Hollis Cobb’s Class Summary for September 9th

Class opened today with a series of duck related jokes and puns. While somewhat entertaining, these jokes were horribly unfunny. Much to my chagrin, duck jokes became a theme of the class, appearing at various points through the reading quiz and class discussion.
The majority of class discussion centered around the essay reading for the day, Mitchell’s “The Biopolitics of Disability”. The essay centered around a few key terms and their relationship to the biopolitics of disability, which we defined as a class prior to large group discussion. Dr. Foss selected passages to clarify the class’ understanding of each term. Biopolitics, the concept underpinning the entire reading, is defined by Mitchell as the “process of managing population resources through demographic record keeping at the level of the state” (10) in a neoliberal society. Dr. Foss continued by defining neoliberalism, with a scathing definition provided by the reading, as “the arrival of hyper market driven societies that organize identities largely as consumers” (4) that “rationalizes the use of public resources for the global expansion of capital by ransacking the commonwealth” (10). The commonwealth is solely an entity to be exploited by corporate entities, and members of the commonwealth are exclusively viewed as consumers.
This neoliberalism is especially problematic, Dr. Foss pointed out, through its expression of able nationalism, the idea that nationalism is rooted in unconscious yet systemic ableism. Further, expressions of disability under able nationalism are relegated to victimhood only. Mitchell advocates for creating a large space for Crip/Queer identities that looks past victimization. To conclude the lecture portion the class period, Dr. Foss elaborated on the essay’s proposition for exploring alternative modes of being that do not fit the ableist, heterosexual model that neoliberalism demands.
Class then shifted into asking questions regarding “The Biopolitics of Disability”. Jacob commented on how applying the discussion within the essay regarding the commodification of disability under neoliberalism and connected it to the ongoing issue of “Big Pharma” in America. Dr. Foss added to Jacob’s observation by pointing out that neoliberalism and capitalism programs us to see ourselves as deficient, which creates more profitable consumers looking to “fix themselves”. Jamie emphasized the reclamation of terminology by Crip and Queer communities, repurposing previously stigmatized terms into ones of self identity. Jacob again contributed by observing how disabled individuals have moved from being unacceptable to acceptable solely as a consumer, to which Dr. Foss pointed out that said products seek to “normalized disabled individuals to make them fit the able nationalist ideal. This observation contributed to a larger discussion contributed to by many members of the class about the normalization of medication, and whether medication detracts from a person’s true identity.
The reminder of class consisted of small group discussion regarding Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales. Due to time constraints, we did not get to unpack these discussions in a larger class setting. Finally, we briefly mentioned the Walt Whitman poem “The Wound Dresser”. While we did not deep dive into the work, Irena brought up the relationship between disability and war, and how war somewhat normalizes disability as soldiers return from war with various amputations and mental illnesses.
There was no significant argument for the day’s discussion considering most of class was spent unpacking a dense essay with weighty terms and concepts. The lecturing and discussion shed significant light on these concepts, and the period concluded with students having a significant command of the manifestations of disability within a neoliberal society.

I Pledge
-Hollis Cobb

One thought on “Hollis Cobb’s Class Summary for September 9th”

  1. Hollis, I like that added that the society we live in today is trying to make people with disabilities have a way to “fix themselves”. It seems as though everything now has a “cure” or a way to be improved. While many are okay with this, it can be very expensive to “fix” the thing some view as an issue. As we discussed in class, it’s almost offensive that people think it is as simple as taking medicine to “cure” a disability. There are several factors that go into trying to improve certain disabilities, cost being a major component. Great summary!

Leave a Reply