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11/15/2017

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Audrey Yap

Thank you so much for this interview, Kit and Shelley!

Cecilea Mun

Hi Kit and Shelley,

Thank you so much, Kit, for sharing your history with us, and your enlightening view about the sexuality of those who have been sexually abused. I also appreciated your point about how charitable organizations for people with disabilities conceive their mission in terms of seeking out solutions of eradication, or what you refer to as "erasure," rather than seeking solutions that would help people with disabilities flourish in the world. I think this is a very significant point that needs to be recognized by society as a whole and not only by those who run these charitable organizations.

Your criticism also raises a question about boundaries--questions about at what point one would draw the line for "cures," erasure, eradication--which are very timely questions considering the current social, political, and technological context of our time. I think this kind of slippery slope argument might be one of the strongest arguments there is against efforts for "finding cures" and in favor of efforts for finding modes of acceptance that would allow everyone, including those with disabilities to flourish...that is, if one had to choose between the two. One reason for thinking this is because I think that regardless of how many "cures" humanity finds, there will always be something else that some people will find to be in need of being "cured," and I think there is a complex reason for why this is the case. I don't think it's a simple matter of ableism, hegemony, bigotry, etc. For example, the fact that human beings, like all other living creatures, undergo evolution. There will always be random mutations, and it may often be a matter of luck as to which mutations are thought to be in need of being "cured" and which ones are thought to be in need of being reproduced. Love, grief, and compassion are also factors that often motivate searches for "cures," and I think this is the most challenging counterargument against arguments that criticize efforts for "finding cures." Do you have any thoughts about how this kind of counterargument can be addressed?

Thank you again, and I wish you the best in all your endeavors!

Shelley

hi Audrey and Cecilea,
thanks very much for your appreciation of the interview.

Kit intends to respond to you later today.

Kit Connor

Hi Audrey and Cecilea,

Thanks so much for your appreciation and wonderful comments!

Cure is certainly complicated- at the center of cure is erasure, and the uncountable intersections of violence that come with it. It is a model of what is 'broken' that needs to be eradicated or 'made complete.' Yet cure is a paradox in the sense that many disabled lives, including my own, depend on technologies of cure for current sustainment. Because cure is argued to support and extend life (at first glance) it dominantly seems to be the opposite of eradication. Cure 'saves,' manipulates, and undoubtedly prioritizes some lives over others. Cure is given in all kinds of different guises, and intersects with erasure in a multitude of systematic ways.

The same medical complex that sustains me daily in my use of significant anti-convulsant medication to stay alive, and in 'emergency' (a moment of tipping, where there is potential to shift towards or away from way of life/way of being, to another) would, if it could, eliminate both my mitochondrial disorder and epilepsy from my individual body (thus eliminating me as a subject), and epilepsy/mitochondrial disorder from worlds at large. In this manner, uncountable differences would be erased. Some of these would include life threatening diseases and conditions (cancer, AIDS, so forth) and ways of being that are considered to be defective (in non-normativity, in the ways in which bodies are considered not to be 'normatively' useful) but aren't necessarily or immediately terminal- so what we live with, but decide we cannot bear. This kind of erasure historically, materially gives rise to violent oppressive logics of what we consider to be 'normal' or 'natural.'

There is a linear or 'future' focused notion at work behind cure- where future is changed, or kept straight, by changing, altering, or 'offering alternative' in the present.

It's interesting- in personal experience, I have posed and reposed the question of disability and sustainment many times to folks in my life, often to those who are most invested in accessibility practices. What I have found is that even amongst the logics that are working to alter material spaces to make them permeable to bodies like my own, the need to eradicate disability is 'intuitively obvious' to them.

This intuition often comes from affects of linear love, grief, and compassion. I will speak here to 'pain' in relation to these affects, though there are countless ways in which experiences of disability in relation to dominate erasure and feelings of 'empathy' can be configured.

I seize, dislocate a joint, cry in pain. "This is intolerable!" "This is not what you needed today." .... my memory holds the face of a loved one crying, flinching, regressing in response to my seizure. "How do you do this every day? If I was in pain all of the time I would be miserable, an unhappy person, I wouldn't be able to think, I would be cruel."

And then. "I don't want this for you. I want you to live a good life."

Every time I hear it, its a sharp slap. These are the echoes of the logics of cure. Precisely in the desire for sustainment, the pull towards 'happiness' 'well-being' 'good life' 'fulfilled' cut away, dismantle, and eradicate my life. What we often see in the affects of grief and compassion is conditional happiness at work- where I must maintain scripts of happiness in order to scaffold or support the happiness of another.

"In the face of your suffering, I suffer." Flinch- compelling disengagement.

In our philosophical work on torture, pain, and suffering (Scarry, Brison, Sontag to name a few), we have conceptualized pain as dis-sychnonic disruption, as what makes us come apart. 'Shatter' 'break' 'unusual' 'freak' 'cruel' 'kink'- how quickly fetishizing of pain comes to us. Paradoxically how fast we eliminate through mimicry. We have few resources for considering the complex ambiguity of pain- as a valid, disparate formative way of knowing and being in the world- as a re-orienting, as what may give horizons towards elsewhere.

I am offering neither a positive nor negative account of pain- I am pointing to pain as between the paradox. Of what we could keep unscripted company with- of the possibilities of affects that can hold with as a disruption of the conditional happiness logics of 'suffer.'

We treat others as if they only matter in relation to the use, service, comfort, compassion, empathy of our own. As if they exist for what we personally can conceptualize-

Bodies we can weather as worry stones.

Kit

John Altmann

Shelley and Kit,

First and foremost, excellent interview whose emotion and depth of thought was palpable and made me look at the experiences of survivors of sexual abuse in a new light. To Kit personally, I want to thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your experiences of sexual abuse with us, and for sharing certain philosophical perspectives on the matter that before I had ill-considered. Minds like yours are why I love what I do and may you keep using that beauteous voice of yours as you have because all of us need to hear what it has to say. We see you, we hear you, and we love you. The disability community will one day dismantle ableism and its machinations, and with work like yours and Shelley's, that victory is most assured.

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