In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Cripistemologies: The Conference Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality New York University
  • Mara Mills (bio)

On April 19 2013—after three years of “traveling through bar conversations, texts, and status updates [… refusing] the usual routes of academic knowledge, accumulating meaning in the ephemera of conference chatter, social networking, and other queer gatherings” (Johnson and McRuer 130)—Cripistemologies came to the metropole (New York University). The conference version of Cripistemologies was hatched in the spirit of the roundtable that opens the first part of this double issue of the Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies. The roundtable questions were pre-circulated to conference participants and sponsors; the purpose was further inquiry rather than canonization (or, as keynote Mel Chen put it, “finding a shared space in which we all fling ourselves into the mudpool hoping that there will be some generative intellectual-affective, albeit slippery, contact”). Chen’s lecture on “Cripistemological Brain Fog” considered the many possible implications of crip epistemology/cripping epistemology: cognitive difference and neuroatypicality, distributed cognition and “becoming together,” brain fog and not knowing.1 With a self-declared feral approach—ranging across cognitive linguistics, feminist science studies, queer of color critique, disability theory, critical animal studies, environmental justice, and new materialisms—Chen spoke against the paradigm of comprehension, an inclusion or summary that necessarily excludes; a quantifiable mental ability to “receive and contain ideas” (think comprehension test); a single “line of thought.”2

Lisa Duggan, Robert McRuer, and I co-organized the Cripistemologies conference to address points of overlap and contention between gender and sexuality studies and disability studies. The conference was hosted by the NYU Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, with co-sponsorship from [End Page 349] the Council for the Study of Disability as well as a dozen other departments and programs, at NYU and beyond. Pre-registration was required due to limited space, and approximately 85 people were present—mostly students and academics, but also artists, activists, and staff from Visual AIDS. Panels were convened around themes “in the neighborhood” of disability studies (Sedgwick qtd. in Johnson and McRuer 130): one on injury, illness, and chronic pain; another on trans and intersex scholarship and embodiment. The day closed with interactive performance, which raised the question: What do people do at conferences?

McRuer introduced the first panel, “Cripistemologies,” with a history of the term and a preview of the JLCDS issues. Although “cripistemology” had already found its way into academic publications—through the work of David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder, among others—it is still not clear how the term will change as it travels through formal, para-, and non-academic channels. Following McRuer’s opening remarks, Aly Patsavas and Katerina Kolářová gave snapshots of their articles. Patsavas defined cripistemology as a mode of thought that “combines the process of ‘cripping,’ which ‘spins mainstream representations or practices to reveal able-bodied assumptions,’ [Sandahl] with a philosophical commitment to ‘standpoint epistemology,’ which acknowledges that the subject positions from which we produce knowledge matter.” Her cripistemology of pain surfaced through a critical reading of her own pain journals, kept over a fourteen-year period. Contrary to mainstream theory, Patsavas argued that pain is in fact “leaky,” shareable, and produced in relationships as much as individual bodies. Kolářová discussed the rehabilitative affects and discourse that characterize the post-socialist Czech Republic. Drawing on the work of José Muñoz, she suggested that “crip horizons” might be excavated from the past and from what goes unnoticed in the present.

Disability studies has been slow to respond to Susan Wendell’s 1989 call for a theory of disability that includes illness and disease: illness is relatively absent from the 2013 edition of The Disability Studies Reader; the field of “medical humanities” has staked a claim to the study of disease, in contradistinction to disability studies; and scholars continue to test new terms, such as debility, that are either broader in reach or more culturally and historically specific than disability.3 The second Cripistemologies panel directly confronted “Injury, Illness, Chronic Pain, and Disability Studies.” Moderated by Christina Crosby, the panel opened with a reading by Patrick Anderson from “Autobiography of a Disease,” his book...