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Arseli Dokumaci: Activist Affordances: Disability, Shrinkage, and Improvisation

15. Mai 2024 

Online sem­i­nar in the frame­works of EASA Med­ical Anthro­pol­o­gy Europe (MAE)

Online sem­i­nar „Activist Affor­dances: Dis­abil­i­ty, Shrink­age, and Improvisation”
Arseli Doku­maci (Cana­da Research Chair in Crit­i­cal Dis­abil­i­ty Stud­ies and Media Tech­nolo­gies and head of the AIM Lab)
Online May 15 at 4:30 PM CET.
Zoom link:

You can also reg­is­ter for the event via Eventbrite at the fol­low­ing link:
MAE Sem­i­nars: Activist Affor­dances with Dr. Arseli Dokumanci

*Activist Affor­dances: Dis­abil­i­ty, Shrink­age and Improvisation*

For peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ty, every­day tasks like lift­ing a glass or tak­ing off clothes can be daunt­ing. As such, their under­tak­ings may require inge­nu­ity, effort, care­ful­ness, and art­ful­ness. In this talk, I draw on visu­al ethno­gra­phies with dis­abled peo­ple liv­ing in Turkey and Que­bec and trace the immense labour and cre­ativ­i­ty that it takes for them just to nav­i­gate the every­day. Bring­ing togeth­er the­o­ries of affor­dance, per­for­mance, and dis­abil­i­ty, I pro­pose „activist affor­dances” as a way to name and rec­og­nize these extreme­ly tiny and art­ful chore­o­gra­phies that dis­abled peo­ple have to do each day for a more live­able world. Activist affor­dances, in the way I define them, are micro, often ephemer­al acts of world-build­ing, with which dis­abled peo­ple lit­er­al­ly make up, and at the same time make up for, what­ev­er affor­dances fail to mate­ri­al­ize in their envi­ron­ments. A ctivist affor­dances are not like any oth­er affor­dance in that their
cre­ation emerges from con­straints, loss­es and pre­car­i­ty that I broad­ly con­cep­tu­al­ize as „shrink­age”. Shrink­age refers to the lit­er­al „shrink­age” of the envi­ron­ment and the con­strain­ing, dimin­ish­ing, and at times, com­plete depri­va­tion of its avail­able affor­dances. I argue that it is with­in a shrink­ing world of pos­si­bil­i­ties, that it becomes nec­es­sary to cre­ate affor­dances in their phys­i­cal absence, which is why I call them „activist”. When the envi­ron­ment nar­rows down and shrinks to a set of con­straints rather than oppor­tu­ni­ties, it is the impro­visato­ry space of per­for­mance that opens and allows dis­abled and chron­i­cal­ly ill peo­ple to imag­ine that same envi­ron­ment oth­er­wise through activist affor­dances. Impor­tant­ly, activist affor­dances that emerge from shrunk­en envi­ron­ments are not just a form of world-mak­ing but an acces­si­ble and a non-exploita­tive form of world-mak­ing. Their cre­ation asks only for our bod­ies and what­ev­er hap­pens to be around us, or even just our bod­ies, which, at times, espe­cial­ly at times of extreme depri­va­tion, may be all
that we have.

Arseli Doku­maci (she/hers) is a Cana­da Research Chair in Crit­i­cal Dis­abil­i­ty Stud­ies and Media Tech­nolo­gies, and an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in
the Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Stud­ies at Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­si­ty. Her schol­ar­ly and cre­ative work lies at the crossovers of dis­abil­i­ty stud­ies, per­for­mance stud­ies and med­ical anthro­pol­o­gy. Arseli is the direc­tor of Access in the mak­ing (AIM) Lab, and the author of Activist Affor­dances: How Dis­abled Peo­ple Impro­vise More Liv­able Worlds (Duke UP, 2023) which won the Ali­son Piep­meier Book Prize from the Nation­al Women?s Study Association.