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  • Introduction:Ablenationalism and the Geo-Politics of Disability
  • Sharon L. Snyder (bio) and David T. Mitchell (bio)

A key conflation of nation and able-ism has been emerging since at least the late eighteenth century in countries enduring processes of industrialization and post-industrialization. With a nod to Jasbir Puar's influential formulation of homonationalism,1 we call this convergence "ablenationalism"—the degree to which treating people with disabilities as an exception valorizes able-bodied norms of inclusion as the naturalized qualification of citizenship. Disability Studies critiques are based on an analysis of the repetition of human predicaments—or, more precisely, a parsing through of the ever multiplying modes of non-normalcy—as people with disabilities encounter the inflexibilities of key social institutions such as healthcare, religious gatherings, communities, work places, schools, families, etc. These sites of interaction exclude some populations inequitably based on differences that cannot be adequately accommodated.

Yet, while disability has been recognized as a social, material, and manufactured terrain, its basis in bodies as well as ideologies also provides opportunities for unique combinations of social becoming. Attention to the lived intricacies of embodiment offer alternatives to normalization efforts aimed at homogenizing social outsiders. As such, the interactions of disability cultures, as Anne Finger emphasizes in the film Vital Signs: Crip Culture Talks Back (1995), will always be self-consciously generated around the politics of exclusion and the alternatives that such exclusions precipitate.

The historical development of ablenationalism results in the modern formation of disability as a discrete, sociological minority. In order to locate people with disabilities under market capitalism one must often look beyond the margins of surplus labor to those classified as "deserving poor" by national regimes. In emphasizing severity of incapacity as primary to a devalued identity, discourses of policy, economics, health, rehabilitation, and citizenship support [End Page 113] practices of charity as voluntary instances of conspicuous contributions to sustain them and the bureaucratic provision of supports and services. Whether nation-state or market-supplied, ablenationalism's calculated provision (and non-provision) of services based on principles of detecting and qualifying bodies as "too impaired" for meaningful labor underscores the degree to which the category of "deserving poor" is a highly guarded space of ostracization. The best result, from the perspective of the modern state, may be to have hordes of individuals not fully recognized as part of the "deserving poor" while simultaneously existing on the social scales of impoverishment.

Disability Studies maps the coordinates of these populations in order to deepen an understanding of the degree to which disabled people find themselves "locked in or locked out" of meaningful cultural interactions with others. This mapping imperative involves the advent of alternative outlines of human existence not formally recognized within systems of ablenationalism. One result of this effort is the ability to begin undertaking necessary comparisons and contrasts between people with disabilities around the globe. This is not in order to draw up universalizing conclusions about duplicative states of social rejection (the forms of social rejection experienced by people with disabilities are often quite unique), but rather to gain an understanding of the nuances of ablenationalism's tactics on a global scale.

Geo-politics, then, draws upon identifications of shared predicaments of exclusion and isolation while also allowing ways of revaluing the demographics of disability as counterinsurgent opportunities to resist the dictates of ablenationalism. In part, these resistance strategies manifest themselves as necessitated survival strategies in response to violence and orchestrated campaigns of neglect. The contributors in this special issue of JLCDS seek to parse through the particularities of exclusions (both within and without the borders of post-industrialization) in order to lay the groundwork for alternative responses to transecting forces of globalization.

Alternatives to Consumptive Lives

By and large the disability professions determine that disabled populations merit rescue from labor force exclusions through the enactment of anti-discrimination policies and the provision of near-subsistence level medical and social services. Within these neo-liberal intervention strategies disabled bodies are relegated to the ranks of surplus employment that may indeed drive labor costs down. Yet, at the same time the particularities of bodily accommodations [End Page 114] necessarily send people with disabilities into circulation...