Research

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Crip Technoscience and the Politics of Enhancement

This project investigates science-society relations to develop the emerging area of “crip technoscience.” I examine how body enhancement and capacitation technologies such as bionic prosthetics, robotic exoskeletons, and personal assistive and adaptive devices emerge, marking the ways in which these technologies are differentially produced, distributed, consumed, and utilized. Through a critical examination of the social, political, cultural, and economic dimensions of these technologies—largely developed through military-sponsored research and embedded within economies of neoliberal risk and population governance—I map out how these technologies influence our shared understandings of both abled and disabled embodiment as well as our shared understandings of health and illness. Of particular interest to me is tracing how both the private and public research and development of personalized enhancement and rehabilitative technologies in the United States and Canada produce human embodiment in particular ways and alter forms of human capacity. Drawing together methods from critical social theory, disability studies, feminist science and technology studies, critical race and ethnicity studies, and the sociology of health, illness, and medicine, I investigate how these technologies function within a double process that both works to erase human variation (in particular disability), while also producing new forms of bodily variation that contest the very idea of the normal body, such as super-soldiers and better-than-able-bodies. As part of this project, I am guest editing a special issue of Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience on the topic of “crip technoscience” with Aimi Hamraie, Mara Mills, and David Serlin.

 

Crip Futurities

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My second research project takes up the notion of “crip futurity” to interrogate and challenge the ways that the neoliberalization of disability relations delimits the potential of disabled people to flourish by valorizing and capacitating some disabled bodies (the “abled-disabled”) while leaving other disabled bodies to wither through processes of “slow death.” Extending the research findings of my 2015 doctoral dissertation that was grounded in crip, feminist, and queer theory, in this research project I argue that neoliberal futurity re-inscribes the hope for a future without disability, or a future in which disability is no longer a difference that matters. Through neoliberal futurity some disabled adults become unanticipated lives left to wither while others become capacitated as inspirational, hopeful, and progressive success stories of neoliberal inclusion. My project lays a framework for building more radical, socially just, and anti-capitalist ways of engaging disability and disabled communities. 

Collaborative Projects

Queer/Crip Contagions and the Biopolitics of Neoliberal Risk

Situated within critical social theory and the social science of health, illness, and medicine, this aspect of my research examines the emerging practices of precision and personalized medicine and its relation to neoliberalized forms of risk society and population governance, marking how practices such as tailored drug regimes or personalized genetic therapies alter our shared understandings of disability, ability, health and illness. This project is being developed in collaboration with Anne McGuire at the University of Toronto and includes guest editing a special issue of Feminist Formations on “Queer/Crip Contagions.”

 

Somatechnics of Sexuality

This two-part project addresses sexuality at the intersections of body, technology, and place. Charting the entanglement of embodiment and technologies, techniques, and technics, this project emphasizes the reproduction and governance of bodies through various technologies, alongside considering the ways in which bodies disrupt and trouble these processes. Part 1 of this project, developed collaboratively with reese simpkins (York University), includes guest-editing a special issue of Somatechnics 

Part 2 is a collaborative community research project examining the roles assistive and adaptive technologies play in enabling the erotic lives of disabled people. A key part of this project is to develop evidence-based legal and policy frameworks that support the facilitation of sex and sexuality for disabled people in a variety of institutional and independent living situations. Additionally, this project also highlights the need for solidarity across disability and sex worker political organizing, pushing for socially just legal and policy frameworks that facilitate the needs of both disabled sex workers and disabled clients in the Canadian context. This project emerges from my prior research on disability and sexuality (Fritsch 2010; Fritsch 2016), and from my experience teaching Sexuality and Disability – a fourth year seminar at the University of Toronto.

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Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late Capitalist Struggle (AK Press, 2016)

Bringing together the insights of dozens of scholars and activists, kfrKeywords for Radicals constellates a vocabulary of contested words that shape today’s political landscape. Beginning from a consideration of the current radical context, each entry highlights a term’s contested variations, traces the evolution of its usage, and speculates about the radical implications of particular term-use trajectories. More than a glossary, Keywords for Radicals makes clear that contests over word usage and meaning are themselves meaningful. By forcing words to reveal the underlying social contradictions they symptomatically express, the contributors to this volume provide an important new vantage on the terrain—and the stakes—of contemporary struggle. Read my interview about this project.