Contemporary Feminism: Disabilities

10.4.17_Features_Ben Pulgar-Guzman_Feminism talk_Ben Pulgar-Guzman

Courtesy of Ben Pulgar-Guzman

Benjamin Pulgar-Guzman
Staff Writer

On  Sept. 29, a group of students bustled into EUC Kirkland as Dr. Nirmala Erevelles, a Professor Social and Cultural Studies at the University of Alabama, read excerpts from her scholarly article titled “Thinking Relationally Through Transnational Materialist Feminist Disability Studies.” To the right of her was Dr. Theri A. Pickens, a scholar as well as a creative writer. The focus of the article read by Erevelles is to give foundation to the Transnational Materialist Feminist Disability Studies field of study. Her research areas include transnational feminism and disability studies as well as post colonialism.

Erevelles asks the critical questions, through the lenses of historical materialism, of ‘how’ and ‘why’; how did we get to where we are now and why are you, in this point of time, different than me and I different than you?

“R. Garland-Thomson described feminist disability studies as ‘academic cultural work with a sharp political edge and a vigorous critical punch,’” said Erevelles.  

Her book, “Disability and Difference in Global Contexts: Towards a Transformative Body Politic,” received the Critic’s Choice Award from the American Educational Studies Association.

At the moment, she is working on a book-length document titled: “Crippling Empire: Theorizing Intersectionality as if Black/Brown/Disabled Lives Matter.” Erevelles’ work has gone far from unnoticed. She has been the Last Lecture Award in University of Alabama finalist in both 2009 and in 2015 as well as awarded the University of Alabama President’s Research Award in January 2016. She has also published multiple scholarly articles which have appeared in multiple platforms like American Educational Research Journal, Educational Theory to Disabilities Studies Quarterly and African American Review.

Erevelles presentation defined transnational capitalism within the context of oppression and disabilities as well put emphasis on the need for a better understanding of these exact issues through the perception of Transnational Feminism. When Erevelles finished reading, she received thunderous applause.

“In this presentation, I aim to teach us how to read and write about madness and blackness,” Pickens followed after the applause waned down. “I turn to the first chapter of Octavia Butler’s ‘Fledging’ to perform a close reading of her text, one that reveals how our reading strategies must change when we encounter madness, blackness and womanhood.”

Pickens received her undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and her PhD from UCLA. Arab-American and African-American literatures and cultures, Disability Studies, philosophy and literary theory are her main areas of research. Her writings have appeared in a wide array of scholarly publishing’s, including “l-Jadid, Women & Performance, and the Journal of Ethnic American Literature.

Her poetry has appeared in just as many places, including in Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire and Disability Studies Quarterly. She is working on a book project in which she will explore, through close-readings, the connections between madness and blackness.

Her presentation gave us a sneak peek of what type of text the book would contain. “Butler writes that the story ought to begin with action and the details of embodiment and backstory can be filled in later,” Pickens said persuasively, “this strategy is not about capturing the minds of the audience…but it is about the impetus to upturn how we think about the social positions of the characters.” Why is it then, Pickens argues, that racism comes hand in hand with stories about blackness instead of stories being about blackness itself, since it is indeed much more than our experiences with the negative? “Of course,” Butler wrote to a contributor for a never published anthology, “racism is a facet of black life, but it isn’t the whole.”

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