Queer and Crip Influences and Infections

Earlier this year, Feminist Formations released a special issue on "The Biosocial Politics of Queer/Crip Contagions" guest edited by Kelly Fritsch and Anne McGuire. Featuring 10 essays as well as poetry from Qwo-Li Driskill, the issue traces the multiple and unexpected ways queer and crip influence and infect one another. Fritsch and McGuire joined us for a Q&A about the special issue. You can listen to Driskill's poetry at the bottom of this post.

How did this special issue come about?

Kelly: Anne and I began working collaboratively together while I was a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto. Anne is an Assistant Professor of Disability Studies and at the time, my office was just down the hall from hers. Our research and teaching interests have overlapped for many years and we have been on many conference panels together but we had never really had a chance to work on a collaborative project together.

Anne: We began working on some reading and writing projects revolving around questions of contagion, contamination, and discourses of risk, as well as the relationship between crip and queer theory, and as those took shape, we wanted to create space for a larger investigation that would extend beyond our usual venues in disability studies.

What is it like putting together a special issue for a journal like Feminist Formations, which embraces vibrant art work and the inclusion of poetry in its pages?

Kelly: It was great to give time and space to think through how our scholarly interests could be explored through poetry and art work, forms of engagement neither of us tend to heavily utilize in our individual research but definitely engage with in our teaching. 

Anne: The issue’s cover features the striking artwork of Bay-area visual artist Micah Bazant, which was produced in collaboration Sins Invalid, a performance group that centers the work of queer and gender nonconforming disabled artists of color. As visual description is a crucial aspect of the politics of disability and accessibility, we wanted to include – and really engage with –a vivid description of the cover in the Introduction to the special issue. In doing so, we found that Bazant’s visual rendering of a network of crip communities and solidarities not only addressed but amplified the theoretical offerings contained within the issue by visually depicting contagion as a means of nurturing non-normative cross-movement solidarities. Bringing Bazant’s visual art together with Quo-Li Driskell’s poetic offerings on sickness and flourishing, as well as with a wide and interdisciplinary range of featured articles, the issue demonstrates the potentiality of contagion as a means of growing and sustaining novel theoretical assemblages.

How did you build on previous work on queer and crip biosocial politics?

Kelly: One of the aims of this special issue has been to nurture scholarship across queer and crip theory that seeks to build accessible cross-movement solidarities, political formations that are able to support and sustain the flourishing of those most impacted by systems of oppression. We felt that taking up contagion as an area of research provided a particularly interesting way to get at some of the tensions and possibilities of queer-crip politics, as highlighted by the fantastic submissions that range from engagements with autoimmunity to vaccinations, to deaf gay beauty pageants and menstrual pain. All very diverse sites of inquiry but united in their shared desire to engage with intersectional and cross-movement politics.

Anne: Both Kelly and I have long been engaged with scholarship emanating from the interstices of queer and crip and so this issue is very much indebted to the pathbreaking work of Robert McRuer, Mel Chen, Jasbir Puar, Alison Kafer, Carrie Sandahl, Merri Lisa Johnson and so many others whose work has pushed and provoked us toward new ways of thinking. In our previous work, Kelly and I have, separately, explored a range of topics that, whether directly or indirectly, grapple with the question of contagion (e.g., disability and intercorporeality, the biosociality of disability, the cultural transmission and epidemicization of autism, cripping notions of queer futurity and so on). And so, for the special issue, we decided to focus in on contagion – as both a theoretical concept and a biological/material entity – as we felt it offered a generative space from which to contemplate the means by which queer and crip come together. For example, we think contagion offered us a space in which to consider how bodies come to be regarded as separate and yet how they also intermingle; how ideas replicate and exchange; how assemblages and solidarities are built, are dissolved and how they recombine in new ways.

What did each of you learn in putting this issue together?

Kelly: This issue played out very differently than some of my other collaborations and part of that I think has been due to the fact that Anne and I work very well together and really complement each other’s skills. For me, successful and rewarding collaborative work requires trust, respect, and good communication and I learned how easy it can be to manage such a heavy workload when sharing it with someone who is so easily able to pick up where I left off and vice-versa. With managing a special issue, I think it can be hard to anticipate how heavy the workload will be. Managing peer reviewers, drafting revision requests, editing individual submissions, soliciting art, poetry, and book reviews, as well as fostering good working relationships with everyone involved, it is a big undertaking! However, this work, even if intense at times, can be very enjoyable if paired with a complementary co-editor!

Anne: Agreed! It has been a real pleasure working together with Kelly on this. I think collaborative scholarly partnerships are not only productive and pleasurable but can also represent a useful strategy in navigating the heightened productivity demands of the neoliberal university. In the introduction of the special issue we discuss the political importance of nurturing solidarities and moving together and I thinking writing and thinking together can be an example of this political work.

What’s next for you two?

Anne: Our offices are no longer down the hall from each other as Kelly has recently started a new job as Assistant Professor of Sociology at Carleton University. We do still have a number of things on the go, however. In conversation with some of the themes of the special issue, Kelly and I have been working on a new writing project which engages disability, risk, and the politics and possibilities of conceptualizations of health and illness on a spectrum.

Kelly: We are also working on a children’s book for ages 4-8 that explores disability as a political social relation. It is a project that we are really excited about and is very different from the other work we do!