Arseli Dokumaci – Micro-activist Affordances: Disability, Disorientations and Improvisation

5 à 7
February 19, 2020 at 5:00–7:00pm

Feminist Media Studio, CJ Building, Room 2.130
Concordia University 7141 Sherbrooke W Montreal (Qc)

In this talk, I present “a theory of activist affordances” developed through a critical disability and performance studies lens. Drawing parallels between the creative space of aesthetic performance and the performance of everyday life lived with disability, I propose the concept of “micro-activist affordances” as a way to describe micro, ephemeral and improvisatory acts of world-building, with which disabled people literally “make up,” and at the same time “make up for,” whatever affordance fails to readily materialize in their environments.

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Experiencing disability is inherently disorienting. The environment, as years of disability activism have shown us, is built with a very limited conception of the human being in mind. But the environment, and its available spaces for action can also narrow down when experiencing chronic pain and disease or be deliberately narrowed down by a biopolitics of debilitation. I argue that disability, in all of its various manifestations, is experienced as the shrinking of the environment, and its readily available affordances, regardless of regardless of the cause of the shrinkage. But precisely at such moments of shrinking, something else happens. When the environment is narrowed down in its offerings, I propose that it is the creative space of performance (on or offstage) that opens up to make it afford otherwise. The crux of my theory is: when currently utilized affordances of the world leave no room for disabled people’s atypical bodies and minds, when the world becomes most unresponsive to the impairments, diseases and pains they live with, and when the world’s offerings become unreachable in states of deprivation and debilitation, disabled people may make up and at the same time make up for whatever affordances that are not readily provided with. They invent, in short, what I call “micro-activist affordances.”

Arseli Dokumaci is an interdisciplinary scholar and media-maker. Her scholarly and creative work lies at the crossovers of disability studies, performance studies and medical anthropology. In her research, and research-creation videos, Dokumaci explores how disabled people go about their everyday lives, and come up with creative choreographies, ingenious hacks and improvisations. Dokumaci is particularly interested in exploring how disability can be a critical a method to rethink and practice media in new ways. Dokumaci’s research appeared in various journals, including The South Atlantic Quarterly, Current Anthropology, Disability Studies Quarterly, Performance Research, RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, and The History of the Human Sciences. Her research-creation works have been featured at various international exhibitions and festivals. Dokumaci is a founding member, and the current coordinator of Concordia’s Critical Disability Studies Working Group.

Accessibility Information:
The Feminist Media Studio is located on the second floor of the Communications and Journalism (CJ) building on the Loyola Campus which can be accessed via an outdoor staircase or ramped entrance. The second floor can then be reached by indoor stairs or elevator. The lab door opens outward into a hallway with a key card entry (restricted to active FMS members).

Inside the lab there is a lounge area with low seating, a narrow kitchenette that may be difficult to navigate with a wheelchair or walker, a large conference room with sliding barn doors, moveable tables and chair seating, the technician’s office which requires key-access, and a production studio which requires key access and features a small sound booth, with a raised floor.