The Lives and Loves of the She-Devil: exploring poststructuralist feminism as a source of inspiration for critical disability studies
Department of Social Welfare Studies Ghent University Ghent, Belgium
I look at my face in the bathroom mirror. I want to see something different. I take off my clothes. I stand naked. I want to be changed. Nothing is impossible, not for she-devils. Peel away the wife, the mother, find the woman, and there the she-devil is. Excellent! Glitter glitter. Are those my eyes? They?re so bright they light up the room (Weldon, quoted in Braidotti, 2002, p117)
Critical disability studies is an emerging interdisciplinary academic field that examines social, cultural, political, historical, and relational theories of disability and impairment related to the dynamic interplays between impaired bodies and minds and various aspects of contemporary culture, politics, and society. In this paper, I focus on the ontological question underlying current praxis in disability studies to create cultural re-symbolization. Ontological grounds may be seen as sets of basic beliefs about the nature of reality and how it may be perceived on a continuum ranging from substance and essence (fixed, biological and essentialist) to social, in process and political (anti-essentialist). In that vein, the field is invited to radically unsettle ?social categories? like class, age, gender, and disability, and to challenge social barriers to identity experimentation. I want to theorize these social categories in more fluid, creative and social ways as it emerges in social theory and practice, in order to re-inscribe new impresarios in our contemporary discourse and shared culture. Critical feminist disability scholars are in search for process ontology at the centre of participative knowledge production and praxis, and I explore a poststructuralist feminist translation of ontological grounds inspired by Haraway (1991), Braidotti (1994, 2002, 2006) and Grosz (1994). They stress the need for process ontology to posit the primacy of (inter)relations over substance and essence, and to reinvent and re-imagine subjectivities. The analysis highlights a nomadic, multi-layered, embodied female subject who works upon her selves amid differences within herself and within the others, within a wider context of ambivalence surrounding her existence, and as the author of her own life.