The Neoliberal Biopolitics of Disability: Towards Emergent Intracorporeal Practices
Fritsch, Kelly Michelle
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In this dissertation I link the contemporary biopolitical production of disability to the neoliberalization of social, political, and economic practices, policies, and discourses that capacitate some disabled bodies while leaving others to wither. While ableism insidiously functions to exclude and marginalize individuals through rendering disabled bodies as abnormal, I argue that neoliberal capacitation does not always function to normalize disabled subjects. Instead, neoliberal modes of capacitation and debilitation work alongside and also cross ableist categories to include enhanced and capacitated abled-disabled bodies and subjects. As opposed to producing clear-cut lines by which to demarcate disability and disabled bodies, the relationship between capacitating and debilitating and ableism shift and slide in relation to each other. I further explore the ways in which practices of neoliberalization economize all aspects of life and disability relations. I find that disability emerges through the neoliberalization of disability relations as an individual object and problem to be solved, whether by way of the future-oriented promises and enhancements of biocapitalist technoscience, through processes of self-care, or through the good feelings of inclusion. Neoliberalization does not just simply construct barriers and reproduce forms of ableist oppression for disabled people, but also informs the solutions proposed by disabled communities to these barriers. Mapping out the power relations of the neoliberal material-discursive practices surrounding disability moves us away from positioning disability solely as a problem of exclusion to interrogating how worthiness as the basis of inclusion itself is produced within neoliberal biocapitalism. To move away from a neoliberal approach that includes only worthy disabled persons while also disrupting other ableist representations of disability requires going beyond including more disabled people within the exploitative and individualized relations of neoliberalism. To that end, I mark disability as an intracorporeal emergence of the world whereby the relations of disability extend beyond the human and are contingently practiced, emphasizing a relational approach that decentres the economized disabled subject.