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Disability and Dissensus is a comprehensive collection of essays that reflects the interdisciplinary nature of critical cultural disability studies. The volume offers a selection of texts by numerous specialists in different areas of the humanities, both well-established scholars and young academics, as well as practitioners and activists from the USA, the UK, Poland, Ireland, and Greece. Taking inspiration from Critical Disability Studies and Jacques Rancière’s philosophy, the book critically engages with the changing modes of disability representation in contemporary cultures. It sheds light both on inspirations and continuities as well as tensions and conflicts within contemporary disability studies, fostering new understandings of human diversity and contributing to a dissensual ferment of thought in the academia, arts, and activism.

Contributors are: Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Dan Goodley, Marek Mackiewicz-Ziccardi, Małgorzata Sugiera, David T. Mitchell, Sharon L. Snyder, Maria Tsakiri, Murray K. Simpson, James Casey, Agnieszka Izdebska, Edyta Lorek-Jezińska, Dorota Krzemińska, Jolanta Rzeźnicka-Krupa, Wiktoria Siedlecka-Dorosz, Katarzyna Ojrzyńska, Christian O’Reilly, and Len Collin.

Abstract

The chapter presents the history of Theatre 21 (T21), the first professional Polish theatre company of actors with intellectual disability. It examines the way in which T21’s artistic director Justyna Sobczyk has been creating a truly dissensual, political theatre by empowering her actors to speak about their problems in their own voice. Wiktoria Siedlecka-Dorosz focuses in particular on Tisza be-Aw [Tisha B`Aw] (2015). Alluding to the extermination of patients of mental institutions, the performance highlights the remains of eugenic thinking and the mechanisms of social exclusion that are still operative in the contemporary societies. The chapter also discusses T21’s 2018 performance entitled Rewolucja, której nie było [Revolution that Never Took Place], which was devised as a response to the first major sit-in at the Polish parliament staged by people with disabilities, their parents, and carers.

In: Disability and Dissensus: Strategies of Disability Representation and Inclusion in Contemporary Culture
In: Disability and Dissensus: Strategies of Disability Representation and Inclusion in Contemporary Culture

Abstract

The chapter focuses on the artistic work of several Polish theatre companies which consist of adults who were clinically diagnosed with low-functioning intellectual disabilities and which created an informal association IM+. It examines selected fragments of interviews with the disabled actors as well as non-disabled therapists and theatre practitioners who collaborate with these ensembles. Placing their analyses in the context of Homi Bhabha’s third space and Mikhail Bakhtin’s borderline, the authors show how the members of the companies venture beyond the narrow medical context of occupational therapy, which is symptomatic of a slow but persistent change that has been taking place in Polish disability culture over the last few decades. The chapter discusses the work of IM+ as a way to establish a third, dissensual space, a borderline in which disability art and disability itself can be renegotiated, and new meanings, identities, and cultural narratives emerge, thus helping reconfigure the Rancierian inegalitarian distribution of the sensible. In this way, it helps destigmatize intellectual disability and conceptualize it as a productive source of creativity rather than a form of deficit.

In: Disability and Dissensus: Strategies of Disability Representation and Inclusion in Contemporary Culture
In: Disability and Dissensus: Strategies of Disability Representation and Inclusion in Contemporary Culture
In: Disability and Dissensus: Strategies of Disability Representation and Inclusion in Contemporary Culture

Abstract

The chapter is a transcription of a talk delivered by Irish award-winning playwright and screenwriter Christian O’Reilly at the University of Łódź on 26th September 2015. O’Reilly discusses his contribution to Damien O’Donnell’s film Inside I’m Dancing (2004) and the process of creating the play Sanctuary (2012) that he wrote for, and in close collaboration with, the actors of Blue Teapot, a professional Irish theatre company of people with intellectual disability. His unique testimony not only provides an invaluable insight into his artistic strategies, but also sheds light on the history of the independent living movement and disability activism in Ireland in the 1990s.

In: Disability and Dissensus: Strategies of Disability Representation and Inclusion in Contemporary Culture

Abstract

The chapter offers a comprehensive introduction to Critical Disability Studies in the humanities, a grass-roots scholarly movement that seeks to implement a new model of disability, which earlier gained recognition in social sciences, in academic fields such as: literary studies, performance studies, history, and philosophy. It delineates the major areas of interest explored by cds, which often overlap with gender, queer, posthuman, and postcolonial studies. It also explains how language and the new ways of speaking about disability may help question the naturalized concepts that have been shaping the various common, often ableist perceptions of disability. Furthermore, the chapter includes a thorough diachronic overview of the major models of disability. These are illustrated with a number of examples from various cultural and social contexts. The examples, however different, share a number of common premises upon which the models of disability have been founded and also show the ways in which contemporary artists and writers challenge and revise these models in their works.

In: Disability and Dissensus: Strategies of Disability Representation and Inclusion in Contemporary Culture

Abstract

The chapter offers a comprehensible and accessible introduction to Critical Disability Studies. In the first part, Dan Goodley outlines the main tenets of the discipline and its major theories. Starting from the basic notion of criticality, he examines the foundational work of such scholars as: Vic Finkelstein, Jenny Morris, Michael Oliver, Sharon L. Snyder and David T. Mitchell, Rod Michalko, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Robert McRuer, and Fiona Kumari Campbell. The second part of the chapter presents Marek Mackiewicz-Ziccardi’s autoethnographic, personal response to this interdisciplinary field of activism and research. It is closely based on the conversations between the accomplished disability scholar and the young academic and activist with cerebral palsy, both of whom research disability studies, but who come from two essentially different backgrounds: British and Polish. In this way, the chapter critically explores the complexities of cds and the tensions within it, highlighting the downsides of the social modeldisabilitythe social model of of disability and the potential of crip theorycripcrip theory and activism to shake the foundations of the fossilized social and cultural status quo.

In: Disability and Dissensus: Strategies of Disability Representation and Inclusion in Contemporary Culture

Abstract

The chapter offers an introduction to the entire collection of essays and places them in the context of Jacques Rancière’s concept of “dissensus.” It opens with a discussion of a mural in Lodz, Poland, which depicts a casual, flirtatious ocular interaction between a female wheelchair user and a non-disabled man. The artwork is used as a pretext to open a brief discussion on the politics of representation, which demonstrates that artistic works are a fertile breeding ground for dissensual ferment, which may, eventually, unsettle the fossilized norms and ways of thinking about non-standard embodiment. The chapter also briefly situates and discusses disability art and culture in the context of concepts such as Otherness, hegemony, or counter histories. It also explains how works of art may have a profound impact on the social imaginary and the power to determine who is included in the society, and who is excluded from it. The preface ends with a brief outline of how each of the individual chapters approaches the vexed questions of representation and participation.

In: Disability and Dissensus: Strategies of Disability Representation and Inclusion in Contemporary Culture