Queer Abilities and Rudimentary Bodies

Organized by Mireille Rosello, Jules Sturm, and Birkan Tas (from the Research Group Bodies, Genders, Sexualities, ASCA)

Is there a productive intersection between queer and (trans)gender studies, disability studies and new materialism?

In this series of 3 soirées on Queer Abilities and Rudimentary Bodies, we propose to reflect on the political, aesthetic and philosophical potentialities of embodiments perceived as so incomplete, damaged, repaired, failing, or rudimentary that they are more than simply human. These bodies’ lingering, residual, and enduring sensible qualities might guide us towards a neglected, yet resourceful new way of listening to, reading, sensing, and loving bodies.

We do not wish to rehabilitate (renormatize) those forms of embodiment, nor do we wish to celebrate their queerness at the risk of denying them the rights to identify themselves as “objects of care” and bearers of rights and citizenship. But we want to question the ways in which their vulnerability is sometimes co-opted by neo-liberalist politics. Our aim is to demystify corporeal norms as guiding principles for making sense of bodies. We want to productively reclaim the body for a radical transformation of the relationship between embodied materiality and meaning. Queer, trans- and feminist theories of disability offer us ways of engaging with the body’s sensibilities and material realities in novel ways.

Meetings take place at the University of Amsterdam (rooms to be announced), from 17:00-21:00. Dinner and drinks included.

The workshop will consist of short position papers by the organizers or invited guests, a presentation of several (art) objects, and discussion.

Soirée 1: Rudimentary Bodies, Art, and Disability Theories

October 16, 2014 (Mireille Rosello and Jules Sturm)

What are rudimentary bodies? What can they teach us? Do they ghettoize disabled or queer bodies by pretending to be the future that other bodies are denied? What if we refuse to reduce them to their “in-becoming-ness” and appropriate their specific form of being in the world as not-quite-not-human, more and less than inanimate matter? How do concepts such as progress, but also integration and transition, find themselves redefined by such questions? This Soirée will engage disability theories that can offer us insights into what could or should be considered rudimentary about all bodies, and how to conceptualize alternative embodiment beyond corporeal norms.

Soirée 2: Toxins, Stones, Animate Objects, and Human Bodies? (Guest Speaker: Mel Y. Chen)

December 12, 2014  (Mel Y. Chen and Jules Sturm)

Gender theorist Mel Y. Chen critically explores toxins, stones, animate objects, and animals without genitals. Can these be considered rudimentary bodies? What kinds of relations do they have to human bodies? Chen critically engages in queer-theoretical debates about life, death, sexuality, race, and disability to theorize queer affections and inter-objective relations. Chen’s work offers ways of asking “what is animate, inanimate, or less animate” about bodies; questions that allow us to go beyond categorical distinctions of gender, race, age, or ability to make sense of bodies.  Chen’s theories promise to offer us new insights into the productive engagement with rudimentary bodies.

Soirée 3: Aesthetics, Abilities and Disabilities

February 19, 2015 (Birkan Tas)

This soirée focuses on the intersections between disabilities and aesthetics to illuminate and disrupt the ways in which able-bodiedness is made invisible and considered as the natural order of things. This naturalized able-bodiedness marginalizes, oppresses and excludes disabled bodies by casting them out as abject, uncanny and/or undesirable. By opening a dialogue between aesthetics and queer forms of abilities that resists normalized forms of beauty, sensation, and desire, this soirée aims at re-thinking both aesthetics and disability, embedded in multiplex social, cultural, and economic relations.

To register for the Soirées, please send an e-mail to nica-fgw@uva.nl and Jules Sturm (j.v.sturm@uva.nl) by September 15.

Requirements for credits:
A limited number of research master students will be admitted to the workshop. To receive 6  ECTS credit, participants are expected to 1) attend all 3 sessions of the Soirées; 2) study the reading list; 3) write a 4000 word report (with special focus on 2 objects discussed in either of the sessions). The workshop is pass/fail.