Text: What Does It Mean to Move? Race, Disability, and Critical Embodiment Pedagogy by Christina V. Cedillo
About the author: Christina V. Cedillo, Ph.D., is as an Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2011 with her doctorate in English, specializing in rhetoric and composition. Her research focuses on the role of embodiment in communication, particularly in relation to race, gender, and disability. She also examines how mainstream teaching practices affect students from minoritized populations to consider how we can make education more inclusive of people from all cultures. Dr. Cedillo is also the Lead Editor of the Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics.
“For some of us, these questions do not signify hypothetical concerns or apparent nods to inclusivity but the very frameworks through which we compose our writing and our lives. Here, I approach composition as praxis and pedagogy from a very specific positionality, as someone whose roles as writer, researcher, and teacher are fundamentally informed by my intersecting identities, that of a Chicana living with several ‘invisible’ disabilities.”
“I cannot help but wonder: what about those of us who cannot feel a pleasure that is mind-altering? What about those of us whose cultural ways of relating and maintaining proximity to others diverges from dominant norms? Are we doomed to ethical and emotional stasis? I don’t believe so, but I do believe that our exclusion from traditional rhetorical models situates us as anomalies.”
“The ‘invisibility’ of privileged bodies lends credence to the discourses advanced through those bodies, equating their speech with objectivity as though said discourses were not products of specific standpoints.”
“These norms are further exacerbated by institutional emphasis on speech as the main marker of authority and subjectivity.”
“My hands shake and I’m gesturing a lot, so I clasp them together in front of my. I want to cry. As I stop to take a breath, I ask, “Does any of this make sense?” and she says in an aloof tone, ‘I have absolutely no idea what you’re trying to tell me.’”
“However, like my student dares to do, we must draw attention to how we create and hold space.”
“Race becomes nothing more than a floating signifier, an additional marker that serves no real function but to grant me access to the university’s fellowship funds.”
“Academic discourse and its attendant interactions function to reinscribe norms that a department or university allegedly aims to combat by inviting us in when impressions of belonging are dislocated from our embodied contexts.”
“Another assumption that we must challenge is that ‘objective’ writing is necessarily ‘good’ writing.”
“Words are body-spatial. As bodies traverse spaces, bodies and spaces are both transformed, taking on another’s contours.”
“Space is never empty; representations and conceptions of space are never neutral. Spaces and bodies adopt and engender assumptions about belonging and exclusion reified by the writing, dispositions, and actions of others, according to whose experiences are foregrounded or backgrounded.”
“We Othered folks get tired. There’s pressure to write for ablebodied audiences, non-raced audiences, privileged audiences, even when we’re talking about ourselves to people like us. But how often does the reverse hold true? Maybe just one time I don’t want to concentrate on moving those of you who don’t have the burden of hypervisible identities wearing you out all the time. Can you move over and make some room for those of us who do?”
Discussion questions or themes
- How can we work to transform our departments and institutions (if we are in higher education) with the understanding that movement in, alongside, and outside these spaces are political?
- Is whiteness permeable? How can white academics and white teachers undo white supremacy without recentering white voices and white bodies? In other words, if whiteness is permeable, picking up and taking shape according to specific times and places, how can whiteness be interrogated beyond recognition?
- The violence of the universal, presumed white, abled audience
- How do we create and hold space (Cedillo)?
- How does our current curriculum address the material reality of this specific moment in time and space? If our current curricula cannot address this reality, why is that? What would it take for it to do so? Be specific. (Questions adapted from Carmen Kynard’s #BlackGirlMagic graduate seminar.)
- How are ideologically and racially motivated terms such as “objectivity,” “clarity,” and “rigor” deployed beyond the textual circulation of academic discourse? In other words, where do we see these labels played out in the realm of praxis or media coverage of protests and activisms?
Today’s reading group conversation will be relatively short. If we do not get a chance to discuss these questions in-depth, I want to encourage you to respond to them using the following channels:
- On Twitter using the #AntiAbleistComposition hashtag
- On the form below — responses will be curated on the website and shared via social media