Mechanisms of exclusion

This blog is obviously very concerned with how philosophy is exclusionary in ways that appear quite independent of merit, given they are often applied to groups who are typified  by characteristics irrelevant to merit. 

There’s a link in a post over at What Sortsof People to an interesting article that summarizes a widely accepted account of exclusion and applies it to ‘disabled’ texts.  Texts are disabled when they are fall outside the norms created by “the complex web of institutionalized techniques of normalization.”

Though the article linked to is about translations, there are obvious connections and questions to be raised with regard to philosophy’s exclusions and what it accepts as legitimate texts.  Here’s a particularly relevant  part:

Informed by Michel Foucault’s concept of “disciplinary normalization” (1979), feminist disability studies interrogates the complex web of institutionalized techniques of normalization that sustain patriarchy, white supremacy, class power, “compulsory ablebodiedness,” and compulsory heterosexuality (McRuer 2002). These myriad, mutually reinforcing techniques of normalization subject bodies that deviate from a white, male, class privileged, ablebodied, and heterosexual norm. Seemingly unrelated technologies such as orthopedic shoes, cosmetic surgery, hearing aids, diet and exercise regimes, prosthetic limbs, anti-depressants, Viagra, and genital surgeries designed to correct intersexed bodies all seek to transform deviant bodies, bodies that threaten to blur and, thus, undermine organizing binaries of social life (such as those defining dominant conceptions of gender and racial identity) into docile bodies that reinforce dominant cultural norms of gendered, raced, and classed bodily function and appearance.

6. Translations, as disabled texts, pose the same challenges to the conventional norm as disabled bodies do. They deviate from monolingual textual expectations, and are thus deviant. They threaten to blur, and thus undermine, organizing binaries of social/textual/literary life (such as those defining dominant conceptions of gender/genre and racial/national/linguistic identity). ‘Compulsory ablebodiedness’ requires that translated texts function as docile bodies that reinforce dominant cultural norms of genred, raced, and classed bodily/textual function and appearance.

7. When publishers, teachers, readers, or translators themselves require the translated text read ‘as if it were written in English’, as an ‘elegant’, ‘fluent’ ‘good’ poem ‘in English,’ they collude with and enforce such ‘compulsory ablebodiedness.’ And this is a best-case scenario, for too often publishers’, teachers’, and readers’ anxiety over translation as an incomplete, diminished, impaired version of an original results in translation not being published, taught, or read at all.

8. The effects of compulsory ablebodiedness on translation are intense and repressive. Translations are excluded from most publications, from most prizes, from most workshops, from most ‘English’ literature classrooms, and from most performances.

It’s a cliche now of people who are working on diversity that opening a field will enhance its creativity and energy. This idea has a lot of acceptance in corporations and, to some extent, in some areas of science. As NSF puts it:

The pursuit of new scientific and engineering knowledge and its use in service to society requires talent, perspectives and insight that can only be assured by increasing diversity in the science, engineering, and technological workforce.

But perhaps expecting many people to believe this gets it back to front; that is, in widening a field, one threatens the existence of the norms.

Heads up: Refugee Week (UK)

Quick heads up (a little late, I’m afraid): this week is Refugee Week in the UK! Lots of events going on around the country. Check out the details here to see what’s going on near you:

Yesterday I went to see this film:

which I cannot recommend highly enough – it details the exploitation, loneliness and destitution that faces some asylum seekers who come to the UK, in the story of two young women seeking refugee status.