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The Biopolitics of Disability

Neoliberalism, Ablenationalism, and Peripheral Embodiment

Subjects: Disability Studies, Cultural Studies, Literary Studies, American Literature
Paperback : 9780472052714, 288 pages, 15 B&W Figures, 6 x 9, June 2015
Hardcover : 9780472072712, 288 pages, 15 B&W Figures, 6 x 9, June 2015
Ebook : 9780472121182, 280 pages, 15 B&W Figures, July 2015
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Theorizing the role of disabled subjects in global consumer culture and the emergence of alternative crip/queer subjectivities in film, fiction, media, and art

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Table of Contents


Part 1. From Liberal Restraints to Neoliberal Inclusion
1. From Liberal to  Neoliberal Futures of Disability: Rights-Based Inclusionism, Ablenationalism, and the Able-Disabled-35

2. Curricular Cripistemologies; or, Every Child Left Behind-63

Part 2. The Biopolotics of In(ter)dependent Disability Cinema
3. Gay Pasts and Disability Future(s) Tense: Heteronormative Trauma and Parasitism in Midnight Cowboy-97
4. The Politics of Atypicality: International Disability Film Festivals and the Productive Fracturing of Identity-115
5. Permutations of of the Species: Independent Disability Cinema and the Critique of Ablenationalism-136

Part 3. Medical Outliers: Navigating the Disability Bio(political) Sphere
6. Corporal Subcultures and the Specter of Biopolitics-155
7. The Capacities of Incapacity in Anti-normative Novels of Embodiment-180

Afterword. Disability as Multitude: Reworking Nonproductive Labor Power-204
Works Cited-239


In the neoliberal era, when human worth is measured by its relative utility within global consumer culture, selected disabled people have been able to gain entrance into late capitalist culture. The Biopolitics of Disability terms this phenomenon “ablenationalism” and asserts that “inclusion” becomes meaningful only if disability is recognized as providing modes of living that are alternatives to governing norms of productivity and independence. Thus, the book pushes beyond questions of impairment to explore how disability subjectivities create new forms of embodied knowledge and collective consciousness. The focus is on the emergence of new crip/queer subjectivities at work in disability arts, disability studies pedagogy, independent and mainstream disability cinema (e.g., Midnight Cowboy), internet-based medical user groups, anti-normative novels of embodiment (e.g., Richard Powers’s The Echo-Maker) and, finally, the labor of living in “non-productive” bodies within late capitalism.

David Mitchell is Professor of English and Sharon L. Snyder is a faculty member at George Washington University.

“Finally, a comprehensive and riveting account of how biopolitics during the age of neoliberalism renders people with disabilities available for various facades of social inclusion and acceptance. Focusing on the conjuncture of nationalism, ableism and what they call the 'abled-disabled,' Mitchell and Snyder insistently demonstrate the geopolitical inflections of the tensions between social and medical models as well as universalist and accommodationist approaches. Disability Studies has needed this book for a long time. The authors boldly call for an ethics of peripheral embodiment that demands nothing less than situating disability as intrinsic rather than exceptional to our imaginaries and practices of social justice.”
—Jasbir Puar, Rutgers University

“The interweaving of disability, queer and critical race studies is deftly handled and raises acute questions about the nature and significance of exclusions, where the ablenationalism of the West serves to project crises onto the developing world whilst bolstering a ‘self-congratulatory modernity’ at home. For Mitchell it is the crip art of failure—‘the capacity of incapacity’—that signals other possibilities of resistance to neoliberalism. The book is provocative, engaging and above all necessary in demonstrating how disability studies is now central to critical cultural theory.”
—Margrit Shildrick, Linköping University, Sweden

"Through analyses of films and novels featuring individuals with disabilities, the authors establish the potential for persons with disabilities to rupture normative identities of belonging…Recommended."
--Choice Reviews

- J.L Croissant

"...informative and a great call-to-arms for Disability Studies, the academic Humanities, and the disability rights movement."
--Disability Intersections

- Anna Hamilton

"Drawing on a wealth of knowledge that extends from graduate student bloggers, to his own family, to his own extensive and deep reading in a number of different scholarly disciplines, as well as his twenty-five years working directly in disability activism and the disability arts and culture movements, Mitchell offers readers another way of thinking about disabled subjectivities."
--Disability Studies

- Disability Studies

"Most useful in offering a conceptual approach to the materiality and creative potential of disability in today’s neoliberal world that cannot be achieved with the social and affirmative models of disability."
--The Drama Review


- The Drama Review