17 March 2013

Another example of power imbalance

At the Becoming Indigenous, Asserting Indigeneity symposium on Friday, the final two papers addressed a few particular examples of power imbalances adversely impacting indigenous people in the Americas:
  • Folk radio stations facing shutdown for illegal broadcasts, lacking the resources to purchase a license and rights to broadcast a particular frequency, leading to linguistic censorship
  • Film media produced about indigenous people being largely controlled by white people (and others who simply aren't indigenous), leading to tokenism in some cases and virtual cultural censorship in others 
  • Organizations representing indigenous people relying on government funding and grants, and other forms of state power, to fund programming and services and lend legitimacy to their work

I've noticed the same types of power imbalances in the disability communities (though particularly the autism community).
  • The autism conferences that attract the most attendees, presenters, exhibitors, and attention from media and policymakers are not the ones run or organized by autistics, but the ones organized primarily by non-autistic people, whether or not autistic people are among the presenters and speakers.
  • Tokenism and the self-narrating zoo exhibit trope -- i.e., disabled people should only speak when spoken to, when invited by the grace of non-disabled people, and about whatever they'll be told to speak about. Payment is an added bonus -- expected for non-disabled speakers and guests, offered inconsistently (and only by some conferences or hosts) for disabled ones. 
  • The films Wretches and Jabberers, Loving Lampposts, and the upcoming Citizen Autistic (produced by Geraldine Wurzburg, Todd Drezner, and William Davenport, respectively), all of which positively portray autistic people and the neurodiversity movement, were produced by non-autistic (and as far as I am aware, non-disabled) folks. (I think Dan Habib of Who Cares About Kelsey? and Including Samuel is also non-disabled.) To my knowledge, there's not an autistic-produced or autistic-written film of this kind out there anywhere. Maybe the Loud Hands Project will change that, but as of right now, that's where the status quo stands.
  • I've seen a couple of broader disability rights movement documentaries, and don't know if they were produced or written by disabled people, but the only film I can think of offhand that I know for certain to have been written by a disabled person is Nick Vujicic's The Butterfly Circus, which borders on inspiration porn (though I last saw it well over two years ago, so maybe I'm either wrong or it's full-blown inspiration porn).
  • Many non-profit organizations, including disability rights non-profits, receive a good portion of funding for projects and programming through government-sponsored grants--this is at least a partial reliance or dependency upon institutions of the state for the organization's operations.
  • Blogs written by actually disabled people are infinitely less well-trafficked and well-known than those written by non-disabled parents of disabled children or, in fact, anyone non-disabled at all.
  • Literature, whether more scholarly or mainstream, on disability theory, disability studies, disability policy, and the disability rights movement is either a) largely written by non-disabled people, or b) when it is written by disabled people, relegated to the margins as fringe, radical, or otherwise exceptional rather than the norm.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing these valuable observations. Paradoxically, even disability studies are dominated by non-disabled individuals. I totally agree with you that some instances of disable-ism can be even hard to notice, but we still should pay proper attention to context.


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