I’ve been quiet the last few months. Let me explain.
First, I’ve been writing/thinking/crafting my dissertation. It examines family experiences with undiagnosed children, particularly those with genetic syndromes. I’ve experimented with genre, shape, and voice – perhaps a bit too much – and opted to follow the suggestion of my advisor: approach it as a writing experiment on disability (anthropology). So that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Second, I started teaching. And I’m loving it. It’s a bitter pill, since the odds are stacked against finding a TT teaching gig once I graduate, yet I feel immensely inspired by my students and simply by being back in the classroom. I’m also starting to doubt my previous claims that teaching wasn’t the best way to change understandings of disability. These kids are open. (And I know they’re not kids.) They have an openness to difference that my peers and I never did, and that was only a half-generation ago. I’m hopeful.
Third, as I’ve said, disability is hard for me. The proper Disability Studies scholar wants to cheerlead my way through rights-based discussions and perhaps veer into Marxist territory (if it’s a Friday), but underneath it all disability is still too close. It rattles me. My experience as a sibling was perhaps extreme – my sister’s low-incidence impairments, undiagnosed syndrome, no family and virtually no peer support (on this theme, at least), litigation with schools, etc. Perhaps I shouldn’t let it color my opinion or, as one commenter implied after a talk on sibling experiences, maybe I shouldn’t be such a downer. (I mean, really?)
But it’s important for me to keep it real and that means that I can’t always do this work. I just can’t. And, as someone who grew up in this world, I acquired intimate knowledge of my limits. And I listen to them.
I have to say, though, I’m feeling pretty jazzed. Disability themes are all over the news again. Zika! The CDC telling women not to drink without birth control! New studies claiming autism connects to women’s pre-pregnancy health! You know I love the convergence of disability, folk etiologies, and mother-blaming. And let’s not forget the water crisis in Flint, the continued incidents of police violence against people with disabilities, Lego’s new wheelchair figure, and this fantastic piece in the New Yorker, which echoed so many of my own questions regarding medical versus popular diagnostics. I’m not only excited about the fact of disability-as-news, but also the nuance represented. These stories represent a long overdue coming together of disability, race, ethnicity, class, regionality, nationality, gender, sexuality. They speak to patterns of consumption and public awareness. They engage public health, expressive culture, literature, and the violence of the everyday. This, I would argue, is where we need to be going. Bodies, scenes, histories, things. Are these not all part of the puzzle?
I’ll be posting more. I also have some online publications coming out – at least two, perhaps a third if I can work up the courage to finish it. (And, yes, courage is the word.) And if I can really get myself together, maybe I’ll even get a proper article out.