel surplus, to occupy the position of the dehumanized inferior.”

People with disabilities, including “psychiatric”/psycho-social diversities, may live in ways that reject hegemonic standards of personhood, societal membership, and contribution. Such dominant norms tend to value people for how “productive” they are, framing disabled and other marginalized people as a drain on public resources. Such framing makes invisible any link between the workings of oppression and their marginalization. In Iris Young’s terms these ideological constructions of personhood enact three of the faces of oppression – cultural imperialism (in which all are judged by a single dominant standard), marginalization (in which some are excluded altogether from the dominant system of labor), and violence (in which “members of some groups live with the knowledge that they must fear random, unprovoked attacks on their person or property, which have not motive but to damage, humiliate, or destroy the person”).

How do norms valuing ‘productivity’ and ‘pace’ (Wendell, 1997) over people constitute able-ist exclusion? How do able-ist notions of cognitive authority undermine moral and political critique from people with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities? How can intersectional “subjugated knowledges” (Foucault) work to embody the disability activism slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us!”? Such an ideal requires much more awareness of the diversity of the “Us” that makes up people with disabilities, becoming more aware of “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities.

As various minority studies and activist movements have demonstrated, non-dominant ways of being are not necessarily failed or deficient examples of the dominant. Rather, they are their own expressions, which need to be understood on their own terms. So too “failures” to meet hegemonic society’s expectations of speed, “productivity,” and reasonableness may not indicate failures at all. Instead of complying with increasingly dehumanizing social practices of contemporary imperial market capitalism, some resist, challenge, and generally fail to thrive within that mainstream culture. They can produce critical knowledge that open onto other ways to be. By not enacting dominant “professional” and academic modes, they may be holding out for something else.

I use the term “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities in an attempt to capture “’psychiatric’/psychological disabilities” without endorsing the medicalized and pathologizing associations built into these terms. Can the average person today even conceive of people with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities as having thought and experiences from which to learn, or even to imagine them (us?) as participants in human conversations aimed at producing knowledge? Deeming such people to be lacking in rationality, they assume that they have nothing to offer. As hegemonic culture so often does with oppressed people, it undermines their cognitive authority. Even in supposedly inclusive diverse and multicultural conversations, the best way to mark an idea as not even worthy of consideration is to call it “crazy.”

Elizabeth Minnich describes the “Root Error” of dominant Western culture to be the division of human beings into fundamentally different kinds and the subsequent ranking of those kinds. Minnich identifies processes by which the knowledge claims of privileged white men have been taken to be universal, while others (like those with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities/psych survivors) are left out, or – worse – distorted and misrepresented.

. Minnich describes “classifying humans by kind” as the “root conceptual error that feeds knowledges that…derive from and legitimate systems of domination.” (Minnich, p. 25) Here Minnich is shifting from the earlier (1990) edition of Transforming Knowledge. There, she considered the basic error to be “taking a few privileged individuals to be Man and then using “Man” as if it were nevertheless the inclusive term, the form, and the ideal for all of us, as if a noninclusive, singularized abstraction from the great diversities of humanity could possibly be other than wrong in all senses of the term.” (p. 25) Now, she argues that divisions of people into groups must already be assumed before such hierarchies of people are made of them. Minnich wonders how she failed to notice before. After all, the very notion of groups being deemed superior and inferior to each other presupposes the constitution of such groups in the first place.

Minnich recognizes diversity as a fact of human existence. However, that variation does not by itself translate into the reified, categorical differences built into what comes to be thought of as race, sex, disability, etc. She writes that the error of superior/inferior relations described above are “preceded by another that entailed it: dividing humans into ‘kinds,’ not in the form of flexible, mutable distinctions, but as real divisions that are taken to be given (by gods, by a supreme deity, by nature – that is, not by the human agency and choice that make us responsible).” (p. 25) Minnich calls this dynamic turning distinctions among people into “abstract, hierarchical divisions by ‘kind’ such that a particular few emerge as the imperially inclusive ‘kind’ or term, the norm, and the ideal for all.” (p. 104)

Voices of people with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities – along with those of others treated as disposable in the present system – may bring out moral and epistemic critique of hegemonic culture’s following features:

a) Its denial of human interdependence and its importance to our lives,

b) Its refusal to recognize the human status of some on the basis of some kind of capacity defined by what Tobin Siebers calls “the ideology of ability.”

c) Its failure to acknowledge the role of emotion in developing knowledge.

d) Its denial of the importance, needs, gifts, etc., of our “whole” selves – body/mind/spirit.

e) Its obscuration of how market fundamentalist values, that is, arrangements of the world in the interests of profit for the few rather than the well-being of all, are morally bankrupt.


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Jun 28th, 10:45 AM Jun 28th, 12:15 PM

“We Are Not Disposable“: “Psychiatric”/Psycho-Social Disabilities, Survivor Knowledge, and Audre Lorde’s Critique of Market Fundamentalism

This presentation is part of the Disability and Dependence track.

Audre Lorde: “In a society where the good is defined in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, there must always be some group of people who, through systematized oppression, can be made to feel surplus, to occupy the position of the dehumanized inferior.”

People with disabilities, including “psychiatric”/psycho-social diversities, may live in ways that reject hegemonic standards of personhood, societal membership, and contribution. Such dominant norms tend to value people for how “productive” they are, framing disabled and other marginalized people as a drain on public resources. Such framing makes invisible any link between the workings of oppression and their marginalization. In Iris Young’s terms these ideological constructions of personhood enact three of the faces of oppression – cultural imperialism (in which all are judged by a single dominant standard), marginalization (in which some are excluded altogether from the dominant system of labor), and violence (in which “members of some groups live with the knowledge that they must fear random, unprovoked attacks on their person or property, which have not motive but to damage, humiliate, or destroy the person”).

How do norms valuing ‘productivity’ and ‘pace’ (Wendell, 1997) over people constitute able-ist exclusion? How do able-ist notions of cognitive authority undermine moral and political critique from people with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities? How can intersectional “subjugated knowledges” (Foucault) work to embody the disability activism slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us!”? Such an ideal requires much more awareness of the diversity of the “Us” that makes up people with disabilities, becoming more aware of “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities.

As various minority studies and activist movements have demonstrated, non-dominant ways of being are not necessarily failed or deficient examples of the dominant. Rather, they are their own expressions, which need to be understood on their own terms. So too “failures” to meet hegemonic society’s expectations of speed, “productivity,” and reasonableness may not indicate failures at all. Instead of complying with increasingly dehumanizing social practices of contemporary imperial market capitalism, some resist, challenge, and generally fail to thrive within that mainstream culture. They can produce critical knowledge that open onto other ways to be. By not enacting dominant “professional” and academic modes, they may be holding out for something else.

I use the term “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities in an attempt to capture “’psychiatric’/psychological disabilities” without endorsing the medicalized and pathologizing associations built into these terms. Can the average person today even conceive of people with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities as having thought and experiences from which to learn, or even to imagine them (us?) as participants in human conversations aimed at producing knowledge? Deeming such people to be lacking in rationality, they assume that they have nothing to offer. As hegemonic culture so often does with oppressed people, it undermines their cognitive authority. Even in supposedly inclusive diverse and multicultural conversations, the best way to mark an idea as not even worthy of consideration is to call it “crazy.”

Elizabeth Minnich describes the “Root Error” of dominant Western culture to be the division of human beings into fundamentally different kinds and the subsequent ranking of those kinds. Minnich identifies processes by which the knowledge claims of privileged white men have been taken to be universal, while others (like those with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities/psych survivors) are left out, or – worse – distorted and misrepresented.

. Minnich describes “classifying humans by kind” as the “root conceptual error that feeds knowledges that…derive from and legitimate systems of domination.” (Minnich, p. 25) Here Minnich is shifting from the earlier (1990) edition of Transforming Knowledge. There, she considered the basic error to be “taking a few privileged individuals to be Man and then using “Man” as if it were nevertheless the inclusive term, the form, and the ideal for all of us, as if a noninclusive, singularized abstraction from the great diversities of humanity could possibly be other than wrong in all senses of the term.” (p. 25) Now, she argues that divisions of people into groups must already be assumed before such hierarchies of people are made of them. Minnich wonders how she failed to notice before. After all, the very notion of groups being deemed superior and inferior to each other presupposes the constitution of such groups in the first place.

Minnich recognizes diversity as a fact of human existence. However, that variation does not by itself translate into the reified, categorical differences built into what comes to be thought of as race, sex, disability, etc. She writes that the error of superior/inferior relations described above are “preceded by another that entailed it: dividing humans into ‘kinds,’ not in the form of flexible, mutable distinctions, but as real divisions that are taken to be given (by gods, by a supreme deity, by nature – that is, not by the human agency and choice that make us responsible).” (p. 25) Minnich calls this dynamic turning distinctions among people into “abstract, hierarchical divisions by ‘kind’ such that a particular few emerge as the imperially inclusive ‘kind’ or term, the norm, and the ideal for all.” (p. 104)

Voices of people with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities – along with those of others treated as disposable in the present system – may bring out moral and epistemic critique of hegemonic culture’s following features:

a) Its denial of human interdependence and its importance to our lives,

b) Its refusal to recognize the human status of some on the basis of some kind of capacity defined by what Tobin Siebers calls “the ideology of ability.”

c) Its failure to acknowledge the role of emotion in developing knowledge.

d) Its denial of the importance, needs, gifts, etc., of our “whole” selves – body/mind/spirit.

e) Its obscuration of how market fundamentalist values, that is, arrangements of the world in the interests of profit for the few rather than the well-being of all, are morally bankrupt.