Presentation on theme: "CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/091 What can Agamben's homo sacer offer to an analysis of contemporary psycho- emotional disablism? Dr Donna Reeve."— Presentation transcript:
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/091 What can Agamben's homo sacer offer to an analysis of contemporary psycho- emotional disablism? Dr Donna Reeve Applied Social Science Lancaster University
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 2 Introduction Background to research Giorgio Agamben Homo sacer States of exception Zones of indistinction Examples of psycho-emotional disablism: Direct: Arising from interpersonal interactions Indirect: Related to structural disablism Applying Agamben to understand the lived experience of (in)direct psycho-emotional disablism Spatial, psychic and economic zones of indistinction Opportunities for escape?
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 3 Background to research Personal history PhD research based in disability studies 10 people talking about their experiences of disability Free-association narrative interview research method (Hollway & Jefferson (2000)) Narrative research methodology Serendipity
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 4 Giorgio Agamben: Homo sacer, states of exception and zones of indistinction Concerned with sovereign power and biopolitics Who is/was homo sacer? Someone who may be killed and yet not sacrificed … He who has been banned is not, in fact, simply set outside the law and made indifferent to it but rather abandoned by it, that is, exposed and threatened on the threshold in which life and law, outside and inside, become indistinguishable. (Agamben, 1998: 8, 28, italics in original) Has biological life, but that life has no political significance Suspension of law through a state of exception allows for the existence of zones of indistinction Reciprocal relationship between sovereign and homo sacer [T]he sovereign is the one with respect to whom all men are potentially homines sacri, and homo sacer is the one with respect to whom all men act as sovereigns. (Agamben, 1998: 84, italics in original) E.g. witches in medieval Europe, Jews in Nazi Germany, Camp Delta in Guantánamo Bay
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 5 Extended social relational definition of disablism Disablism is a form of social oppression involving the social imposition of restrictions of activity on people with impairments and the socially engendered undermining of their psycho-emotional well-being. (Thomas, 2007: 73, my italics)
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 6 Access to the built environment: the not doing it Problem: inaccessible shop or restaurant DDA reasonable adjustments: access through a different route Independence Self-esteem Result: indirect psycho-emotional disablism
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 7 Being shown the back door I'm finding the biggest drawback with disabled people, we're always being shown the back door. I'll give you an example. They have now done in [place name], which is now a city, the [hotel name] has been all revamped - small shops, coffee shops, etc etc. The only way I can go into that [shopping centre], to have a look around, is going half-way up [road name], round the back, when I go round the back, I go up the ramp straight into the coffee shop, there is a lift - which I don't think is right. (Robert )
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 8 Spatial zones of indistinction Reasonable adjustment separate but equal Legal simultaneous inclusion/exclusion difficult to challenge Dependence on the goodwill of service providers Importance of respect to avoid not doing it 'Use your creativity to ensure that there are no steps anywhere, so that everybody gets an easy ride in moving about the built environment'. I can't understand that if you have respect for your fellow human beings, that you wouldn't see that. (Julia)
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 9 Interactions with strangers Direct psycho-emotional disablism Everyday experience for those with visible impairments Acts of invalidation Can directly restrict what people do Compounded by existential insecurity of how next stranger will react Acts of invalidation change with the times
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 10 Freaks and phones And somehow, while it's always unpleasant to be the subject of intrusive attention, it feels even more disempowering to be captured on camera phone. There's no possible answer to that click which could make it better. Making a rude response only shows that the perpetrators have succeeded in getting under your skin. There's no point in complaining to the police, because unless the photo is published, then no crime has been committed. If you smash their phone, then you become the criminal. (Shakespeare, 2006)
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 11 Whats wrong with you then? Ginny: Some people literally, they say, 'Well, what's the matter with him?' Adinuf: I hate that. Ginny: And you say, 'Well, he's just got an illness, he's got a nerves disease'. 'Well, what is it?' And then they keep prying and they want to go deeply into it and there's things you don't want to say, but they keep on. I sort of - I suppose in a way I shut myself off from it - 'He's just got a bit of a nerves disease'. 'But what is it?' and I'll say [RSD]. 'I've never heard of that!' And I'll go, 'No, well never mind' and I'll walk off and I won't talk to them. 'But what does it do to you? I said, 'It's my affair, I'm not going to talk to people'.
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 12 Psychic zones of indistinction Act of abandonment separates citizens from bare life unprotected by norms and rules Suspension of juridical law spatial zones of indistinction Suspension of internal laws psychic zones of indistinction e.g. seen as freak or invalid by others Social interactions between disabled people and others reflects the existential insecurity of homo sacer Affected by lack of culturally agreed rules of engagement in social encounters
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 13 Employment, welfare reform and disabled people Barriers to employment – the able volunteer, unable employee Government anti-poverty strategy: Incapacity Benefit (IB) replaced by Employment Support Allowance (ESA) from 2008 One million people on IB to find employment Inconsistent assessment process No concept of partial capacity to work Scroungerphobia: media harassment of disabled people (Piggott & Grover, 2009) Distinguishing between the bad backs and the genuinely disabled (Alan Johnson, DWP)
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 14 'Oh, you're not disabled, you can work' Then, the biggest laugh I've heard is this - the government's trying to get you back to work. Which is a laugh. You apply to start back to work, and you find out you can't work in the place because the place hasn't got this and hasn't got that. But then you apply to go voluntary - voluntary work. But as soon as they find out that you're voluntary work, they say you can go and do a normal job, which then, your benefits are stopped. So where do we go? Do we try to keep from carrying up, which I suggest we try to? Or do we keep on going down? And I'll be quite honest, it's [pause] it affects your social life, [pause] it affects your self, your whole aspects of life altogether, just goes. (Robert)
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 15 Economic zones of indistinction Fundamental contradictions DDA (accommodation) vs. benefits (incapacity) Lack of willing employers and vacancies for one million disabled employees Inadequate access to social care and support excludes many disabled people from participating in employment Suspension of protection by welfare state economic zone of indistinction Disabled people at the mercy of Economic climate (number and type of vacancies) Employers (prejudice and ignorance) Individual decision makers who decide who is (in)capable of work, who is really disabled
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 16 Escape from zones of indistinction Agamben – through sovereign decree or death Žižek – refuseniks and the ethical act Spatial zones of indistinction difficult to escape: Enshrined in law Longer timescale to change Economic zones of indistinction difficult to escape: Problematic welfare system Global capitalism Prejudices of employers What counts as work will always exclude some disabled people Psychic zones of indistinction have more permeable boundaries: Changes in attitudes/education possible at individual level Changes in interpersonal interactions – ethical acts Creative lines of flight (Deleuze/ Guattari) – the red wedding dress
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 17 Agambens homo sacer and psycho-emotional disablism Provides insight into changing nature of disablism in 21 st century Homo sacer highlights dependence on goodwill of others and existential anxiety of how next person will react Spatial zone of indistinction associated with indirect psycho-emotional disablism Psychic zone of indistinction associated with direct psycho-emotional disablism Economic zone of indistinction caused by welfare reform which abandons disabled people to an uncertain employment market Good examples of how all men act as sovereign to disabled people, thereby producing homo sacer Escape is (sometimes) possible! Application of the work of Agamben to disability studies has some potential BUT Does not offer many answers Fails to take account of the body (impairment and impairment effects)
CeDR seminar, Lancaster University, 19/5/09 18 Contact details Dr Donna Reeve Applied Social Science Lancaster University Lancaster LA1 4YL E-mail:email@example.com
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