Rachel Grace Chaos’ Take Home Final

Word Count: 1053

Rachel Grace Chaos

Doctor Chris Foss

ENGL 384: Section 01

December 9, 2021

Jordan Grunawalt’s Idea of Necropolitics and How it Relates to Mel Baggs’ Cultural Commentary on Autistic Experience  

            Jordan Grunawalt’s ideas in “The Villain Unmasked: COVID-19 and the Necropolitics of the Anti-Mask Movement” provide an insight into how conservative politics contain a necropolitical undercurrent in their rhetoric. Grunawalt discusses the emergence of the anti-mask movement in conservative spaces across the United States of America since the emergence of COVID-19. In their discussion, they examine the breadth of the anti-mask movement and how people view masking as a sign of “weakness” in an individual. Necropolitics, the use of social and political power to dictate how some people must die and others may live by disregarding disabled bodies as valuable, reinforces ableist notions and illustrates similar struggles Mel Baggs discusses autistic people face in an inaccessibly designed world in “Cultural Commentary: Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours”.

            Grunawalt defines “necropolitics” as “the ultimate expression of sovereignty where sovereignty is characterized as the power or capacity to define who matters and who does not, who is disposable and who is not” (Grunawalt), which ultimately designates some bodies “as lesser than, and inferior to others” (Grunawalt). A main idea in their discussion of necropolitics during COVID-19 is that “hospitals discriminated against people with disabilities more than any other singular factor” (Grunawalt), which oftentimes during peaks of COVID-19 cases left disabled people without a bed. The idea that some bodies are more important than others is a main discussion in disability studies as the discussion of personal freedoms often overlooks “vulnerable groups” who political powers do not see as a “necessary facet for protecting” (Grunawalt). Necropolitical ideas infiltrate all areas of political discourse and often alienate key minority groups.

            Within their discussion of necropolitics, Grunawalt discusses the harmful re-politicizing of minorities’ powerful phrases and how that affects said minorities. Re-politicizing phrases meant to bring awareness to minority political issues carries a necropolitical undercurrent in the rhetoric that is harmful to the underrepresented groups. Protesters at rallies dedicated to removing mask mandates demand a rationale that “masks make one look (or actually be) weaker and weakness is bad, so masks must be resisted” (Grunawalt), while they hold signs demanding: “’Sacrifice the weak: Reopen TN’” or the appropriated phrase “’My body, my choice’” (Grunawalt). The discussion around mask mandates focuses on the idea that “the ‘healthy’ bodies are rhetorically differentiated from the ‘sick’ bodies” (Grunawalt) and should not be subject to equal limitations. Furthermore, the demand to sacrifice “weak” bodies communicates that it is not the “healthy” people’s job to accommodate the vulnerable bodies, which harrowingly relates to discourses surrounding accommodations for other disabled bodies, specifically the autistic bodies Mel Baggs discusses.

            Baggs notes that although “there are so many injustices, large and small, that affect autistic people” it is “wheelchair accessibility” and language that “galls” [Baggs] the most “on an everyday basis” (Baggs) because no matter where they go, “the very structure of the environment” (Baggs) aims to exclude them. Ignoring the demands of autistic bodies in both physical and social environments illustrates a common thread throughout the discussions around disabled experiences. For Baggs, language is a common inaccessible facet in daily life as “language was built mostly by non-autistic people” (Baggs). For Baggs, they are met every day with “stereotypes about functioning levels” (Baggs) and the stereotypes communicate nothing but misleading experiences in their life. Focusing on the absence of abilities relating to both language and physicality results in contradicting views of autism. Baggs’ discussion of the inaccessibility of language patterns and physical environments communicates their conclusion that:

The richness I experience of the world is not merely a more limited version of other people’s experiences. My experiences have their own richness that other people may not be able to see, and they are far more than a mere lack of movement, conventional thought, speech, language, or perception. (Baggs)

It is impossible to determine one life as more enriching than another, as an individual’s perception of their own richness does not relate to other people’s experiences.

            It is in the anti-maskers’ discourse that “alleged masks impeded their civil liberties and violated their rights as ‘healthy’ bodies” (Grunawalt) that the idea of the ableist and inaccessible “structure of the environment” (Baggs) within the United States of America emerges. Powerful people ultimately determine how to build and structure everything in society, which leaves “wheelchair users… a particular and awful difficulty” when “the powerful people are not wheelchair users” (Baggs). In the same breath, a society structured around powerful people leaves COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths to “hit BIPOC (Black Indigenous, and People of Color) elderly, poor, and disabled lives the hardest” as “local and federal leaders [are] unwilling to take mask measures seriously, even at the cost of their constituents’ lives” (Grunawalt). Overall, the idea of necropolitics that Grunawalt discusses relates to all aspects of the disabled experience and how disabled bodies do not receive the same accessibility as non-disabled bodies in all environments, from politics and healthcare to specifically the environments that Baggs outlines from their own autistic experience.

            In examining Mel Baggs’ experience navigating the world with autism and Jordan Grunawalt’s discussion of the ableism in anti-mask discourse, the connection between necropolitical demands and ableist designed environments is apparent. Language and physical environments alienate autistic bodies. Anti-mask protests appropriate minority groups’ protest statements with signs that read “’Freedom to breathe’” and leave disabled bodies further alienated. In the greater environment, powerful and often non-disabled bodies structure environments that leave autistic bodies to struggle in adjusting to environments that refuse to accept that one body cannot represent all bodies. In the end, these factors prove that necropolitics, the use of social and political power to dictate how some people must die and that others may live by disregarding disabled bodies as valuable, reinforces ableist notions and illustrates the similar struggles Mel Baggs discusses autistic people face in a world designed to aid non-disabled bodies above all others.

I Pledge: Rachel Grace Chaos

Works Cited

Baggs, Amanda “Mel”. “Up in the Clouds and down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours.” Disability Studies Quarterly 30.1 (2009). Print.

Grunawalt, Jordan. “The Villain Unmasked: Covid-19 and the Necropolitics of the Anti-mask Movement.” Disability Studies Quarterly 41.3 (2021). Print.

ENGL 384 Take Home Final – Chy’Nia Johnson

Chy’Nia Johnson

ENGL 384: Disability and Literature

Dr. Chris Foss

7 December 2021

Word count: 1003

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. Chy’Nia Johnson

Option Two: a thesis-driven argument relevant to disability studies that engages substantially with one or two of the theoretical pieces from the final autism unit

Imbalance of Racial Representation in Autism Studies

In the final section of ENGL 384, we discussed the topic of Autism. A variety of readings were assigned, each showing different perspectives in their view of autism. There were a couple of theoretical pieces that caught my attention and made me think about the topic of autism a little harder. These two pieces were about race and autism. The first piece called “Preface: Autistics of Color: We Exists… We Matter” by Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu talks about how autism and the research behind the disability is lacking a more racial background within its testing. She also talks about how there is a representation absence of autistics of color in both literature and the media. Along with Giwa’s preface, I also found interest in E. Ashkenazy’s theoretical piece “Foreword: On Autism and Race”. She also explains the microaggressions on people of color as well as the adaptations that autistics of color must face every day of their lives. As I further my readings, I came to the thought that there should be more people of color in autism research and more racial autism representation in the media.

Autism research has been going on for many decades and with the more advanced technologies, one would think that the research would expand more than it has. That is entirely incorrect. The research that is used now and is the same research that was used about 30 years ago. Most testing was completed on one race and gender, white males. With such a strong, one-sided type of research for so long, most diagnoses are not completely accurate. Researchers and scientists are not taking into consideration the different ways that autism is affected by certain racial backgrounds. In certain communities within racial backgrounds other than white, some autistics of color have a hard time with getting proper diagnoses and help, (Ashkenazy). If additional research of autism with autistics of color would help improve statistical research that is among the current group of autistics of color. Current autistic colors research is more based on the white male information that was early studied. So, the current research could be erroneous in that there could be more certain aspects of autism that are different in autistics of color. As mentioned in Giwa’s piece she says, “According to popular opinion, autistic people didn’t/don’t look like me. People didn’t/don’t sound like me. Autism = (white, male-presenting) toddler wearing a Thomas the train T-shirt; autism = (white, male-presenting) quirky teen gamer; autism = (white, male-presenting) geeky computer programmer; autism = (white, male-presenting) adult rocking and staring off into space… A ready scapegoat for all of their caregiver’s life disappointments; autism = Temple Grandin, puzzle pieces, ABA therapy, and Autism Speaks” (Giwa, xv). With this description, a person with little to no knowledge would only think that white, male-presenting people would only be the ones that can have autism, which is entirely false. Autism is in every gender and in every race and I think that having this issue resolved would change more minds on the racial representation of autism.

While autism research and reported studies are mainly based around white males, a similar thing is happening with the media. Back in the 1980s, when the beginning of extensive testing and research started on autism, the way that the media was informing the public about the growth and awareness of this disability was through articles, books, and particularly movies. The first movie that came out that was showing/bringing awareness to the autism spectrum was Rain Man (1988). The movie portrays a man that learns about his estranged brother, who has autism and savant syndrome. The man then learns more about his brother as they travel across the country in a car. This movie has the main portrayal of the main character being an autistic white male. As more movies came out as the years rolled on, they also followed a similar pattern. Most main characters with autism were either white or male or both. This portrayal in the media shows a lack of racial representation. With the lack of racial representation in the media that is shown today, autistics of color do not have their own race or face being related back on the big screen. E. Ashkenazy mentions in her piece, “Though many autistic people of color live in loving supporting homes, despite having the support of their families, they do not always have the support and understanding of their communities. How can we positively target different ethnic groups and cultures with powerful information that shapes how autism is both viewed and approached? (Ashkenazy, xxxiii). I interpreted this as that most autistics of color do not have their race being represented as often or even at all in the media. Yes, there are some representations of autistics of color in articles that are being written by autistics of color, however, there are not many, if any, movies, or TV shows that portray a person of color that is autistic. If there was more representation of autistics of color in the media, then the problem that was previously mentioned by Ashkenazy would not be present.

The topic that I choose is a very touchy and controversial topic to certain individuals because some people do not notice the issue whereas this issue surrounds the life of others. This was mentioned in both Giwa and Ashkenazy’s pieces. They both mentioned that non-autistic, non-people of color say, ‘oh well autism is autism’ or ‘why should race be brought up in this issue?’ For the individuals that these two writers were discussing, this situation is very important to autistics of color. Having racial-based research and having racial representation of autistics of color in the media could have a significant impact on how an individual with autism and part of the persons of color community. Therefore, there should be more research that has a person of color in the description of the research and there should be more people of color in movies and TV shows that are surrounded by autism.

Works Cited

Ashkenazy, E. Foreword: On Autism and Race. All the Weight of Our Dreams. (2016). Accessed 6 December 2021.

Giwa-Onaiwu, Morénike. Preface: Autistics of Color: We Exist… We Matter. All the Weight of Our Dreams. (2016). Accessed 6 December 2021.

Terrencia Johnson’s Analysis On “Cultural Commentary: Communicate with Me By DJ Savarese”

Terrencia Johnson

Dr. Foss

Take Home Final Examination

9 December 2021

Analysis of  Cultural Commentary: Communicate with Me By DJ Savarese

     The Cultural Commentary: Communicate with Me by DJ Savarese gives insight on how it is to be autisic and wanting the world to communicate with you as they would anyone else. DJ is a film producer, poet, writer, and an activist. He grew up getting the normal education as any American child would, and went on to double majoring at Oberlin College. The only thing that makes DJ “different” from the rest of his classmates is that he is nonverbal and has autism. Within this article Dj gives explanations to why he does certain things, and what he needs for people without a disability to do in order to communicate with him. Within my analysis I want to understand why DJ needs to give explanations for some things that seem to be common courtesy and common sense. Also, I want to see how he responds to certain reactions of people without a disability and how those reactions affect DJ. Depending on the situation, certain things can affect him in a negative way. I believe this analysis will bring forward a deeper understanding of how people with autism want to be viewed by society, and also how they want others to interact with them.

As I began to break down the article, I noticed there was a common flow of a question or comment that would follow up with either an answer or explanation. While reading I found that although a question asked would appear to be short and simple, the response of DJ would be in depth and give a clear explanation so people would clearly understand. Dr.Gupta, the person who was interviewing DJ, asked about his facilitator and the controversy that comes about people who have one. DJ made it clear that his facilitator is there to make him feel safe and to help him focus during specific tasks. It was strange to learn that people had controversy about facilitators, however there are some people in the world who are not there to truly help and do take advantage of people with disabilities. I wondered how someone who is nonverbal was able to show that what their facilitators were communicating was true. For DJ, he had educators and past facilitators confirm to people that he was able to communicate his own knowledge and had the ability to learn like everyone else. However, there are many people in the world that do not have people who can prove these things so often what the facilitator or even guardians say is often used as a final say.  Another question that DJ included was how former classmates often asked if he had hearing issues as well because his aide would sign to him. A question that could be answered with a yes or no, but DJ gave us the entire breakdown. For DJ his body reacts to things differently than people without autism. When he gets scared, it is almost as if his body is disattached from itself. The feeling of fear makes it hard to hear and he can not understand what you are saying. When he is feeling stressed or excited his sympathetic autonomic system gets activated but then his body gets his parasympathetic response to engage, allowing for him to finally be able to respond voluntarily. I believe people without a disability are not patient enough with people with disabilities. This lack of patience can cause someone with a disability to perform actions that are involuntary and cause prejudice. DJ made it clear that, “I might act like you’re not there at first. It takes dear, real self time to tell my breaking-the-barrier heart to quit pounding so loudly, so I can respond.” Those without autism or with a disability are able to respond and react quicker to things, so we need to understand that for someone with autism it can take time to process all that is occurring. 

     At the end of the article there is the question of, “What can you free people do to help?” I wondered this myself not only as I analyzed this text but during the time I have been in Disability Lit. What can people without a disability do to not only understand those with disabilities, but interact with them in a way that is best for them. DJ gave us three ways we can help and made sure to explain it in a way everyone can understand. First he said to ignore his involuntary gestures, including his signs for done and break. The involuntary gestures are his body responding to what has just occurred and unfortunately sometimes the gestures he does are not even because of what is occurring in the moment, it is built up fear from past events. The second thing he says we could do to help is asking a question but writing answers on a piece of paper and giving him the chance to choose. This allows the conversation to continue and make him feel like you will not get bored and leave. The last thing DJ says we can do to help is simply talk to him. Oftentimes people without a disability talk to a caregiver or facilitator rather than talking to the person with the disability. By doing this it causes a disconnect to the person with a disability. When you do not talk directly to the person with the disability, it makes it seem as though you are not acknowledging that they are there. When you do talk directly to the person with a disability  it can make them feel  heard and seen. 

     Through my analysis I wanted to understand why DJ explained and described things the way he did. Through this analysis I have come to the conclusion that without him explaining the way he does people would not be able to have a clear understanding of how to interact with him in an appropriate way. Because of his explanation people without a disability now know that  people with autism can express their own ideas and feelings, use facilitators as a support system rather than a translator,  and simply want us “frees” to communicate with them as we would anyone else.

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.

Works Cited

“About — Deej.” Deej, https://www.deejmovie.com/about. Accessed 1 December 2021.

“NEWS.” DJ Savarese, http://www.djsavarese.com/news/. Accessed 1 December 2021.

Savarese, DJ. “Communicate with Me | Savarese.” Disability Studies Quarterly, 2010, https://dsq-sds.org/article/view/1051/1237. Accessed 1 December 2021.

Katy Rose Price’s Final Exam Essay

Literary Analysis of “Apologies to my OB-GYN” by Rebecca Foust

Word Count: 1044

Most often, birth is seen as a transcendent experience, the creation of new life and that life coming into the world for the very first time. Poems concerning birth often focus on themes surrounding joy, creation, beginnings, nurturing, or innocence. However, Rebecca Foust confronts those themes to depict the harsh realities of navigating the fear, uncertainty, and of having a child that was born premature and with health problems. In her poem, “Apologies to my OB-GYN,” Foust challenges the medical industry and beliefs held about whose life is valued and worth saving to demonstrate the inherent worth in each life.

“Apologies to my OB-GYN” has four stanzas, each consisting of six lines. A stanza with six lines is known as a sexain and doesn’t necessarily rhyme, as is seen in this poem. Foust employs anaphora in this piece to emphasize and illustrate her point with the repetition of the word “sorry” at the beginning of the first three stanzas, as well as at the beginning of the last line of the third stanza. Anaphora is a rhetorical device that consists of repeating a word or sequence of words at the beginnings of nearby clauses, thus creating emphasis on a certain word or idea.

Her use of anaphora calls the reader back to the word “apologies” in the title, leading the reader to believe that this poem would be atoning or asking forgiveness for something. However, it accentuates the irony of the poem, as Foust is not asking for forgiveness or lenience, but is calling out her doctors, physicians, and the medical industry for their treatment of her and her son. For instance, in the first four lines, “Sorry that my boy birthed himself / too early, took up so much room / in your prenatal nursery / with his two pounds, two ounces,” she calls attention to the ridiculousness of placing the responsibility of her son’s premature birth on him when his birth was uncontrollable and not determined by any specific person. Furthermore, she highlights the absurdity of deciding whether or not to save his life based on space concerns when her son weighed as much as a pineapple.

The use of anaphora can further be seen in this poem through the juxtaposition of the first three stanzas and the fourth stanza. The first three stanzas contain the use of the word “sorry” and communicate much of the emotion and rage that the author is feeling towards the people and industry that debated on the value of her son’s life. By switching abruptly from that emotion to the image of her child saving “nymph moths / trapped in the porchlight,” the reader can get a sense of the beauty of the child and his selflessness in trying to save little creatures that most people wouldn’t give a second thought. Additionally, one could assume that his empathetic and giving nature stems from his struggle and determination to live, despite the “prognoses” and “predictions” that counted against him. The beauty and value that he has now, as a child whose fate isn’t being debated, is the same as the beauty and value he had as that two-pound premature infant. This can be exemplified through the last three lines of the poem, “…blue wingbeat / pulse fluttering his left temple—there, / there again. Just like it did then.” In these three lines, one of the main themes of the poem is communicated—his life, like every life, had inherent beauty and importance from the moment he was born.

The ironic tone of “Apologies to my OB-GYN” is evident throughout the piece. In the first and second stanzas, the speaker shows her anger, frustration, and rage with her doctor and the medical industry through the irrational image of her premature infant showing his gratefulness for the doctors deciding to save his life (rather than casting it aside) by cooperating with the nurses. She further develops the irony of the poem in the third stanza, in which she “apologizes” for her child, through him receiving adequate care and living, “skyrocketed premiums, weighted the costs / in your cost-benefit analyses, / skewed bell-curve predictions / into one long, straight line.” In this stanza, Foust is criticizing both her doctor and the medical industry that values money and profits above human life. Rather than being joyful and grateful that their patient lived, the doctors and administrators were only concerned with how his long-term, expensive care impacted their costs and profits. By apologizing for how “he took so much of your time / being so determined to live…” Foust is highlighting the rage she feels toward her doctor and the industry, as well as the way she was treated during such a scary, frightening, and nerve-wracking time in her life.

In Foust’s poem, she employs the primary technique of anaphora to emphasize the ironic nature of her poem. She communicates the rage she feels toward the disregard of her son’s life by doctors and the medical industry through the repetition of the word “sorry” and the idea that her son living was an inconvenience to her doctor. Through this poem, Foust offers other people who may be experiencing something similar a voice and empathy for their emotions and frustrations. By juxtaposing her rage with the beauty of her son, both at his birth and as a healthy child, she communicates the theme of the poem, that people have inherent worth, beauty, and significance. Furthermore, she critiques the medical industry and its role in deciding whose life is worth saving and whose life is worth discarding.

Thus, a connection can be made between her poem and disability, as disabled lives are often seen as less than or undervalued. In the medical industry, disability can be seen as something that needs to be “fixed” or “cured,” rather than as an aspect of a person that should be accepted and appreciated. By calling attention to the importance placed by doctors and the medical industry on costs and profits, Foust demonstrates that disabled people are seen as less worthy of life because they may require more care and medical assistance than a non-disabled person. This belief is dispelled in her poem, as she demonstrates that every person is worthy of respect and has inherent value.

“I hereby pledge upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” -Katy Rose Price