Today’s #AntiAbleistComposition feature is “August Wilson and the Anti-Spectacle of Blackness and Disability in Fences and Two Trains Running” by Stacie McCormick. The essay is published in CLA Journal.
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
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Bailey, Moya and Whitney Peoples. “Towards a Black Feminist Health Science Studies.” Catalyst, vol. 3, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1-27.
Berry-McCrea, Erin L. “‘To My Girls in Therapy, See Imma Tell You This fo Free…’: Black Millennial Women Speaking Truth to Power in and Across the Digital Landscape.” Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, vol. 16, no. 2, 2018, pp. 363-372.
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Garcia, Patricia, Cecilia Henriquez Fernández, and Ashley Jackson. “Counternarratives of Youth Participation Among Black Girls.” Youth & Society, 2019, pp. 1-22.
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Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. “Seven Possible Futures for the Black Feminist Artist.” Obsidian, vol. 42, nos. 1-2, 2016, pp. 114-120.
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Judd, Bettina. “Sapphire as Praxis: Toward a Methodology of Anger.” Feminist Studies, vol. 45, no. 1, 2019, pp. 178-208.
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Kynard, Carmen. Vernacular Insurrections: Race, Black Protest, and the New Century in Composition-Literacies Studies. SUNY Press, 2013.
Lindsey, Treva B. “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That: Anti-Black Girl Violence in the Era of #SayHerName.” Urban Education, vol. 53, no. 2, 2018, pp. 162-175.
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McPherson, Kisha. “Black Girls are not Magic; They Are Human: Intersectionality and Inequity in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Schools.” Curriculum Inquiry, 2020.
Pritchard, Eric Darnell. “Black Girls Queer (Re)Dress: Fashion as Literacy Performance in Pariah.” QED: A Journal of GLBTQ Worldmaking, vol. 4, no. 3, 2017, pp. 127-155.
Richardson, Elaine. “Developing Critical Hip Hop Feminist Literacies: Centrality and Subversion of Sexuality in the Lives of Black Girls.” Equity & Excellence in Education, vol. 46, no. 3, 2013, pp. 327-341.
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Wade, Ashleigh Greene. “Indigo Child Runnin’ Wild: Willow Smith’s Archive of Black Girl Magic.” National Political Science Review, 2018, pp. 21-33.
Wade, Ashleigh. “When Social Media Yields More than ‘Likes’: Black Girls’ Digital Kinship Formations.” Women, Gender, and Families of Color, vol. 7, no. 1, 2019, pp. 80-97.
Today’s #AntiAbleistComposition feature is “What We See When We Digitize Pain: The Risk of Valorizing Imaged-Based Representations of Fibromyalgia over Body and Bodily Experience” by Vyshali Manivannan.
Vyshali Manivannan is a writer, educator, and creative-critical scholar. She teaches Writing Studies in the Department of English and Modern Language Studies at Pace University in Pleasantville, NY. She is a Ph.D. candidate in Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University, where her doctoral research critically examines discourses around the ailing body, biomedical technologies intended to locate and visually render chronic pain, and the ableist imperatives of academic style. Her other research interests include comics and animation, online anonymity and economies of offense, trickster hermeneutics, and decentralized movements. Her methodological research interests unite affect theory, autoethnography, and approaches in the rhetorics of health and medicine. Her scholarship has appeared in Digital Health, Platform, and Fibreculture among others, and she was an invited contributor to The New York Times Room for Debate issue on Internet trolls. She has also performed creative-critical work at international conferences such as WTF Affect 2015 and Capacious 2018.
Manivannan also holds an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing from Columbia University School of the Arts, where she focused on fictocriticism, creative nonfiction, and the lyric essay. Her creative work has been featured in literary journals such as Consequence, The Fanzine, DIAGRAM, and Black Clock, as well as in live performances such as Yoni Ki Baat 2010. She was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize in Nonfiction and was among those listed in “Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2014” in Best American Essays 2015. Her first novel, Invictus, was published when she was 15. She is currently working on a creative nonfiction manuscript about vicarious trauma and Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict, and its parallels and lessons for the contemporary political landscape in the U.S. She is presently represented by Mary Krienke at Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.
She has taught Composition & Rhetoric and Media Studies at the undergraduate level for over ten years, and additionally created and taught 8th-12th grade curricula in English, Creative Writing, and Academic Writing at the Countee Cullen Community Center site of the Harlem Children’s Zone. She has developed and taught writing courses themed around subjects like cyberpunk, Batman, horror film, and narrative medicine; and media studies courses focusing on geeks, hackers, and trolls; journalism writing; fake news and bullshit; consumer media culture; gender, race, class, and sexuality; media ethics and law; and the histories of electronic and digital media. She regularly teaches University Writing in Columbia University’s summer bridge program for under-resourced incoming freshmen.