Inspired by emerging insights on cripistemologies, I offer that our field may just as likely revolve around another less widely explored set of personal and paradigmatic assumptions: the axiological kind. Axiology is the study of human values and our processes of valuation: our assumptions about what is good and bad, right and wrong, and more or less valuable, worthy, desirable, and beautiful (Hart, 1971). From bioethics to population health, most who study disability imagine that it is a bad thing, that curing us is the right thing to do, and that non-disabled bodies are more desirable and beautiful than ours. From our "unashamed claim to beauty" (Sins Invalid, 2017) to our collective "desire to dwell with disability" (Chandler, 2012, Para 2), it is our shared axiological affinities–in stark contrast to mainstream ones–that distinguish our work as 'critical' and 'crip'.
Pity is understood as an ethical affect toward the tragedy of disability. We piss on pity.
Our perspectives are paternalistically devalued by non-disabled experts. We argue that no perspective on our lives is more valuable than our own. Nothing about us without us.
We cultivate alternative desires to the monotonously even bipedal gate, the unremarkable scarless face, the productively balanced moods, the predictable cognition and sensations, or the simple symmetrical figure of the normate. We are against normal.
Our critical disability slogans pull from countercultural beliefs about what is valuable, right, and beautiful. Axiology, and its sub-domains of ethics and aesthetics, underlies not only what we say, but what we do and how we do it. For example, critical disability scholars study the immorality of disability industries built upon morally-oriented cures and charitable care. Crip scholars and artists develop, analyze and intervene into aesthetics of disability performances. We actively desire Mad, Deaf, Neurodivergent and disabled individuals, communities, capacities, and cultures.
And we mobilize our axiological affinities with style, raging against the neoliberal cult of the independent overcomer, in favour of a collective, interdependent flourishing. We, as a field and a set of movements, rarely refuse to add our own flourish: a particular aesthetic I like to call 'cramp'. A kin to camp, cramp is how we turn the axiological onslaught of ableism against itself. It is a way of engaging that makes us laugh until it hurts, laugh because it hurts, laugh to deflect and mobilize the hurt. Cramp is humour aimed at axiological cutting. It is woven in and through our slogans, writings, art, theories, and communal strategies for survival. In this way, cramp–and critical disability studies more broadly–can be imaged as a communally cultivated, ever-changing vocabulary of irreverent engagements with mainstream values: poking (fun at) the ableist axiological beast and what it holds most valuable, ethical, and beautiful.
- Chandler, E. (2012). Cripping community: New meanings of disability and community. No More Potlucks, 19. http://nomorepotlucks.org/site/cripping-community-new-meanings-of-disability-and-community/
- Hart, S. (1971). Axiology: Theory of values. International Phenomenological Society, 32, 29-41. https://doi.org/10.2307/2105883
- Sins Invalid. (2017). Home page. Retrieved from http://www.sinsinvalid.org.