“so many of the technologies that suggest to us that we are perfectible, that intensify our dedication to norms, have been invented specifically because we are not perfect or normal”
Disability Rhetoric page 2
I took a look at Dolmage’s article “Framing Disability, Developing Race: Photography as Eugenic Technology. I had to stop. I had to stop reading, I had to stop listening to a past that seems to relevant.
I’m not sure how to deal with it. Not as an academic, not as a teacher, not as a father, husband, or neighbor. I just can’t deal with it.
But we have to.
The recent election has many of us concerned. I am not so much interested in talking about policy difference as I am the ways the campaigns leading up to the election normalized ways of thinking that I thought we had inoculated ourselves against over the past century.
The ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality in public political speak represents an ideological infection that has had devastating consequences. This strain of nationalism is so closely tied to ideas of segregation, exceptionalism, and inevitably racial superiority.
My closest mentor in my career so far teaches about the holocaust. Occasional posts on her Facebook wall keep lessons from the past in my mind. The threats against the media, the emboldened white supremacists (those re-branded as the alt-right) are so alarming, and yet I do not know, in practical terms, how to adjust in my own life. I do not know what to do in the face of such hate. I do not know how to deal with a public discourse that entertains conversations about white supremacy and accepts stereotypes based on gender and disability.
My entire career in education (from preschool through today) rejects the notion that any person is more deserving than any other to the rights enumerated in the constitution (or in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for that matter).
The function of early photography at Ellis Island comes as a horrifying shock. But not a surprise.
Dolmage begins to explain the history of Ellis Island by explaining the ways photography allowed for a type of classification system to be developed. Based on photographs, people were categorized. This combined with literacy and I.Q. testing allowed officials to make decisions.
Dolmage suggests in the end “that we all carry Ellis Island and this history with us today. We are subject to the same gaze, governed by the same rhetorical vision”
I am sickened by the thought.
But what bothers me more is the possibility that we don’t carry enough of it. We are subject to the gaze, but we have forgotten what it means.
I cannot bring myself to think about this more. And I can’t bring myself to stop. What the hell is going on?
“These constellations of value and their variable gravities are exactly what we should be looking for–and we should be asking questions not to set the universe in order, but to better understand ourselves by locating those things we disagree, worry, and wrestle about most vehemently”
Disability Rhetoric page 16