Between cripping and reclaiming: epistemological implications of Disability Studies’ feeling strategies1

Author: Yvonne Wechuli1
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  • 1 University of Cologne and University of Kassel, Germany
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Disability Studies promote different feeling strategies by pushing for social change towards a more inclusive and less ableist society. There is a utopian touch to this: how can we change the world by feeling differently about disability? Disabled people have long discussed how to navigate the emotional toll of ableism. This article oscillates between two strategies that Disability Studies scholars and activists have advocated for: cripping – deliberately changing one’s emotional reaction towards disability; and reclaiming – acknowledging hurtful emotions connected to an ableist society. Both strategies acknowledge the sociality of emotion but differ on what this sociality entails. Whereas cripping preaches the deliberate enactment of different feelings, reclaiming promotes acknowledging authentic feelings – feelings rooted in a discriminatory society and thus social in origin. However, cripping as a political endeavour has often been criticised as an elitist issue – irrelevant to the lived reality of most disabled people. In contrast, a contemporary take on authenticity problematises its performative constitution and commodification in consumer capitalism. Considering cripping and reclaiming as complementary feeling strategies promoted in Disability Studies for social change, I argue that we should engage with the underlying epistemological questions to point out their respective implications. To this end, shared theoretical concepts and terminology on feelings, affect and emotion should be developed for a comprehensive engagement with emotionality in the field of Disability Studies.

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  • 1 University of Cologne and University of Kassel, Germany

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