GIFTS OF MOBILITY: Disability Exceptionalism, Queerness & Rehabilitation in the Emergent Social Order

Gifts of Mobility: Disability Exceptionalism, Queerness & Rehabilitation in the Emergent Global Order

New York University
Dept of Social & Cultural Analysis

George Washington University
Dept of English

April 22, 2011
NYU Dept of Social & Cultural Analysis
20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor
NY, NY 10003

In 2009, Joni and Friends International Disability Center (IDC) celebrated its 30th anniversary of “ministry … to people with disabilities and their families across the US and the world.” Founded by Joni Eareckson Tada, who became disabled after a 1967 diving accident, IDC has participated in various forms of transnational evangelical/disability activism, including two seemingly-disparate contemporaneous initiatives: 1) “Wheels for the World,” a global wheelchair missionary outreach program that distributes donated wheelchairs throughout Eastern Europe, South America, Asia, and the Middle East and 2) the Manhattan Declaration, a globally-disseminated Christian manifesto, which avows support for pro-life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom and condones civil disobedience against laws regarding abortion and gay marriage. It emerged at the same moment that Uganda advanced its Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which proposed lifetime imprisonment or the death penalty for gay men and lesbians. Recent work in both disability and human rights scholarship has suggested a model of shared vulnerability and interdependence as spaces of possibility for a more expansive vision of human rights and global disability activism in the era of globalization and neoliberalism. However, our work argues that a new discursive mobility of a seemingly-innocent “interdependency” can occlude the ways in which relations of power in the new world order are currently being reconfigured around rehabilitation, incarceration, and necropolitics that targets unruly populations for elimination. We examine IDC to spotlight how certain forms of transnational disability activism—along with the desire for new understandings of disability and disability identity—can be problematically articulated in and through emergent forms of homophobia and neocolonialism. This event is co-sponsored by The NYU Council for the Study of Disability, The Center for Religion & Media, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the Program in American Studies.