Fall 2023 Colloquium - Talia Schaffer
English Dept., Queens College, CUNY
Title: Ordinary Bodies: Care, Disability, and Cultural Representation
Abstract: Can the feminist and disability-studies theory of “ethics of care” give us an alternative model for understanding disability? In this talk, I take us back to a mode of thinking about bodies that predates the medical model. Early Victorians regarded suffering as an inevitable part of life, to be ameliorated through social support provided by a community of care. Cultural representations from the nineteenth century preserve this human variability as enmeshed in relationships, giving us a welcome alternative to the modern assumption that bodies with flaws require diagnosis, intervention, and cure. An ethics of care not only characterizes historical texts but also connects them to a rich range of global practices, including queer families of choice and African-American other-mothering, as well as the care-collective vision of disability justice activists are advocating today.