Disability and The Inhuman

Presented at ‘The Inhuman Gaze and Perceiving Otherwise’, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, France, 6-9 June 2018.

Not for citation.

When presented with the term ‘inhuman’, I was drawn to consider how certain ways of being become associated with the inhuman, how this association is involved in the constitution of what is taken as properly human, and the deleterious effects for those who become associated with the inhuman. I’m going to address these topics in three stages. First, I’ll briefly sketch how common understandings of disability might be thought of as ‘dehumanising’. Next, I’ll outline why I think that appeals to the category of the human are inapt as a response to such dehumanization. Finally, I will point towards an alternative, positive sense of the inhuman.

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Disability, Technology, Time: The Technological Unconscious as an Unsafe Ground for Bodily Activity

Presented at the Nordic Network Gender Body Health workshop ‘Interrogating Prostheses’, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden, 15-16 May 2017.

In this paper, I talk about very basic kinds of technology, and how these contribute to the enaction of disability. I first sketch some commonplaces concerning the body and technology, before outlining my own position on these: that the body has a fundamental relationality, of which technology comprises an aspect. Then I outline inter-mundane technology (a low-level artefactuality that supports activity while falling outside awareness, so that its contribution goes unacknowledged and the activity appears natural) and the technological unconscious (habituated expectation about how the world is). Finally, I discuss how norms materialised in inter-mundane technologies lead to one way disability gets enacted, to erode bodily confidence in the world.

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Atypical Morphology and the Normative Limits of Ability and Function

Presented at 'Theorizing the Body in Health and Medicine', Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands, 25-26 November 2015.

This paper largely concerns grounding concepts that inform medical and social theories of impairment. It discusses impairment in relation to normal function, including its identification as a deviation from normal health. It then draws upon phenomenological concepts to develop an alternate account of embodiment, as always already dependent upon relations with things outside itself. It posits that ‘normal ability’ is consequently a socio-historical elaboration rather than an objectively existing state of affairs, and that the accompanying prioritisation of some modes of embodiment over others creates the phenomenon called disability. Finally, it outlines an alternative framework that eschews reference to transcendent norms for grounding in capacities and goals, however atypical, of embodied agents.

[gview file="https://hcommons.org/app/uploads/sites/1000489/2017/03/JPMitchell-Atypical-Morphology-and-the-Normative-Limits-of-Ability-and-Function.pdf"]

Expression and The Structure of Behaviour

Presented at ‘Workshop with Donald A. Landes on Merleau-Ponty and the Paradoxes of Expression’, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, 18 May 2016.

This paper is part of a workshop with Donald A. Landes on his book Merleau-Ponty and the Paradoxes of Expression. It summarises the ideas of Merleau-Ponty, and Landes' take on these, before offering some critical comments on Landes' chapter on 'The Structure of Behaviour'.

[gview file="https://hcommons.org/app/uploads/sites/1000489/2017/03/JPMitchell-Expression-and-the-Structure-of-Behaviour.pdf"]