Disability Studies and the Environmental Humanities: Toward an Eco-Crip Theory

Disability Studies and the Environmental Humanities: Toward an Eco-Crip Theory

Disability Studies and the Environmental Humanities: Toward an Eco-Crip Theory

Disability Studies and the Environmental Humanities: Toward an Eco-Crip Theory

Synopsis

Although scholars in the environmental humanities have been exploring the dichotomy between "wild" and "built" environments for several years, few have focused on the field of disability studies, a discipline that enlists the contingency between environments and bodies as a foundation of its scholarship. On the other hand, scholars in disability studies have demonstrated the ways in which the built environment privileges some bodies and minds over others, yet they have rarely examined the ways in which toxic environments engender chronic illness and disability or how environmental illnesses disrupt dominant paradigms for scrutinizing "disability."

Designed as a reader for undergraduate and graduate courses, Disability Studies and the Environmental Humanities employs interdisciplinary perspectives to examine such issues as slow violence, imperialism, race, toxicity, eco-sickness, the body in environmental justice, ableism, and other topics. With historical scope spanning the seventeenth century to the present, this collection not only presents the foundational documents informing this intersection of fields but also showcases the most current work, making it an indispensable reference.

Excerpt

Stacy Alaimo

While we might wish that all our ethical and political commitments would align and become so beautifully articulated as to be inseparable and synergistic, it is nonetheless often the case that historically rooted discursive and ideological formations mean that ethics, politics, and scholarship take place within more messy, vexed, and contradictory terrains. Eli Clare, in his potent essay in this volume, navigates through volatile conceptual landscapes, writing that four concepts in particular, “natural, normal, unnatural, and abnormal,” “form a matrix of intense contradictions, wielding immense power in spite of, or perhaps because of, the illogic.” Political movements for environmentalism and disability rights have rarely converged, so it is not surprising that disability studies and the environmental humanities would have developed as separate fields. But this separation, however predictable, is hardly a neutral oversight. Mainstream U.S. environmentalism, saturated by wilderness ideals, as Sarah Jaquette Ray argues in this collection, has a “hidden attachment” to the abled, hyperfit body, which has resulted not only in scholarly and political exclusions of disability from environmentalism but also in the physical exclusion of disabled people from the secluded landscapes of national parks, as Alison Kafer argues in the chapter from Feminist, Queer, Crip that is reprinted here. Shifting from the environmental humanities to the allied field of critical animal studies reveals clashes that are even more glaring. David Mitchell

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