Crip/Queer Events at 
the George Washington University


Cultural Territories of Disability

On Dec 3rd, Simi Linton spoke to a collection of several classes, as well as faculty and students in GWU's Crip/Queer Studies contingent. Her remarks, which she entitled, "Cultural Territories of Disability," took on the form of a seminar style dialog with the audience. Over the hour and a half, she examined the history and current contexts of disability in the public, the role of disability arts in democracy, and engaged students with a screening of some of her films that illustrate the lived affects art has on people with a diversity of embodiments. Professor David Mitchell introduced Linton and explained that her work has already been an influential part of his course which was now in its final weeks. Indeed, the event was a special treat for students who were able to receive a clarification and continuation of thoughts they had been stewing on all semester.


American Sign Language Workshop

On Wednesday, November 18th, 2:30 to 4:30 PM the MATCH Crip/Queer Working Group held a workshop on American Sign Language (ASL) as part of its initiative to increase familiarity with non-verbal forms of communication. The event was led by Samuel Yates and M.W. Bychowski.

The event began with a brief history of how ASL evolved from the French Sign Language system (which used two hands instead of the one handed English model) before it was brought to the United States as part of a new education initiative. The advantages of ASL included the ability to allow members of the Deaf community to communicate with one another while previous models focused on lip-reading, a process which privileges the hearing as the active user of language and the Deaf as the passive recipient. We discussed Deaf and signing culture, the development of local signs and the creation of artistic practices such as Yale's ASL Shakespeare Project.


Cripistemologies: A Virtual Roundtable

On October 21st, MATCH's Crip/Queer Reading Group met to discuss "Proliferating Cripistemologies: A Virtual Roundtable," composed by Robert McRuer and Merri Lisa Johnson for GLQ, Volume 8, Issue 2, 2014. The curated roundtable included contributions from Lennard Davis, David Serlin, Emma Kivisild, Jennifer Nash, Jack Halberstam, Margaret Price, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Jasbir K. Puar, Susan Schweik, Jennifer James, Lisa Duggan, and Carrie Sandahl. The diversity of the participants reflected the intersections and divergences of many different trajectories in the node of crip knowledges, including feminism, queer studies, phenomenology, marxism, anarchism, and critical race theory. Each scholar brought their own questions and concerns to the table, "What tensions or torsions exist among various cripistemologies? Are certain forms of queer (anti)sociality, for instance, in discord with interdependency as it has been imagined and materialized by feminist disability studies? Are there crip positions, embodiments, or moments of pain or pleasure that necessarily exceed the (compulsory?) identities or identifications of rights-based movements?"


"Cultural Madness"

On October 22nd, 2015, Karen Nakamura spoke on "Cultural Madness: Notes on an Anthropology of Psychosocial Disability" at the Center of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University. The event was co-sponsored by the English Department's Crip/Queer Studies programming and Disability Student Services. David Mitchell introduced Nakamura, noting her recent work, Disability of the Soul, and her upcoming project on Transgender in Japanese Culture. Nakamura opened with a call for more disability studies within the field of Anthropology, especially projects focused outside the United States. The speaker subsequently discussed her work with Bethel, an intentional Christian community in Japan that supports a wide variety of peoples with psychosocial embodiments, including schizophrenia and depression. The subject of Nakamura's documentary, "Bethel: Community and Schizophrenia in Northern Japan," was a group of neuro-divergent and neuro-queer persons living in a small town attached to a hospital and university. It was from this population of outpatients that the Bethel intentional community arouse to promote mutual support and dialog. As the name suggests, Bethel was sponsored and founded by a Church group who wanted to affirm non-privatized, non-medical alternative forms of care in order to compliment and contrast the medical practices of the hospital. Modeled on programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Bethel members would meet, share stories, offer assistance and accountability, and consider their relations to society and the wider world.


"Why I am a Bioconservative"

On Sept. 17th, 2015, Rosemarie Garland Thomson spoke on "Why I am a Bioconservative" to a packed lecture hall at the George Washington University. The event was coordinated by the GWU English Department as part of its Crip/Queer Studies programing. David Mitchell introduced the speaker, praising her as a foundational figure in Disability Studies, authoring such influential texts as Freakery, Staring: How We Look, and Extraordinary Bodies. In an hour and a half, Thomson spoke on the important but often unspoken alliance between religious conservatism and non-religious disability activists around "Pro-Life" issues, specifically the abortion of fetuses to be born with physical or mental impairments, euthanasia, and the assisted suicide of the disabled.


Low Theory

In this meeting of MATCH at the start of the semester, it is perhaps pointed that we began by reading the chapter on "Low Theory" from J. Jack Halberstam's book the Queer Art of Failure. There was the added benefit to all that Halberstam would be joining George Washington on a week-long residency, coinciding with the release of his new book GaGa Feminism. This gave us all a chance to familiarize ourselves with his work before his visit.


Good Kings, Bad Kings

Reclaiming access to bodies and shared experiences was a focal topic for discussion in the first event in Private Bodies, Public Encounters, with Susan Nussbaum's public reading of Good Kings, Bad Kings on October 6th, 2014. The over 60 persons in attendance on this first night were drawn in by various university seminars, posters, and a several story tall electronic billboard over Gallery Place. Once in the room, sign-language interpreters, micro-phone runners, and an interviewer helped facilitate the conversation between Nussbaum and a wide variety of guests. Indeed, for those who could not physically be in attendance, the event was video recorded as well as published via livetweeting. 


Sins Invalid
Excitement generated on the first night spilled over into the screening and discussion of Sins Invalid with Leroy Moore Jr. Working through technological challenges and problems of accessibility, the film brought audience members into the theater studios where an array of performers shared their lives and experiences of disability. Stories ranged from an intimate look into private bodies and sexual encounters to a dramatic dance ending in a flying wheelchair in front of a blood-red cross representing the passion and violence of public encounters. The film used sights, sounds, and bodily contact to give viewers entrance points into lives that are often segregated or covered up.


Self Preservation: the Art of Riva Lehrer

Closing out the month, professors and filmmakers Sharon Snyder and David Mitchell screened "Self Preservation: The Art of Riva Lehrer" and discussed the crip politics of aesthetics. Working in conjunction with the George Washington University Textile Museum, Snyder and Mitchell opened the event by showcasing a lab-coat constructed by Carrie Sandahl to draw critical attention to the medical industry's invasive surveillance and management of persons with disabilities. Demonstrating the inextricability of the lives of objects and bodies, the textile materialized the film's argument on Lehrer's work: liminal disabled lives can find preservation through art.

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