Cultural Locations of Crip Theory

Thank you Zafire and Hanna and Izabella and everyone that has helped to bring me here. I am really excited to be a part of the festival!

I have images that come with my talk, and hopefully they will be coming shortly. Thank you for having a session in English. The last talk I gave was in Barcelona. And I could swing bad, but I don’t have any Swedish. Thank you for allowing me to speak in English. I will try to speak relatively slowly and in a way that Zafire suggested is Crip Theory 1.01.

I am finishing a book in the next few months that is titled “Crip Times – Disability, Globalization and Resistance”. It was formerly titled “Cripping Austerity”. And what I’m going to present today is basically a selection from the introduction to that book. It gives a general sense of the book’s argument and topic. It mainly thinks through crip and cripping in ways that can hopefully serve, as I said, as an introduction to crip theory.

I have also just recently completed a key word’s essay on the word crip. There is a book coming out in early 2016 called Keywords for radicals. I was asked to write the entry on crip. So I will be drawing on that keywords’ entry. If anyone has ever done one, they are always very difficult and painful but also very clarifying. It is a space where you are given two thousand words to tell the history of this word an all the cultural work that it does in that short amount of space.

So I am drawing on that today as well. As I said, the book used to be called “Cripping Austerity”. I will be talking a little bit about austerity today although I mainly will be focusing on crip and cripping. Austerity politics of course takes many different forms in different times and places, even if it has, of course, a relative similarity – at this point globally – that is the rhetorics emergency: An IMF loan, some intervention to stop the collapse of a bank, or a deficit emergency seems to be common across the cultural locations of austerity in our moment. The supposed cure, also, is relatively consistent across locations: that is cuts to social services, privatisation of those social services wherever possible and in fact, in practice, redistribution of wealth upwards. Austerity in most locations has generated massive amounts of wealth for the one percent, leaving the 99 percent behind.

Largely, I am focusing in my talk and in my book on the UK. It is a sort of ground zero right now for austerity politics. Just to give you a nutshell sense of the argument: I’m mainly trying to make explicit and central what is often implicit and peripheral in other studies of austerity.

There has been many books lately that have focused on what austerity is, what is happening globally around austerity. But they rarely put disability at the centre of their study. That is simply what my project is trying to do.

I’m starting off the slide from the activist and performer Franklin, a nude self-portrait that she did at the beginning of the conservative government in the UK. This portrait is called Left out in the cold. I love it in many ways. She did it to demonstrate the dramatic affects of the cuts to disabled people were having to their lives in the United Kingdom. Those cuts have been, and have continued to be quite extreme.

The government that took power in 2010 was a coalition government, with the conservatives sharing power with the liberal democrats. They implemented a program of austerity that is quite harsh. After the elections this year, the Tories no longer need to lead with the coalition government. They have taken power outright and continue to implement more and more cuts that have devastated countless disabled lives, and other lives across the country.

One of the things I really love about this piece is the way in which Franklin uses her wheelchair to point elsewhere. She is a wheelchair user, but honestly, those who have felt the deepest impact of the cuts in the UK are not wheelchair users. It’s often people with what you in England call people with mental difficulties; or in other locations, psychiatric difficulties, or cognitive disabilities. Disabilities that manifest themselves un-evenly. The wheelchair is usually the universal disability symbol but she uses it to point towards and speak alongside disabilities that aren’t always easily representative in photography. It’s also, for those of you who read these signs, a standard hospital/national health service wheelchair, so she is gesturing towards the public in this nude self-portrait.

My project in general crips contemporary capitalist globalisation, or more precisely, crips the global economical crisis, that’s largely offered up as just a vacation for the austerity that we are now enduring and it doesn’t promise to go away any time soon. The book crips this crisis by adding crip and queer perspectives to seek to analyse the cultural logic of neo-liberalism and the austerity that is now part and parcel of it.

What it means to analyse the cultural logics of neo-liberalism simply entails asking how cultural formations and movements circulate around, emerge from and resist the hegemonic global political economy of neo-liberal capitalism. [He shows a projection of the front page of the book ‘Austerity Bites’ by Mark Thomas] So. Austerity bites! It’s like austerity sucks, austerity stinks. There are many ways of interpreting this English phrase austerity bites from Mark Thomas’ book from Mary O’Hara’s recent book that is detailing stories of hardship across the UK suffered by people as a result of austerity politics.

Partly because of that bite, austerity is not a word I need to explain much in my talk today. As I suggested, the terms crip power or cripping could use a bit more framing and I actually think that that’s true even internally to disability studies at this point.

People are talking about crip theory all over the place, but sometimes, even within the interdisciplinary field of disability studies, I don’t think it is always clear what we are talking about when we talk about crips or cripping or crip theory. And I think that it is healthy to have those debates as well as the processes inventing what crip theory might mean or be. I am going to talk today of crip as a noun, as an adjective or a verb and try to talk about each of of those stages that talk about the different valances of the word.

In many ways, like the word queer, crip has a variated history. It has clearly been a derogatory term and I think it is important to always stress that crip has been a derogatory term. It is derived, in English, from the word “cripple”. It will always carry, because of that history, traces of stigma and derision. Crip has, however, also like queer, of course been a term that has been reclaimed by disabled people and groups themselves. That reclamation of a negative word is actually kind of like disability itself.

“Disability” in English is also in many ways a reclaimed word in the sense that it has for the most part over more than a century spoken in one way, a sort of a medicalized way with voice of science and medicine. The disabled movements have reclaimed that word and made it be about many other things, including pride and identity.

Crip, even more than disability, is a reclaimed term and it marks a sort of in-your-face cultural model of disability. Again, very much like “queer” marked as an in-your-face cultural model of sexuality. As such, as sort of a cultural model of disability, crip stands in opposition to really two other models, one of which we already gestured toward. The first would be a medical model – a model that would produce disability to the univocality of pathology, diagnoses, cure or illumination. At the same time, it also, as a cultural model of disability, stands in opposition to what is called the social model, which has been very important and well known.

But I think crip theory and the model that I’ve put before you goes beyond the social model. The social model in England generally suggested that disability shouldn’t be located in bodies per se, or minds per se, but rather in an inaccessible environment that simply needed to be adapted. If one was unable to get into a building because there was no ramp, disability emerges from that inaccessible situation and can be corrected socially.

The cultural model of disabilities is much more generative and it speaks in ways in which disabled experiences, disabled embodiments, disabled ways of thinking and behaving. Those modes of being disabled are generative in their own right and hence the cultural model is more about disability epistemologies and ways of creating.

Partly, crip is tighter than the cultural model because it’s excessive, flamboyant and defiant, and it is thus culturally generative in those senses. Although the connotations of cripple – the historical connections from crip to cripple – would seem to tie crip to mobility impairment, at this point has actually proven to be far more stretchier.

I am putting before you the cover of Merri Lisa Johnson’s wonderful queer crip memoir called Girl in need of a tourniquet. It is a memoir of the borderline personality. It’s an experimental memoir in which she inhabits and exploits the very diagnosis that would contain her. I’m simply putting this before you to mark the ways in which Johnson and I recently co-edited a special double issue of the Journal for literary and cultural disability studies on the theme of cripistemology. Merri Lisa Johnson’s coinage of the term cripistemology was trying to get at the ways in which disabled experiences provide ways of knowing and thinking about our world and our lives. The interesting thing about that experiment and the project Cripistemologies, was that the disabilities in question positioned crip as describing well what we might think of as a non-normative or non-representative disability – disabilities that would never sit easily in that universal access symbol for disability.

The volume examines borderline personality disorder, anxiety, HIV/AIDS, trans-identity and many other impairments or forms of being that aren’t always adequately comprehended by the term of the signified disability. Likewise, in her really important recent study Feminist Queer Crip by Alison Kafer [He points at a projection of the book’s front page.] You can’t see all the words but her title is Feminist – Queer – Crip.

Kafer uses the term crip to think about mental issues, behaviour, or forms of embodiment that might not on the surface appear to be about disability at all. One way to think about it is the first term of the title, Feminist. Decades of feminist thoughts have given us ways of realising and changing situations, because feminists teach us to see that situations, that don’t appear to be about gender at all, are actually situations saturated with questions of gender. So in that sense, Kafer uses crip to again think about situations that don’t seem to be about disability but that are actually in many other ways saturated with questions about disability or ability.

She, and other theorists too, also uses crip to think about forms of embodiment or states of mind that are in excess of the binary able-bodied/disabled. So if the world has been historically divided up into these two supposedly fixed groups, one sitting on the normal side of the binary, the other on the abnormal, Kafer, and other crip theorists are attempting to speak in ways to which that binary doesn’t actually describe our world very well. We need ways of speaking to think outside of it.

Like queer, crip has the contradictory and often fabulous potential to be simultaneously flamboyantly identitarian, about identities. On one hand, it can be in-your-face and you will acknowledge that and paradoxically anti-identitatarian, such as: we reject the capacity of your languages saturated in ableism to describe us and our experiences efficiently.

So that paradox, working both with and against identity at the same time, is sort of central to how crip as a noun has performed. As my use of “we” here hopefully suggest, crip has been an actively coalitional word. You can see it in Kafer’s title (Feminist-Queer-Crip) that it has been a word that has explicitly looked at the ways in which collectives work and how they work intersectionally, thinking about other sorts of issues that are in the neighbourhood of, and closely allied with, issues of disability.

This is a good moment to sort of suggest that, of course, there have been lots of debates about the limited value of the term and about its situated use. I am going to talk a bit about these sorts of locations.

In my own study, Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability almost ten years ago, I wrote a quote that I will give you:

“Crip should be permanently and desirably contingent: in other queer, crip, and queercrip contexts, other terms have served or may serve several generative functions”. In that quotation I gave a list of words that have been used and deployed by a range of artistic and activist groups, including squint-eyed, half dead, not dead yet, gimp, freak, crazy, mad, or diseased, pariah.

My point is that crip, as a critical term, has in various times and spaces, been displaced by other terms and that the point is not necessarily to fetishize the word but to think about the generative and creative processes within disability communities that have produced this way of thinking.

I think this is actually a bit in opposition to a book that recently came out about Sweden and Denmark called Loneliness and its opposite, a disability studies’ book that makes a case for crip theory as a rather academical affair in general. But In my experience, crip has actually emerged mostly from artistic and activist communities. Of course, academic locations can also be activist locations as well, but travel through any number of disability communities around the world and people would say: “I first heard crip when I was doing activism” or “I first heard crip when we were engaged in various artistic practices”.

At this point, though, I think there is a sort of triangulation that circulates in all sorts of worlds that overlap activist-artistic and academic. What I am putting before you is a relatively famous painting by a crip artist who has done a series of portraits of disabled people. Here she puts before you this imaginative magical portrait of the activist and writer Eli Clare. This portrait is meant to do some sort of justice to Clare’s environmental activism and also trans-identity. All of these things are sort of cut out in this relatively well-known painting. I put Clare before you because he is one of our activists who has written carefully and thoughtfully about crip as a noun. In his book Exile and pride, Disability Queerness and Liberation, Clare again explicitly uses the first person plural “we” to talk about the work of crip. Clare writes: “We in the disability rights’ movement create crip culture, tell crip jokes, identify a sensibility we call ‘crip humour'”. And evoking Clare, you see me move from noun to adjective, which I will be doing in this section that I’m taking you into.

For Clare, creative deployments of crip are specifically meant to be deployments that are differentiated from what he calls a “super crip”. So in Clare’s book, he writes about “super crips” as those figures who are the products of ableist culture, who feel the pressure to perform in a way that overcomes disability. A “super crip” is really a sort of individualised term of overcoming, whereas “crip” for Clare is that collective “we” that has been produced in disability communities.

Clare and a range of other activists and artists in the mid 90’s were part of… What you have before you is a performance piece by the professor and artist Carrie Sandahl from the 1995 documentary called Bible signs: crip culture talks back. In this piece, Sandahl is in a museum space and has on her body a white suite written with all the terms that has been used by medical figures over the course of life to describe her. And she was one of only a few of many crip artists and activists that were part of this important documentary “Bible signs”.

In that documentary, crip was connected to community, solidarity, outspokenness and defiance. I’m going to just move through a range of other images of artists and activists to help to convey that.

What I’m trying to do with some of these images is to look how the collective culture works, as something like Bible signs, has been applied in numerous other locations around the globe. In the upper left-hand corner, you see figures by the performer and activist Liz Carr from the UK who had a radio show that was called Crip Radio and aired on the BBC for a while.

The cartoonist Crippen has also been active mainly in the UK with the caption in his cartoon “What do you mean you’re a lesbian, we thought you were disabled?”, capturing again that sense of crip as actively thinking about issues of intersectionality. The African-American hip hop performer Leroy Moore is pictured on the right hand of the screen. He has actively developed something he calls crip-hop nation, which is sort of queer, crip hip-hop. He has also been a member of the important performing troupe Sins Invalid, which has just made a beautiful documentary. It is an unabashed claim to beauty in the face of invisibility that again thinks intersectionally since it puts forward many performers who are of colour, and thinks deeply about immigration analytic. Moore has been central to their work.

In the upper right-hand corner is a comedian from Australia who died recently but who had a show called Tales from the crip, playing on the fact that crip sounds like the English word “crypt” or “tomb”. But tales from the crip aim at affirming disabled people’s sexuality while mocking abled-bodied peoples notions that the disabled people should be inspirational.

So there is something called cripspiration or inspiration. This comedian is the most famous artist who critiqued that notion. She used to have a t-shirt that had this slogan: “inspiration – bonerkiller” on it. In an interview she said: “I identify with cripping the community. I didn’t invent the word. It’s a political ideology. I came to it in my early teens-twenties. People often say to me ‘you can’t say that’ and I say that ‘my people had been saying it for decades, so I reckon I probably can’”. You should see that the term as an adjective, as in the quote that I just gave you, underscores its generative character, so when you combine crip with culture, it is not simply additive. It is not simply culture plus crip, as though we all agreed what culture was in the first place. Instead, the term’s power I think marks it as something that can’t be reduced to a mere descriptor.
It is not culture from a crip perspective, but rather crip ways of transforming culture. As it shifts to a verb, I want to affirm that as a verb (to crip), what it might be is something that we are still collectively in the process of inventing. “To crip” is probably best to be defined of what it might become, than by what it is.

There are two important conferences, one of which I am putting before you here, that took place in Prague, Czech Republic and helped to get a sense of how cripping might function as a verb. It is implied in the very title “Cripping Development”. The other former conference that also was held in Prague was called “Cripping Neoliberalism”. These titles of the verb imply that the cripping entails radically re-visioning from committed anti-ableist positions – taken for granted systems in which we’re located. It is just not “development” that seems like a word that we know. Cripping development means questioning what we think we know about that.

Both conferences, Cripping Development and Cripping Neoliberalism, interrogated fetichised notions of capitalist growth and highlighted how bodies and minds are unevenly cut up in processes like development, or the uneven spread of neoliberal capitalism. I think it is important to note here too that the location of these conferences, outside the US and Western Europe, really spoke to the desire that was legible in the Prague conferences: to find languages for thinking about disability that might speak to the post-socialist contexts or the context of disability in the global south.
Crip has at this point moved in and out of various languages. And so I come to Scandinavia. One of the first issues of an academic journal was in fact the journal Lambda Nordica, which was titled simply “Cripteori”. You could likely pronounce that better than I can. It was a bilingual special issue in English and Swedish that examined the multiple and always congestive ways that crip had been taken up by a range of subjects in Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. The activist, anti-capitalist zine out of Vienna, Austria – “Crip Magazine” – was also bilingual, English and German. I put the German context before you to mark what I think is the case: I think many radical, queer and disability activists in German- and Spanish-speaking locations, have found crip to be something with which they resonate strongly. In Germany, and this may be the case in Swedish as well, there is an autonomous movement that was called the Krüppel-movement. The radical disability activists in Vienna put together this zine, which has so far only appeared in one issue, but it will be appearing again in January in its second issue. I think they are semiautonomous of that earlier movement.

In Spain, Melania Moscoso, who is pictured here for you, and others have begun talking about what they call crip-washing, playing on the queer term pink-washing. It is when something appears to be an affirmation of LGBT-sexualities but is, in fact, used to mask negative processes. So pink-washing is used most famously to talk about the state of Israel and the ways in which the openness of Israel masks the on-going occupation of Palestine.

Moscoso and other activists in Spain have begun to talk about crip-washing as a complicated process where someone appears to be affirming disability and disability identity, while nonetheless devastating the situation for many other disabled people in the same national location. That is certainly the case in austerity-plagued Spain. In Spanish it is potentially translated as Raquel Lucas Platero suggests: “literalmente teoría tullida, la teoría crip”.
Crip becomes a tool for naming or exposing neo-liberal appropriations of radical visions of disability, justice, and coalition. Back in the Czech context, Kateřina Kolářová has also used crip to theorise the same sort of state domestication of the energies of disability history and disability justice.

She talks about what she names the “inarticulate post-socialist crip” to imagine ways of being disabled, and that predates capitalism or the re-emergence of capitalism. But that has been silenced by a sort of compulsory celebration of capitalism in post-socialist locations. She uses this photo in particular, by a Czech photographer, of people living with HIV/AIDS in Ukraine. These women are living prior to 1999 in the Ukrainian context and Kolářová attempts to read this picture to think about modes of being and forms of embodiment that have been silenced in current post-socialist contexts. So “to crip”, then, from all of these examples, like “to queer”, might indeed get processes that make strange or twisted processes that unsettle.

In using that phrase – make strange or twisted – I’m specifically drawing on the language of the disability dancer and performer Petra Coppers who is pictured here in a dance performance with her former lover Neil Marcus, in front of Petra. She has written about disability community and performance in a book with the subtitle “find the strange and twisted shape”.

It is actually, I think, a good description of what “to crip” might mean: to make strange or twisted. To crip, also hopefully in the examples that I put before you, signifies talks about how ablebodiedness and ablemindness are made to seem natural, or about the ways in which bodies, minds, behaviours and experiences that should be in the absolute center of a conversation about our particular topic, get purged from that conversation.
If we don’t talk about neoliberalism and austerity and think about disability… to crip those things would be to bring back disabled experiences and talk about the ways they are actually at the center of the topic. That purging of disabled experiences and embodiments from various topics has tended to function in the surface of the smooth functioning of global capitalism which is probably why the term crip has had its resonance with radical disability activists in a range of locations. As my Czech, Spanish and, in particular, Austrian examples should illustrate.

Cripping then, to tie off here, is used as a verb. It tends to have spaces, issues or discussions getting straightened – in the more expansive sense of the word “straighten”. Then we might think of it in queer activism or queer theory at this time. I think there is something radical about crip that has a promise that’s not necessarily so pledge-able as much in the term queer. Partly because queer has become so much incorporated into global political economy so we can talk about the the pink euro, the pink pound, the pink dollar. It’s not possible to talk about the crip euro, the crip dollar, the crip pound.
That is not to say that capitalism can’t incorporate crip theory, activism and art. Obviously, its empiric tendencies make any kind of incorporation possible. At this moment, crip retains a radical promise that’s not so legible.

So to tie things up, I will give you a sense of the arguments in my book “Crip Times” and then see if we can have any collective conversation. As I suggested, Crip Times the book especially circulates around one location, the UK.

Here you see Prime Minister David Cameron himself shaking hands with the also conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who regularly uses the term “idiot” and has said things about disabled people, comparing them to dogs. You see them here on a big photo. This is is before the London 2012 Paralympic games.

They are pictured alongside a few pair of paralympians. I put this before you to get at the bifurcated, strange and twisted moment. One thesis of the book is that there is a limited but spectacular celebration of disability in almost any location that coexists alongside the marginalisation and exclusion of others, whose experiences and bodies and lives might not so radially be understood as disabled.

I’ll talk about this project by disabled artist Liz Crow tomorrow. She sculpted 650 statues out of river mud that are meant to signify the numbers of lives that have been impacted or lost to austerity in the UK. 650 is the number of constituencies that there are in the country. The point is to see these two photos – the spectacularisation, celebration and incorporation of disability as part and parcel of complicated crip processes.

I’ll end with just a few more images that give you that double sense. One of my other chapters in the book looks at housing in particular in the UK but spins out to Mexico City. This is an image of another photo lob in Mexico City, outside the British embassy. It illustrates well what I am talking about in terms of celebration and spectacularisation. Following the London games, Britain began to export its vision of accessibility even as stories were coming out about how inaccessible London was for people actually living there; how disabled people were needing to use the sink in the kitchen in order to bade. At the same moment England would busily export what it understood as access around the world.

My point is about the ways that access has begun to circulate as a kind of mode that often is not really tied to actual lives and experiences. Ambassador Judith McGregor is pictured here alongside a range of disabled dignitaries in Mexico City, including a few paralympians. They are at a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the embassy that’s celebrating curb codes in that location. The chapter then looks at a range of photographs by the Brazilian photographer Livia Radwanski. She lives in Mexico City and the photographs focus on images of displacement that have been taking place in the rapidly gentrifying city of Mexico.

My point in putting Livia Radwanski and her photographs alongside this photo of celebration of accessibility by the British embassy is, again, to point out that sometimes images of disability are not legible. This is one of the figures that Radwanski photographs from a housing tenement that was targeted for demolition. This place houses numerous families in a gentrified neighbourhood who suddenly had to go and live somewhere else.

None of Radwanski’s photographs scream disability, though with a crip analysis, it allows us to think about processes of displacement. This particular figure is a figure with schizophrenia but, of course, you would not know that just looking at the photo. The chapter looks at the larger projects that Radwanski is putting forward.

I am trying to bring the two artists Liz Crow and Radwanski together to affirm that crip ways of thinking are not always tied to disability identity. So Radwanski’s photographs are not, as I suggested, disabled on the surface. She thinks about poverty, displacement and gentrification but scratching the surface, they need to be analysed through a disability analytic. Crow’s project on the other hand, emerges from the side of disability identity but flows out in the opposite direction, allowing us to think about poverty, displacement and dispossession – processes that are really endemic to neo-liberal capitalism. I think that I will stop there. That is your crip theory 1.01 for today, taking you not only through crip as a noun, adjective and verb, but also hopefully giving you to see how it can be an analytic for thinking through the processes that structures the world that we live in.


Thank you! We have ten minutes for questions and comments. You can ask them in English or Swedish and I’ll give you the mic.

Hello. I’ll just quickly introduce myself. My name is Christine Bylund and I’m a crip-identified person, so it’s nice that you use it as a noun. I’m also engaged in the independent living-movement and I will be talking tomorrow. I’m really interested in crip-washing that you were talking about. It has become a trend, especially in Sweden right now, where crip is the new fashion-world in feminist and queer circles. I wondered if you had any more examples and theories about why that is happening now.

It’s really interesting to me to hear that. Sometimes I’ve been caught up in those processes in Sweden and not known what is happening. I was called some years ago by someone from Arena magazine who said “we want to talk about crip theory and publish it in our magazine”. I guess you all know Arena magazine? They called and said “we think you are the person to do it”. There is an article that was published in Arena and only in Swedish – I hope it’s a good one, I don’t know what it says. Since then I’ve been called a couple of more times by Swedish periodicals to talk about crip issues. It’s possible that the audience can better explain to me what’s happening in Sweden. But it’s possible that it is similar to the situation in Spain with the process crip-washing. I should say, and by putting myself into that situation, another thing what crip theory does is to show that nothing is really innocent. There is no purity. You could probably find my university if you look up the word “neoliberalism” in a dictionary. They are perfectly happy for me to give talks and publish things on crip theory. They don’t really think about it or understand it but on some level, the university is capitalising on that academic project. That puts me in a non-innocent position. I think the best thing that crips can do is to bite the hand that feeds you and make sure that the project remains radical even as it’s appropriated or domesticated by various institutions.

I agree. I think it was also interesting in this context that crip-washing right now in Sweden comes with purging disabled embodiments and disabled topics. Very fascinating.

Hello. I am Hanna, thank you for your talk. I think in correlation to what you said but also opposition to it: I often think about the fact that crip theory is such an under-theorised theory, whereas queer in Sweden and in general has become a practiced and theorised field, both within groups that identify as queer, and not. I find it’s fascinating because crip is an even more fruitful theory when it comes to body performance. And yet it has remained not very used. A lot of my very critical friends, and well-read people, have never heard about it. My friends in America get uncomfortable when they hear it, thinking it’s a word you can’t use. It’s fascinating that it is so put away. Do you have any thoughts on that?

That speaks to what I’m saying, that the term will retain traces of stigma.

But so does queer?

So does queer, but it is part of every day processes of capitalism, as I was describing. Capitalism is capable of incorporating anything and I find useful Foucault’s famous thoughts where he said: I’m not saying that everything is good, I’m not saying that everything is bad, I’m not saying that everything is dangerous. That situation should, and this part of the quote often gets cut off, generate hyper and pessimistic vigilante activism. His pessimism echoes the pessimism that the philosopher Antonio Gramsci talked about, that we need a pessimism of the intellect but an optimism of the will. That phrase from Foucault captures that. A demand for never being silent in the face of capitalism’s ability to incorporate just about everything but rather a hyper-activism even if it’s a pessimist activism. He also uses the term “excessive”. I love that part of the quote: a “hyper excessive vigilante activism”. I like the word “excessive” because I think what’s happening with the state or state-like institutions is sort of a recognisable capitalist excess.


These images from the Paralympics – I’m sure they are not gonna be that different. They are going to Rio next year. What is happening in Brazil right now? Surprise, austerity, even Dilma Rousseff who represents the worker’s party. That says something about how austerity is shared over the political spectrum. During Dilma’s presidency, there have certainly been massive activism on the streets about the education system. These are things that should be deeply about disability: education, health care, and so forth, as these multi-million stadiums were built in the jungle. I’m sure we will se similar images like these – excessive, spectacular, inspirational images around the Paralympics in Rio next year. What I like about Foucault’s use of excess is that he makes us realise that there are other forms of excess.

Artists like Liz Crow and others; dancers, performers, are generating other kinds of excess that are at odds with that capitalist obstacle.

More questions or comments anyone? So thank you so much!

Thank you, it’s been a pleasure to be here!