Megan Hofmann’s Class Summary for Thursday, September 16th

Class, of course, began on Thursday with a quiz. Once the morbid quiz was complete, Dr. Foss reviewed the schedule our class would be following and named the readings we would be analyzing. The authors included Jasbir Puar, Chris Bell, and Toni Morrison. The class focused mainly on the two theory readings, and discussion involving these authors and their correlating articles proceeded in the same order as formerly stated. Through group discussion involving the two articles, our class concluded that white individuals remain the focus of disability studies due to a long history of marginalization towards minority groups in the field.

Class proceeded by Dr. Foss giving students adequate time to review Jasbir Puar’s article, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” from The Right to Maim. My groupmates and I discussed whether both disabled and debilitated aligned individuals fall under the same category of “disability.” Although we did not come up with a definitive answer, the group concluded that individuals with disabilities in debilitating circumstances battle unique hardships due to lack of resources. In addition, the group discussed how individuals in power remain in authority by targeting minority groups and disabling them through the act of maiming. We specifically focused on Puar’s claim, “This is what I call ‘the right to maim’: a right expressive of sovereign power that is linked to, but not the same as ‘the right to kill.’ Maiming is a source of value extraction from populations that would otherwise be disposable” (18). The group concluded that Puar point stands true, when someone becomes disabled by being maimed, they are less likely to be a threat to the group in power.

Dr. Foss then brought the class together to discuss the article as a large group. He started by stating that over 50% of police shootings are towards black bodies, supporting this claim by giving specific examples of local tragedies where black individuals have been targeted by local police. Foss then went on to discuss one of Puar’s points that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict also revolves around the intentional debilitation of a population and how individuals with disabilities in the Middle East face challenges such as transportation due to issues associated with the area’s infrastructure. The class moved on to discuss the topic from a historical stance, stating that throughout history, minority bodies were expected to attain physical disabilities, such as the bodies of enslaved people. This conversation concentrated on the topic of white fragility and how similarly to the topic of race, white fragility can relate to disability studies as well because the topic of disability can cause anxiety amongst white populations, especially when related to minority groups.

Dr. Foss then gave the class small group time to review Chris Bell’s article, “Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal.” My group discussed Bell’s obvious sarcasm towards the topic of disability, and how disability studies solely focus on white disability. The group specifically considered Bell’s ten-step list that sarcastically informs the reader of easy strategies in how to keep disability studies fixated on white disability instead of becoming more inclusive. The group quickly noticed that Bell’s article, like the central points in Puar’s article, focuses on the topic of white fragility. This conversation turned to large group discussion that revolved around Bell’s ten-step list. Classmates highlighted Bell’s use of reverse psychology, claiming that by stating, “Make no effort to be more inclusive in your scholarship. Do not start today, do not start tomorrow. Wait for someone else to do inclusive work” (281), Bell is calling society to action.

Lastly, the few remaining minutes of class were used to briefly discuss Toni Morrison’s, Sula. Dr. Foss emphasized different characters and their correlating disabilities such as Eva who has one leg, the triplets who are hinted to have an intellectual disability, and Plum who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The class discussed Toni Morrison’s intentions of wanting the reader to be exposed to differing perspectives, but whose intentions instead were at times inappropriate and insensitive towards cultures that she was not educated enough to speak for. The discussion was then concluded with a duck joke and class was dismissed.

“I pledge” – Megan Hofmann

September 16th Section 02 Class Review- Rebecca Visger

At only last sixty minutes instead of the usual seventy-five and three readings on the docket for small and large group discussion this class was on from start to finish.

We dove right in at two o’clock with a reading quiz. This quiz was heavily foreshadowed on Tuesday so hopefully everyone came to class prepared, or at least aware. The quiz was the usual five questions based on the reading assigned for that class period, with three rather morbid questions dedicated to Toni Morrison’s Sula, one question referring to Chris Bell’s essay “Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal”, and the final question referring to Ayisha Knight’s poem “Until”.

After a few of the quiz questions were repeated we broke out into the first small group session of the class period to discuss Jasbir Puar’s “Preface: Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” from The Right to Maim. My group expressed that they had had some difficulty in fully grasping the text, largely because we felt some of the academic terminology used in this piece was not clearly defined. Particularly, we had trouble understanding Puar’s definition of “debility”, which as its relationship to disability and how certain bodies are targeted for debility was the focus of this preface, made the piece as a whole difficult for us to access. Despite this difficulty we did spend some time discussing what we thought disability versus debility meant and how they relate and oppose to each other. My group also discussed how in this preface Puar both urges connection between disability, LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter, and other pride/identity movements, but also addresses how they can sometimes have conflicting needs.

After some time in small group discussion the class reconvened to address “Preface: Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” in large group discussion. The conversation opened with several students responding to how relevant the piece feels to the current activism climate and how it addresses some recent history of the Black Lives Matter movement. One classmate asked when it was published and with a quick search it was determined that the book this preface is for was published in 2017.

Discussion then shifted to address the issue of the differing and sometimes conflicting needs of identity groups, both within the disabled/debilitated/capacitated dichotomy that Puar sets forth in this piece, which we compared to a Venn diagram of overlapping and non-overlapping similarities and differences, and between the LGBTQ, Disability Pride, and Black Power movements brought up in the beginning of the text.

My group asked the class for discussion and clarification what they thought debility meant and what they made of the disabled/debilitated/capacitated dichotomy. Much of the class agreed that they had also had some difficulty understanding what exactly Puar meant by debility, but agreed that debility was caused more by social circumstance than disability. Dr. Foss then offered some clarification: Debility is caused by an intentional strategy to maim and wound a population to assert control. It is a conscious action. He also emphasized that the focus of this preface is the ways in which certain bodies are marked for debilitation, particularly black and brown bodies. A classmate then cited the second paragraph of page XV as being useful to understanding Puar’s usage of the term debility and the debilitated/disabled/capacitated dichotomy.

Large group discussion on “Preface: Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” concluded with another student calling attention to page XXIII, and questioning how phrases such as “Hands up don’t shoot!” and “I can’t breathe!” relate to disability justice. Dr. Foss responded by asking us to theorize how these phrases could be interpreted metaphorically to apply to disability, and to consider how race and disability often intersect in cases of police brutality.

As the conversation around “Preface: Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” had tapered off, Dr. Foss instructed us to break out into small groups again, this time to discuss Chris Bell’s “Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal”. My group expressed some difficulty with this piece as well, but this time with fully grasping the Bell’s satirical tone. Though the satirical nature of the piece was implied by the subtitle, “A Modest Proposal”, referring to Jonathan Swift’s 1729 satirical piece of the same name, my group-mates who did not recognize reference did not feel like the tone of the piece was satirical or exaggerated enough for it to be obvious that this piece was satire without that hint. While I did understand the subtitle’s reference, I agreed that it was a confusing piece to read as the author did not employ a consistent satirical tone. Instead, Bell shifts repeatedly between a serious and realistic tone when relating their own experiences, and a more comical and exaggerated one when speaking directly to the reader with little transition. We agreed it made the piece feel unbalanced and gave us a bit of whiplash shifting between the competing tones. We also discussed how this piece related to Puar’s, especially in how it addresses how race and disability interact and need for them to be addressed together.

After spending some time in small group, it was time for large group once again. At first there was an “eerie silence”, but then discussion began when a classmate brought up the issue of the difficulties of inclusion, and the extent of which lack of minority representation at events and conferences is caused by the demographics of the area, versus the ability of minority populations to access these events. This lead into a conversation about obstacles to attending conferences and events that may not be obvious at first, especially to those in privilege.

Large group discussion closed with several students expressed their appreciation of Bell’s point #7: “Pay no attention to Ann DuCille’s recognition that ‘[O]ne of the dangers of standing at an intersection . . . is the likelihood of being run over’”, referring to the difficulties of having multiple minority identities and how one identity can be focused on above the other(s) by other people.  Many students related to the feeling of having to “pick sides” of which identity to primarily present as and lean into.

We were going to break into small groups in a final speed round to discuss Toni Morrison’s Sula, pages 3-131, but class time ran out.