Encountering Disability: Orientation, Disorientation, and Ethics
thesisposted on 2016-10-29, 00:00 authored by Ryan C. Parrey
This project is concerned with analyzing and describing disorienting encounters with disability, their epistemic and ontological status, and their ethical implications. Specifically, I demonstrate that disorienting encounters with disability reveal the multiplicity of bodily and embodied orientations—ways of knowing, being, and relating—that inform how disabled and nondisabled people understand the world and our place in it. Being disoriented, I argue, means being uncertain of, or in uncertain relation with, (our) bodies and the world around us. Rather than achieving a definitive answer to questions about disability in these project, the question and question-ability of impairment/disability remains open. This openness reflects the unfolding of experiences and meanings of impairment/disability in disorienting encounters. This is also an effort to take seriously the ethical implications of such encounters. In the fourth chapter I explore the ethical implications of these encounters or, more accurately, I explore these encounters as ethical moments. Building on formulations of ethics as a sense of touching and being in touch, of involvement in and with the world I demonstrate that disorienting encounters with disability are moments to open spaces in which impairment/disability can mean otherwise. Further, I argue that taking openness seriously as the ethical demand of disorienting encounters means that dangerous questions, along with the meanings and experiences that they challenge and generate, must never stop, at least not completely. Disorienting encounters with disability are not where "the story" of disability ends but rather where multiple competing stories finally appear, sometimes dysappear, and inevitably begin. In this project I contend that being exposed to these multiple stories is being disoriented and, further, this disorientation is both ontologically descriptive and ethically demanding.