For us, to think in dishuman ways involves:
- Unpacking Humanist ideals of the “human”. Braidotti (2012) and others have argued that Humanist conceptualisations of the Human are (purposefully) narrow, meaning that, in essence, only a privileged few feel the security of the boundaries of this category, or are granted its tremendous social, political, cultural and economic power. As Braidotti (2013: 65) posits, ‘humanity (the archetypal human) is very much a male of the species: it is a he’. This ‘Universal ‘Man’, she continues, is ‘implicitly assumed to be masculine, white, urbanised, speaking a standard language, heterosexually inscribed in a reproductive unit and full citizen of a recognised polity’ (Braidotti 2013: 65). According to Goodley, Lawthom and Runswick-Cole (2014: 2), this vision of the human has at its core a Eurocentrism as well as Imperialist tendencies, ‘meaning that many of those outside of Europe (including in the colonies) become known as less than human or inhuman’. Therefore, a dishuman position demands we question what counts as Human in the 21st Century.
- Acknowledging that normalcy is/can be desirable. There are times when it is essential to embrace the able or the normal. After all, these phenomena undergird the language of citizenship, law and humanity. A dis/human analysis allows us to claim, for example, (normative) citizenship (associated with choice, a sense of autonomy, being part of a loving family, the chance to labour, love and consume) while simultaneously drawing on disability to trouble, reshape and re-fashion liberal citizenship and, thereby, to invoke what we call dis/citizenship (to rethink how we choose, act, love, work and shop). In short, a dis/human position means recognising the norm, the pragmatic and political value of claiming the norm, but always seeking to trouble and contest it.
- Recognising that dis/ability has the potential to fundamentally destabilise things that we have taken for granted. Dis/ability usefully disarms, disrupts and disturbs normative, taken-for-granted, deeply societally ingrained assumptions about what it means to be human and what it means to be able (dis/human). For example, we want to ask what disability does to typical, common-sense normative human categories of adult, youth and family:
How might disability affirm some of the ways in which these categories are lived out whilst, simultaneously, demanding new ways of living (dis/life)?
When we think of the goals of capitalism, science, medicine and citizenship, what assumptions are these huge societal practices based upon, and in what ways does disability disrupt these assumptions (dis/ capitalism, dis/science, dis/medicine and dis/citizenship)?
Similarly, were we to accept that disability has the potential to rethink how we might approach labour or independent living, what would this look like in reality (dis/work and dis/independence)?
What do disabled children do to the widely held phenomenon of the ‘normally developing child’ that is at the epicentre of many national educational systems (dis/development)?
Equally, though, what normative aspects of the child do we (should we) hold on to (dis/child)?
- Celebrating disability while staying mindful of dis/ableism and intersecting oppressions. The dishuman position demands we celebrate the disruptive qualities of disability whilst acknowledging the complex associations of dis/ablism with other forms of oppression, including hetero/sexism, racism, (neo)colonialism and transphobia.
- Taking sex/uality as an example, disability in the context of the sexual is dynamic, radical, and vital precisely because it surpasses and subverts the rigid confines of sexual normalcy, which are continually (re)produced and propagated within dis/ableist cultures. Disabled sexualities can be unquestionably non-normative, inter/dependent, radically relational, collaborative, collective, queered, gender-fucked, unpredictable, leaky and messy, technologised and/or cyborg, and are rarely, if ever, commodified or sanctioned. These rousing facets exceed the normative limitations of sex/uality, gender and pleasure for dynamic and provocative effect, in ways that manoeuvre sexual desire and practice to new post-conventional spaces of becoming. However, to (re)think disabled sexualities in this way isn’t to overlook the significant sexual oppression that disabled people experience in their everyday lived lives; nor the ways in which adhering to and striving for sexual normalcy remains a viable (but precarious) means through which we all gain entry into mainstream sexual cultures. In the context of disability, where the majority of disabled people lack basic rights to sexual and intimate citizenship, sexual normalcy is a very powerful category of which to gain entry (see Liddiard 2013a) (dis/abled).