Karen Nakamura speaks on Disability Studies and Race

Karen Nakamura speaks on Disability Studies and Race


Taeku Lee: Today, I’m really delighted to
be able to present Professor Karen Nakamura to you. Karen’s a relative newcomer still at Berkeley,
having come here from Yale University a couple of years ago where she was associate professor
in anthropology, and also chair of LGBTQ Studies at Yale. She is the Robert and Colleen Haas chair in
Disability Studies, and chair of our Disability Studies cluster at the Haas Institute. She’s a cultural and visual anthropologist,
who’s done some pathbreaking work, most recently A Disability of the Soul on mental illness
and schizophrenia in Japan. Today she will be talking about Disability
Studies as White Disability Studies/Disability Studies as Intersectional Disability Studies,
so please give a warm welcome to Karen Nakamura. Karen Nakamura: When I was asked to give a
talk, I thought well, why I don’t just try to use this as a provocation and try engage
us into a conversation. I have a title, which is designed as a slightly
provocative title, and I’m going to make some statements, which are clear exaggerations
and clearly things are not as simple or as defined as I say. This is where I want you to push back and
say, “Actually, no, you’re wrong. You’ve stepped too far.” The title comes out of … There’s an essay
in the second edition of The Disability Studies Reader, which came out in 2006, by a promising
African-American scholar named Chris Bell, who unfortunately is no longer with us. His title is the source of this provocation. He argued in it that disability studies is
really white disability studies. Oh, and I wanted to apologize. For technical reasons, I had large print handouts,
but a series of unfortunate events caused the large print handouts to be small print,
or nonexistent print, and so that’s my fault. If you would like a copy, I know HIFIS is
recording this. If it’s like previous events, they’ll have
the recorded version, as well as a transcript on their website, which always makes me nervous
as a speaker because whenever you get transcribed you end up sounding like Donald Trump, so
always a dangerous thing. I’ll try to speak in full sentences for the
transcriber. Okay. Back to white disability studies. The Bigley white disability studies. Chris Bell in this paper, his provocation
is that, “Look,” and he starts off, “We need to call a thing for what it is.” Disability studies to him just seemed very
much that it was white disability studies in all of the different ways that one could
explore. Of course, this was also a provocation coming
in, and commissioned for a book called The Disability Studies Reader. He notes that he wants to call shrimp a shrimp
and acknowledge disability studies for what it is, white disability studies. In contradistinction to disability studies,
white disability studies recognizes its tendency to whitewash disability, disability history,
ontology, and phenomenology. White disability studies, while not wholeheartedly
excluding people of color from its critique, by and large focuses on the work of white
individuals and itself is largely produced by a corps of white scholars and activists. White Disability Studies envisions nothing
ill-advised with this leaning because it is innocently done and far too difficult to remedy. A synoptic review of some of the literature
and related aspects of Disability Studies bears this out.” Again, this is in 2006 that he’s writing it. In this paper he looks at texts, films, and
conferences that were produced in this time span preceding his paper. There are various things. There was a film, there was a couple of books,
Vital Signs, Culture Talks Back; a book No Pity, People are Just, A Matter of Dignity,
Changing the Lives of the Disabled; Claiming Disability Knowledge and Identity; Enforcing
Normalcy: Disability – in the Body. Then there’s a queer disability conference
here in the bay area. Those middle four were books, but there’s
a queer disability conference that was here in the bay area, that I think some of the
people in this room attended, and it was noted the conference organizers tried very hard
to incorporate people of color, but for various reasons that was not made difficult, and folks
who attended the conference felt very excluded. People of color who attended the conference
felt very excluded. People of color caucus came forward. There was a lot of discussions and unfortunately
one of the attendees at the conference made a statement, which will go down in infamy. This person said to one of the attendees,
“Being disabled is just like being black, so society should stop hating us and give
us our rights.” You can see what they’re trying to say, in
terms of the equivalencies of civil rights, et cetera, et cetera but it was just so clumsily
said, and so problematic that … It’s being said in a way that sort of makes it clear
that the person that was saying it wasn’t really thinking that actually there might
be black audience members who might hear this, and interpret it in a way that’s very problematic. Then the society for disability studies, the
annual conference in 2005 also had a number of problems with their people of color caucus. This was all happening in the span before
he wrote this paper in 2006. Oh, and then there’s an MRA conference that
also was exclusionary. I guess the question is, are we any better
in 2018, 2017? I decided to think back and for one, the conference
of the Society for Disability Studies was still having problems with representation
within the Society for Disability Studies. It hasn’t gotten better. At our conferences, this constantly comes
up as an issue, and one that’s clearly still vexing us. Leaving the conferences aside, I decided that
well why don’t I look at journals as a metric to see whether or not disability studies has
actually been able to address questions of race. I looked at our flagship journal, the Disability
Studies Quarterly and this was a very rough analysis. I looked at all of the articles that were
written and published in 2017. There were 47 articles that DSQ published
and of them only four mentioned race, racialization, the world black, colonization. I tried a couple keywords such as to see how
they might mention race and so we’re at just under 10%. You either think that’s really great, that’s
four out of 47, that’s really good for us, or you think that’s terrible. Then I looked at book reviews, with the proxy
that well, book reviews really, the review editors try to get the key books that are
coming out to be reviewed, and so maybe book reviews will be a bit better. One out of 17 of the book reviews looked at
issues of race. I then looked at the titles themselves mentioned
race, then I looked at the reviews themselves to see if the content of the reviews mentioned
race, and then we did better with seven out 17 of the content. Sometimes it’s only in passing and clear that
it’s not really the key force of the book or in some cases, these are edited volumes,
and so one of the essays deals with race but the rest of the volume doesn’t. In any case, you can see that disability studies
to a very large extent thinking about racialization, thinking about new sectionality is still a
minor part of the field so. It’s really unfortunate because you think
of some of the books, like there’s a book that there’s a collection of stories about
… Let’s if I had the full list. It’s a review essay about autism and the entire
span of the books about autism, this is the book stories of autism on the Left, none of
them at least according to the review, the review doesn’t mention race. I don’t go in and look at the books to see
if they mention race, but the reviewer doesn’t mention race in the long list of books about
autism that they’re talking about. There is problems with my method now because
this is meant as a quick and dirty. It could be that the books didn’t do it and
it’s actually do a viewer who is trying to remove discussions of race visualization,
but I’m using this as a proxy because my thought is really I talk about race than actually
would get mentioned. The titles didn’t give hints to that nor did
her discussion. Then another one about intellectual disabilities,
also no mention about race in that text. There are many opportunities that we could
have incorporated that we aren’t, but I thought well am I just being unfair to disability
studies, well what happens if we look at another journal or what happens if we look at the
other side, and this is where you can throw stones at me. Let’s look at the Journal of African-American
studies and whether or not it mentions disability, so is there just a sort of mutual lack of
conversation going on here. I just picked Journal African-American studies
as a proxy for a leading journal and in 2017, I looked at the 36 articles that are published
and about three of the articles, 3 of the 36 used the terms disabled or disability,
but many times it was just in passing. They described the No Child Left Behind law
and they would say well it’s a law that deals with disability blah, blah, blah, blah, but
really it was not dealing with disability in that way they won. Again, this is unfortunate because if you
look at the text, there are ways in which that disability creeps in. This is one of the texts that mentions disability,
but in passing what it could’ve done much more is that I’ll read from it. Among all racial and ethnic groups in the
US, blacks had the highest morbidity and mortality for our diseases and have higher rates of
disabilities and sure that lifespans, et cetera, et cetera, etcetera. It’s talking about health, but it’s using
health without … This is one a few instances where they use the disability word, they’re
talking about health metrics without using the word disability. Again, this might be unfair. I mean it’s my proxy way of thinking well
why are we using health instead of the word disability and so forth. Okay. Another one, there’s a special issue down
on prints, and so one of the articles talks … One of the few times the disability pops
up again is talking about C.S. Johnson had written in 1941 about the Emmett Till murder
and the quote from 1941 includes the word disabilities both in the city and in the country,
the disabilities, which has cast sufferers that is blacks are maintained primarily by
a system of force. It’s using disability in a in the oldest sense
of the word and not the contemporary sense. We’re seeing bits and pieces of their word
disability, but not in great numbers. Okay. Then I thought well let me then maybe General
Patton Lincoln says is unfair, maybe let’s look at queer studies, the other field which
I feel much better at in terms of poking at. GLQ is the flagship journal in queer studies
or one of the flagship journals in queer studies, and so again I looked in 2017, all the peer
reviewed articles so I’m not including book reviews, I’m not including the introduction,
I’m not including commentary. In GLQ in 2017, there are just two articles
that dealt with disability and one of them was on HIV and AIDS. It talks about the disability caused by HIV
and AIDS, and then the second one was really nice essay that was a call Tom’s basically
saying let’s think about sexuality and disability together. There’s a slash between dis and ability that
I just want to talk about, meander off for a second because it’s an important one, because
I think to me it indicates something. Disability, many disability activists have
a lot of problems with dis/ability and when you use that term, it indicates a certain
distance from the activist community. Why? Well part of it it’s a euphemism, differently-abled,
dis/abled. We know the euphemisms are really short for
you’re screwing me and you refuse to admit that you’re screwing me, so you’re using euphemism
for the fact that you’re screwing me. It contains amount of patronization in it,
right? There are authors who want to use disability,
often using the sex that oh I really want to focus on your ability and not on your disability,
and that contains enormous amount of patronization. It would be like maybe I’ll take myself into
the same hall as the person talked about race at the queer conference, but be like if we
said well race, they really have the word ace in it, so there’s no race, there’s just
ace, right? it contains this well oh we’re really being very positive about you and isn’t
that nice that you have a dis/ability. Then finally the problem is because it displaces
the focus and that is the problem with disability and differently-abled, right? The reason why the disability community chose
the word disabled is because of the social model, disabled people are being disabled
by society. Society is the one that’s disabling us and
so when people choose to say well no, we’re going to focus on ability, it’s entirely not
understanding the reason for the word choice, and it’s an important word choice. When I see that in an academic article, to
me it’s indicating again that there’s some distance from the people on the ground who
are thinking and using terms and so it’s unfortunate. There’s a larger context in which right now
disability studies is booming in terms of an intellectual discipline. There’s a lot of people washing into it, a
lot of people especially who are coming out of different fields especially queer theory
who are washing into disability, and many times they are distant from the community. Well, I’ll talk about that in a second so
actually the next slide, graduates next slide. I wanted to jump to why does disability studies
avoid conversations about race. I think we very much need to have conversations
about race but to a large extent, I think we have been avoiding conversations about
race. I think one of it is that the reality is that
many disability studies scholars are white and many of them are non-disabled, and the
reason that they’re coming into disability studies and this is one of my unfairness is
that because they have a child, a sibling or a parent who became disabled and suddenly
they discover disability as a topic and so that’s why they’re washing in. They aren’t coming in from communities that
are intersectional, that have already struggled with questions around language, around power,
around representation, and so forth, and so we get a certain amount of naivete with some
of the newest scholars who are coming into disability studies. Then the bigger problem, so that’s a minor
problem, the bigger problem though is that academia is a real fictive meritocracy. We like to believe it’s a meritocracy, but
it’s really not and to a large extent in academia, we like to think well what I mean by fictive
meritocracy, we like to think well if you’re smart and you try hard, you’ll succeed in
academia. To some extent, that’s true, but that ignores
all the forms of exclusion, all the forms of racism, ableism, sexism, structural violence
that go on. We don’t often have these conversations and
oftentimes we believe that well disabled students, disabled scholars well we have the ADA, we
have services like the DSP. If anything, they’re being helped more than
non-disabled students, so they should have nothing to complain about or they have a leg
up. It’s the same conversations that often happen
and more hushed tones around race happen in very public ways around disability. I think most of the faculty who are here,
who have been in a faculty evening have heard various conversations around disabled students
that sort of reflect that attitude. The first point, the ADA has this problem. The ADA is supposedly a civil rights law for
disabled people. It has this fundamental glitch in it, which
is that as originally in 1990, the ADA says that a disability is something that causes
an impairment to a major life activity. The problem is that the Supreme Court in a
number of decisions decided that working is a major life activity to the point in which
it became a catch 22. If you could work, then obviously don’t have
a disability and the only way you could show you have a disability is by not being able
to work. If that’s a case, well then really no ADA
employment suit is going to succeed because if somebody’s working, then they’re not disabled. If they can’t work, well then they’re disabled
and they can’t work and thus, the exclusion is not discriminatory. That’s played out within the university setting
as well. We have then have problems where the disabled
people who are in academia were relatively select bunch and activists and general kick-ass
community scholar, Corbett O’Toole, has called them the able disabled. I’m not sure about that language and I have
mixed feelings about that language, but I think another way to say it, I’m not sure
if that’s better, any better, people with non-apparent disabilities or non disabling
disabilities and I’m not sure if I’m then getting myself into the same catch 22 that
the Supreme Court sort of dug itself into. Generally, the people with disabilities who
are able to succeed in academia tend to be the ones with either non-apparent disabilities
and we’re hiding it, was sucking up in particular ways or are disabilities are ones that with
various things were able to at least succeed or partially succeed in this fictive meritocracy,
but the reality is is that there’s a ton of people who are just adjuncts, who are lecturers,
who are not able to succeed in the tenure track market, who are disabled. Then ask Kim Crenshaw says we’re all … Then
the question is where are the intersectional scholars and Kimberly crenshaw has said that
intersectionality is the ability to be run over twice and standing in an intersection
get hit from both directions. That’s really the case with disabled scholars,
so disabled scholars of color are really like the double intersection of getting whammied
on race and getting ranked whammied by disability. They are really absent in academia. I think that’s part of the some of the reasons
why as a field, as scholars, society disability studies really has had trouble pulling in
compositions about about race. When we think about the various disability
civil rights laws starting with the Rehabilitation Act, the Individual with Disabilities Education
Act, the ADA, all of these laws are really targeted and benefit a certain model of person,
the ideal citizen. The closer you can get to being a white heterosexual
married able-bodied, white collar, middle class, english-speaking, non-disabled male,
the more that the laws really are suited towards you. That’s the model that the legislature has
had in mind and the more you drift away, the more complex, the more difficult it becomes
for you to accrue any of the benefits. Again, we think of the ADA and at least in
terms of employment, the person who really benefits is well this notion of heterosexual
man who’s using a wheelchair but has a law degree and so can just roll into the courtroom
and say their briefs and then roll out, and that is all great that, that because they’re
white color in a profession in which the ability to or read and speak and to think is valued,
they are doing just fine, the ADA can protect them but the ADA doesn’t protect people who
fall out of that, right? If you’re a female and disabled, the employment
rates are terrible or if you’re a black and disabled, the employment rates are terrible. If your disability happened at a time and
impeded your ability to go to school, your employment rates are horrible. Pretty much any sort of thing that will drift
you out of this charm circle of the white heterosexual male pushes you out of the scope
of any of the laws that are designed to protect you. Yeah. Seth: Could I add one? Karen Nakamura: Yeah. Seth: I’m just thinking about a friend and
research and a [locator 00:24:38] of mine. The other thing that relates is immigration
status. Karen Nakamura: Yeah, immigration status. Thank you. Seth: This friend is equal in the State of
California to apply for things related to state disability that’s temporary but not
for federal because of their immigration status. Karen Nakamura: Yeah, yeah so thank you Seth. Okay. Amongst my qualifications, I think it’s fair
to ask so I had previously given stats on well why should African-American studies in
engage in conversations with disability. A couple months ago sue Schweich organized
a really fantastic conference here called Academic Ableism, and one of the speakers
was Wanda Blanchett. She was talking about the disproportionate
representation of African-American students in special education and as in many things,
African American students are both over served and underserved. The mechanism in which the structures of racism
occur are in their labeling as requiring special education services or being labeled as second
language speakers and being shoved off into tracks, which would not lead into college,
at the same time that they’re being underserved because the actual special ed tracks that
might need to focus tutoring and other services, for example, for learning disabilities aren’t
available to them, right? They’re being labeled with particular labels
that don’t get them services while being prevented from being labeled appropriately in ways that
might actually get them services that they might actually be able to use. This though because it’s education has this
lifelong effect that the way that racism is operating in our school systems is through
the mechanism of disability labeling. I think we need to think carefully about that
one could say well it’s just racism, but the racial categories are being now changed into
disability categories, and that is I think the process by which we being the United States
as a whole is making our racism tolerable by using the language of disability. Let’s see, this quote from her. African American students are disproportionately
referred to and placed in the high-incidence special educational categories of mental retardation,
emotional or behavioral disorders, and learning disabilities. Once labeled as having disabilities and placed
in special education, African American students make achievement gains and exit special education
at rates considerably lower than those of White students identified as having disabilities. Third, although the field of special education
has moved toward more equitable treatment of students with disabilities by advocating
for inclusive general education placement, many African American students who are placed
in the less subjective, low-incidence categories of developmental disabilities are educated
in segregated, self-contained settings with little or absolutely no exposure or access
to their non-disabled peers or to the general education curriculum. Also in Blanchett’s criticism is that by and
large the field of education has been mostly a white field and because of that, because
the teachers who are coming in, the teachers who are teaching the teachers, the superintendents
who are monitoring the teachers are coming out of particular educational circumstances
that making them not look at racial categories but also disability categories appropriately
this form of structural racism and academic ableism is there to continue. There’s another area in which we also want
to think about disability, right? Right now we have this enormous problem where
African American youth are being killed by police, African American young men are being
killed by police, right? They’re being killed at a rate that’s about
seven times that of the average population, hugely problematic. This is a conversation about violence in the
US. It’s coming in the aftermath of yet another
series of school shootings. I want to focus on one element though which
is increasingly in a lot of police homicide incidences, they’re now saying to use the
argument of mental illness as the rationale. Right now it’s just about above 25%. Oh we thought that that person was mentally
ill, that’s why we feared for our life, that’s why we shot them and I would hazard to guess
that this is increasing, that it’s a particularly effective rationale, right? We see that rash now being used to talk about
the shooter in Florida, right? They are mentally ill, and the mentally ill
are being constructed as this category of people for whom one can have rational fear
for one’s life and that’s homicide. It is entirely justified because if you don’t
kill them first, they will kill you. I am hesitant to guess that I don’t have the
statistics for the racial black breakdown of this category of people against the racial
category of folks as a whole, but I would hazard to guess that African Americans are
representing like many things, over-represented in this chunk because it becomes this again
non-racial way of talking about fear about, talking about the self-defense and so forth. Okay. We saw that in 2017, 2016, there were a lot
of prominent murders of ethnic American young men, and so a number of the journal articles
that did hit in section of African American and disability. We’re talking about young African American
men who were disabled and then shot. We then also have this problem that when we
use the word disability, we often don’t include things that we really should and Seth Holmes
who had just commented has been a really great book talking about the disability that illnesses
caused by environmental toxicity in migrant farm workers. Those often don’t get manifests, depending
on the label that the farm worker or often they’re not diagnosed. We often in a sphere in disabilities when
you think about well who is disabled, who do we want to write about, who do we want
to talk about, what we label as disability studies, environmental toxins often do not
fall into our preview except when it affects one of the communities that are close to us. We might think, for example, in Flint Michigan
and other communities, the high levels of lead and other toxins and the considerations
of that on the long-term health of many youth. We often don’t think of, for example, diabetes
is existing within the purview of disability, right? Often it’s viewed as a lifestyle illness and
so would diabetes be considered well within disability studies, but diabetes has
… Part of the reason might be that diabetes has disparate impact between different communities,
and so is the reason why we excluding it because well it’s not impacting the core of white
disability studies and the kin are white disability studies since our that’s not included. Alcoholism and other substance abuses also
are they being pushed out for our particular ways. Now again this is all unfair, right? Perhaps now it in the current moment, we are
moving towards it, but again this is designed as a provocation and more of a let’s hurry
up and actually get to this point where we can talk about these issues. Okay. What would then good intersectional disability
studies look like? Well, I think it’s already happening. In many ways, we’ve always already had people
who are talking about intersectional disability studies saying boy algae Lords how hopeless
was thinking through what does someone who is legally blind who didn’t speak, her autobiography
was about this collision between this different disability categories. The bridge called me back also had stories
of disabled women within it. We’ve had these within at least emissaries,
these cortex that have dealt with race gender and disability, but these often get read in
ways that erase some of those particular categories when the convenient to be erased. One, we maybe need to recover our text. Two, I think there’s number of really young
scholars and I guess they’re no longer young anymore and Nirmala Erevelles is one of them
who are really dealing with this head-on and they’re becoming really kick-ass within the
community. This article Unspeakable Offenses: Untangling
Race and Disability in Discourse of Intersectionality really, really provocative, really pushing
us in new directions, highly recommend if you get a chance to grab a copy. Liat Ben-Moshe is also another scholar who’s
written about race, gender and disability, and so this is another one in women gendered
families of color. Then I was missing one more slide, which was
also about some other young scholars, but it is happening. These conversations are happening, but still
there’s going to be this lag before they’ve really pushed it into the main four. That’s sort of where I wanted to end and I’m
now ready for all the flurry of people to tell me just how long and unfair this presentation
was, so launched away. Thank you. Yeah Anne. Anne: Let’s start with this approach of care,
but I thought this was a great job and I have no argument for anything that you said. I would love for us all to talk more about
the Florida shooting and about the assumption of mental illness and I mean what you mean
is better mental health care and maybe locking people up. I don’t know if you have thoughts about that
or other people may have thoughts about that, or maybe that’s not wrong. Karen Nakamura: Yeah, yeah. I mean in that cases as well as the New York
shootings that they’re both being classified as either mental illness or artistic. We see these two categories being used to
identify the subject as potentially dangerous, potentially hostile. Yeah, it’s hugely problematic and from the
disability community standpoint, we have trouble intervening in those conversations in an effective
way. Yeah, I’d love to open that up. [Takiya 00:36:30]. Takiya: Don’t want to shift the dialog unless
you really wanted to engage in that, but I appreciated the slide that she brought up
that showed the justification of mental health or particularly African Americans being, the
justification of homicide, I’m using that tone and I’m curious to hear more about your
thinking of like why there might not be more dialog between the two subjects based on the
fact that African Americans were constitutionally divided as less than humans. I think part of the scholarship of the African
American studies was to establish as sense or move far as far away as possible …
Karen Nakamura: Exactly. Takiya: From this idea of being less than
ideal human or accountability and so I’m just curious about how you might have thought about
and consider that as a way that could potentially create a boundary that’s difficult to shift. Karen Nakamura: Yeah, exactly. One of the books I wanted to highlight but
didn’t make its way into my slide deck is a book called Protest Psychosis, which looks
at the shift between how schizophrenia was framed. It used to be framed as a white woman’s disease
very early on and so you had photographs of women in Sanatoria knitting or at the town’s
fair sort of waving to people. Then in 50s and 60s, it started to be switched
into a disease that affected African American men and made them angry and rebellious and
didn’t respect authority. We have shades of drapetomania in there, and
so that shift I think is one of the reasons why it’s hard from that, there’s issues …
Again, this might be unfair to say … I’ll say it differently. Within the gay and lesbian community in the
US, we’ve tried very hard to disabuse any notions of mental illness and relationships
with gay and lesbian or trans-identities, right? There’s a long legacy of psychiatry being
used within gay and lesbian communities as a way right conversion therapy and others
to force in lesbian individuals into institutional settings. There’s this hesitancy to talk about categories
within the queer community that overlap with mental illness, and I think there may be a
similar hesitation within African American communities about a long history of the use
of psychiatric labels in ways that are abusive and reflective of racism that then do not
allow the reclamation of people who have psychiatric disabilities to really be pulled in and owned
and say we need to protect those who are labeled with as having psychiatric disabilities. Yeah Denise. Denise: Yeah. Thank you for your talk and for the publication. I don’t think the paradox of setting up here
is just specific to disability studies. I mean I think academia in general is eurocentric
and it’s white. I mean I encountered this when thinking about
say how are we looking at sexual and gender fluidity, does it look the same for people
of color particularly in a global context. If we think about something like disability,
how does that even construction it, what does a child with certain capabilities look like
in totally different culture. I mean this culture has had a history of marginalizing
and sending people, institutionalizing its kids and it’s disabled. That doesn’t happen anywhere. I mean I was talking someone about they were
saying that in Africa, for example, kids that might be institutionalized here learn many
languages, they function as foreign community. I don’t know what’s happening contemporarily,
but I don’t know that they’re different cultural and class looks at something like disability
just as there are with what a sexuality look like in a different context. I struggle with like teaching race in general
and opening up a space. We’re talking about something from a non-eurocentric
view and I think that’s where we have to look very carefully socially and cultural construction. Karen Nakamura: Yeah, yeah, I entirely agree. I mean this is a problem within many fields
that we are strongly embedded in our context. There aren’t many for example disability studies
scholars who go abroad and part of it is all the forms of academic ableism, might with
going abroad is enormously taxing on the body mind, and if you have a disability doing that
in another setting is often something that isn’t doable. As a result, disability studies has this parochialism
that’s not good. I mean we often don’t think about other alternative
systems to the ADA and we get locked into the specifically American context, but this
works against many different contexts. When I was chair of LGBTQ studies at Yale,
if we take that sort of the string of alphabetic letters, how do we really map it into foreign
places, how do we support work that is being done in other context without engaging in
what Joseph Massad has called gay international. It’s like we are going to label you the lesbians
of X or the trans of Y and sort of also engaged in the work of flattening categorical difference
in other places. Some people would really like that and the
issue I had when I was chair of LGBTQ studies was all my money was coming in from rich gay
men who really wanted us to be trans-historical and trans-culturally. Those are the gays, those are the gays, that’s
a gay, he’s the gay, historically and say oh we had gay ancestors and we have gay kin
over there. That’s why they were giving us boatloads of
money because they thought that that was an important project was this sort of what’s
often called the gay cartography. Let’s all map gayness trans-historically,
trans-culturally and so that we can claim as a very colonial move and we see this in
multiple disciplines. That’s exactly why I think we need more conversations
because disability, the categories are viewed differently and maybe Don will feed into that. Don: Yeah, thanks for your talking, the wonderful
comments. Your comment that you know each other better,
the talk later. Your comments really brought back a really
great book from 1996, the Rejected Body by Susan Wendell. She starts her book about gender and disability
by an example an African movement in the way the businesses that she can walk and this
is then we expect in American woman who walk in their lives and who is disabling that situation. I think it’s a great example of culture, race
and disability and gender. I mean all together it’s really where first
few data so it’s really main thought of that. I think it’s a great comment and someone who
is not studying disability in the US [inaudible 00:44:21] as well. I also wanted to bring up the book that it
think is the one book that has race and disability in the title and I would guess it’s Ellen
Samuels’ Fantasies of Identification, came up in 204. That’s a really wonderful book to the highly
theme and so wonderful to speak with, so I’m really thankful for that. She really talks about the fantasies of identification,
what we think about who is the person of a different race, who is the person with a disability,
and then there’s also another great book about Disability and Passing and how passing really
translates from race and disability as well. I think this whole idea of social construction
and the fantasies of identification is something that you’re not exposed category and the fact
that like people staying away … Karen Nakamura: Yeah, exactly. I think also another … Some of the slides
are not there. Didn’t mean to mean that the text I introduced
are comprehensive, but another thing that’s also happening or has been happening for the
last 40 years is the use of various categories ways of virtue signaling of inclusivity. Disability has become one of those mechanisms
of virtue signaling. We are inclusive, we are welcoming. One of the ways we will show that, for example,
is have, and this has been going on for a long time, have a sign language interpreter
who is standing right by me. You can all see I have a sign language interpreter
and aren’t we all great and inclusive. If you actually talk to a deaf person, they
don’t want the sign language interpreter on the stage next to the speaker. They want them right in front of them and
hopefully have engaged in conversation, so that the interpreter knows what the actual
style of conversation that the deaf person might want. That doesn’t do any good for PR, so we often
see in large events sign language interpreters who are used as virtue signals and we see
these types of virtue signals multiple times and those also operate in the same ways. At least in Japan, much of disability, the
way that disability has been able to flourish is because it serves as an important proxy
for inclusion. Japan doesn’t have a great ability to talk
about inclusion because it often denies any sort of diversity, but one that a can doubt
is disability. We become what David Mitchell and Sharon Schneider
have called narrative prosthesis. Disabled people become this sort of tool by
which other things get resolved or other things get shown, and so showing the inclusivity
of disabled people then becomes this proxy oh aren’t we a really great society and we
see this multiple times. In the Facebook memes, we’ve all seen things
that the disability calls inspiration porn. It’s like oh my god that kid with Down syndrome
who got to sit next to the Pope, isn’t he such a wonderful person for being inclusive
of a child with Down syndrome, right? Inspiration means float daily around the net
and become this way for us to all feel good. Josh. Josh: Certainly don’t want to part this memo
of what you’ve done which I think is very interesting. I just wonder if you could sort of on your
feet literally for a moment write a different paper, the second paper here which is the
quantitative methodology was really interesting and laying out the problem. I wonder if you could sort of shift to a qualitative
mode an talk about epistemological intersectionality, so how you see the influence of how basic
terms get defined through these both the residences who can be implicit or sometimes the lack
of intersections between these different sets of issues. How does that shape the basic ways in which
we could think about the sorts of issues that you want? Karen Nakamura: Yeah, and I think that was
what I was trying to do. One can make an argument that how race and
racism in the United States has operated has been confined around particular categories
of defining African American as subhuman, and the way that that has been done around
biology have tones of disability. The example of drapetomania was one of them,
right? One could have this argument that actually
race and disability have always, always, always already been defined around similar terms
and many good works, Schweich amongst them that have shown this sort of thread to various
threads through history around which racialized categories have been layered onto or disability
has been laid onto racialized categories in ways that mask the racism that’s in there. It’s only when disability became a category
that when the openings came up in the 60s and 70s, we’re talking about it as a particular
type of civil rights and a particular type of disabled person managed to emerge that
wasn’t associated with them that disability managed to flourish in a particular way. I think you could do that threading. For my own current work, I’m trying to think
of queer as a disability category in the context of trans and what it means for the trans movement
to think of itself as a disability category. It’s I think possible in the context of Japan
because we don’t have that association with mental illness, and so there is no pushback
in that sense. Trans-people can articulate themselves as
a disability category, whereas it’s much harder here, so it’s possible but this is sort of
my appeal for surpass cultural understandings because it gives us this way of thinking through
different categories and different contexts. Yeah, Sue. Sue: It’s nice to be thinking about something
I’ve been dying to ask you about and it’s related to your question too. I don’t know how many of you have heard about
this article by Kimani Paul-Emile. It came out in [inaudible 00:50:48] this month. African American legal scholar, it’s called
Blackness as Disability? When she’s arguing, first line of the abstract
is recent incidents of police violence against unarmed African Americans in a lead-filled
water of Flint Michigan are only the most recent reminders. It goes on to argue, understanding the black
racial designation as disabling can bring new clarity than the reality that racial categories
in the United States will create an explicitly benefit some and disabled others and arguing
for the use of disability law as the primary mechanism to combat racism. Of course, I have 50 responses to this including
thinking about the word disability like Disraeli in the 19th centuries talking about the disability
of the Jews and the word disability is first used as a word that means legal oppression. The second thing I thought of course was intersectionality
about how this argument just seems as far as I can tell it’s really read say of like
this people woman, I mean I don’t know where it fits, but the third thing I thought about
is how interesting disability wise and civil rights law because it does stand in the level
playing field. It has a really different model and it does
potentially seem tremendously productive, and I thought about your work on trance. What was interesting about this article is
that basically from at least three positions, it was just loud, critical race scholars here
because disability must feel like a wrongful accusation. It’s like the way eugenics gets attacked by
thinking nobody actually deserves that … Audience: Exactly what he was saying. Sue: They were all just poor people or whatever,
wrongful accusations so we cannot have it. Then from a disability one, it seemed like
collocation and obliteration. There was almost no way for it to be heard
as an interesting argument and yet I’ve got to say I find it tremendously provocative. Audience: Yeah, yeah and that’s all my tiptoeing
around, really wanting not to step too far too into an overstatement, which would then
get blown back in my face. Yeah. Sue: Did you see your work as aligned with
the … Audience: Yeah. Part of it is because I’ve drunk the kool-aid
and part of it as the hash trend disability says, I feel like ha, ha, ha disability studies
is the metric by which we can analyze everything and let’s be of real colonial power in that
regard. I’m problematically colonizing other categories
with disability as the overarching one. Yeah, yeah, so that this was a … Yeah, and
I’m a little bit cognizant that other one, very cognizant of that as a colonial move
to say these categories can understand as disability categories, although I would try
to be a bit more self saying that structural racism has used disability as a functional
method. If you want to understand racism, we need
to understand the categories of disability, disablement that racism creates in order to
justify the particular types of violence and mistreatment. Yeah. It’s very difficult to say that, and I’m really
glad this is on video and being transcribed and put on the web. Sue: Thank you. I feel like it’s so important just like that
gratitude because you were putting yourself in the space to all to say in order for this
kind of conversations to collide, somebody has to be willing to just start it. I feel like that’s what you’re doing and I
really appreciate that, just the level of complexity. For me when I’m taking one is there’s another
layer of conversation that now has to happen because we’re talking about just the obsession
with categorizing people and trying to understand how the individual can show up and operate
in society based on secular categories and develop strategies and methods for those people
to exist to what end or what cause, right? There’s something above that as required the
obsession with me and to define and operate in a particular method or mode that works
to me and something that’s work this from others. I just want to give the gratitude to say like
I get what you’re doing and it’s a very brave thing, so very collective disability thing. Karen Nakamura: Thanks. Appreciate that. Yeah. Audience: I was just goin to say that I think
one solution because for me, thinking about the fact that so many people do not matter,
that the strategy is to move away from whiteness as a reference point. Once you do that, then I think it opens up
what does the lens of race and ill-health look like because there’s just so many examples
of I mean diabetes. There are some groups that half of them are
going to have diabetes, 50% of population and the amputation rate for Native Americans
as starting point high as of that whites. In Indian country, they build the bungalows
with the ramps. Everybody’s boggle has a ramp because you’re
going to need one. I think to me this is a critique about racism
as much as it is about another field and that we need to just de-center or re-center on
those questions. I think in public conscience, these are the
crucial questions that they’re really important for the whole society. I mean it’s not just about black people or
disabled people, it’s about America. Karen Nakamura: Yeah, yeah. One of the reasons I moved out of queer studies
into disability studies was because of the ability to talk about the body in productive
ways, and this is maybe my unfair reading of both queer and feminist that we really
haven’t thought about the body too much. Now there is [Sir Ahmed 00:57:36] is going
to talk today about [grief nominology 00:57:37], et cetera, et cetera. Now it’s time to get, but when I was doing
my graduate career, that move was how can we talk about the body in ways that we can
think about productively. Part of it was thinking about epidemiology
and thinking, for example, with the deaf community. There is both sort of physicality. My first book was on the deaf community and
identity, and there’s a physicality to deafness, but there’s also this identity aspect. The two are really tied together and you need
to think about institutions. You need to think about rubella epidemics. You need to think about structures of power. All of those complexities go in a way that
makes the body both something that acts in the world in particular way, but it’s also
acted upon in particular ways. That’s what I like about disability is that
we can’t ever sort of let go of that tension and that there’s a tension between a politics,
which are arguing for our civil rights and our need to be treated equal equally, at the
same time acknowledging that for many of us our body minds are not functioning at the
level that we want them to, let alone what society expects of us or are functioning in
different ways and how do we take apart those contradictions, but many ways recognizing
that this notion of function is embedded in all these complex systems of power and what
it means to function and when it means to function in particular ways are all highly
problematic. That’s why I like about disability because
I feel like … We have an activist community that’s always on our butts in particularly
productive ways that I think is useful. I think we’re stowing in engaging good discussion
and we get our butts kicked in productive ways by the activists who are arguing and
are smiling to us and in many ways, for example, allowing us to drift too much into high theory
utterly disconnected, pulling us back down. Yeah, again I’m trying to sell the kool-aid
here to you all. I think that is what …
Marsha Saxton: Can I? Karen Nakamura: Oh yeah …
Marsha Saxton: If I may … Karen Nakamura: Marsha Saxton. Marsha Saxton: Oh here open line was so interesting
to me and if you don’t mind my being provocative, what do you anticipate on a privilege audience
like this to not be able to tolerate of what you raised? Karen Nakamura: Oh, I think that my concern
is that oh no, we’ve always been thinking about race, but we coordinate off in a nice
easy way if that doesn’t help. Yes, we think about race in these texts and
as long as we contain them within these texts or within these populations, it never has
to engage in our other sort of sorts of discussions. It would be a bifold. Yes, we’re talking about it, but underneath
that would be we’re talking about in safe ways. My provocation was this twofold one, which
is no, we’re not talking about it enough as well as if we really wanted to deal with it
fully, we have to do in a way that sort of complicates everything, that it’s not something
that you can just take out and cordoned off, so that was perhaps some of the things that
ours … Perhaps anticipating what someone would say well we do deal with it, we have
these texts, dah, dah, dah, dah. Yeah. Audience: I’d pick up on that and respond
to your very there and nuance sharing of insights with a very unfair and offensively banal question,
which is the researched impact question. Picking up on one of the insights I take on
your presentation what we see and read and know inscribed in these disciplinary field
text depends a lot on who’s doing the production, and so suppose in some fantasy land, our Chancellor
has stumbled onto the website and encounters your presentation and completely convinced
by it and then this is where the bad part comes in. He comes up to you and says, “Okay resources
are no problem here. I want you to design something so that Berkeley
can be a flagship institution that really addresses this thing void that you have identified.” What would that look like? Karen Nakamura: Yeah. If campus gave Heifetz one-tenth of what it’s
spending on intercollegiate athletics or maybe even 1, 100 of what it’s spending on intercollegiate
athletics, I think the main thing I would want is more of these conversations. I feel like when I had first seen Heifetz
when the job ad came, when Catherine actually sent me it, and I thought wow this organization
at UC Berkeley called the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and this is its
mandate, I was just blown away. To be honest, I was expecting more conversations
across the clusters and more of a central space in which those conversations could happen. I think a lack of space of sort of community,
communal sharing has allowed us to each think oh I’m doing diversity, I’m doing this, I’m
doing this, and not have to cross over. I think this is what I’m going to in Japan
we say grind the sesame seeds. American has a much more vulgar term. I’m going to grind sesame seeds by saying
at least some on your stewardship, I think we’ve had more of these conversations. I think when we get that budget 1, 100 of
the intercollegiate budget, it would be to have a place structured may be similar to
towns and how they are trying to foster those conversations both amongst the faculty but
the grad students as well. Audience: It almost feels like you and I rehearsed
that. Karen Nakamura: We did. Audience: Say something about that there are
a couple of things that don’t cost anything I think that I would just so love to see. We just got this amazing agenda for the Haas
Institute and it’s sweet. I read with just joy of these projects, maybe
all those projects have been in contact with Karen and then we need to just have better
conversations among ourselves. I was really thinking is disability an active
consideration in every one of those projects, did people actually made sure to conceptualize
disability as a problem within them to include disabled scholars off the campus and non,
or to take another example. I put out a talk about purchasing on that
and not, not just virtue. I put out ads about this talk by Karen and
I added even language about its wheelchair accessible, sets free, et cetera because the
generic Haas publicity for every event that happens doesn’t say it’s wheelchairs as well,
please don’t wear a sense, here’s the person you content for ASL. This should not be something that is ever
only in event that has to do with the disability studies program or disability research cluster
on this campus, and yet it is. It doesn’t cost a penny. Karen Nakamura: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Along with disability being this mechanism
for thinking of two various categories I would include … I mean same thing, let’s think
about race through all the categories that they feel about poverty through all that,
educational barriers, healthcare, and so forth through all of them, and I think hopefully
those are sorts of conversations we can have at IFES as we sort of go into the future. Okay, so thank you everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *