Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies - Keynote at the Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference, 2019

Fig. 1: Untitled gif of three skeletons dancing, using detail of a bas-de-page MS scene of the Three Dead. Made for GIF IT UP 2016, by Erin Black, posted 18/10/16. Black text overlays gif, reading ‘Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies’ (added by Spencer-Hall). Skeletons from the ‘Smithfield Decretals’ ( Decretals o f Gregory IX with  glossa ordinaria ), southern France (probably Toulouse), c. 1300, with illuminations added in England (London), c. 1340 (BL Royal 10 E IV, f. 259r). Source:  GIF IT UP 2016 . ( CC-BY-SA )  The creator, Black,  describes the gif : ‘This GIF celebrates both #PageFrights and the #SkeletonWar with three skeletons dancing on a manuscript page. The image is an illumination from the bottom of a page (aka a bas-de-page) of the Smithfield Decretals. It’s one of a series of bas-de-pages depicting the story of The Three Living and the Three Dead, in which three kings are confronted by three of their dead ancestors and warned to remember the dead, lest they take life for granted. […]’

Fig. 1: Untitled gif of three skeletons dancing, using detail of a bas-de-page MS scene of the Three Dead. Made for GIF IT UP 2016, by Erin Black, posted 18/10/16. Black text overlays gif, reading ‘Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies’ (added by Spencer-Hall). Skeletons from the ‘Smithfield Decretals’ (Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria), southern France (probably Toulouse), c. 1300, with illuminations added in England (London), c. 1340 (BL Royal 10 E IV, f. 259r). Source: GIF IT UP 2016. (CC-BY-SA)

The creator, Black, describes the gif: ‘This GIF celebrates both #PageFrights and the #SkeletonWar with three skeletons dancing on a manuscript page. The image is an illumination from the bottom of a page (aka a bas-de-page) of the Smithfield Decretals. It’s one of a series of bas-de-pages depicting the story of The Three Living and the Three Dead, in which three kings are confronted by three of their dead ancestors and warned to remember the dead, lest they take life for granted. […]’

On the 2nd of April in the year of our goddess(es) 2019, I felt the call. I had heard the call for a long time, years even. But I had not felt it, surging through the fibres of my being and my brain in a compulsive thrum. Until that portentous day, at 3 o’clock after my third cup of strong coffee. It was time. It was time I began my true calling, the journey for which I had prepared daily by scrolling through the internet and the Giphy gospels for hours on end. And so was born my first professional gif (Fig. 1), based on the fine work of Erin Black for GIF IT UP 2016, now burnished with my paper title. Not yet content, I toiled onwards, pouring sweat and blood into a dazzling relic, a timeless work of art: my first professional Blingee (Fig. 2).

The inspiration for the outpouring of my creative spirit was the Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference, taking place 5-6 April 2019 at Kellogg College. The conference’s theme is deviance, and I have the profound privilege of giving a keynote there. In my talk, “Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies”, I attending to the ways in which disability has been conceptualized as deviance, arguing for, in effect, a kind of defiant - weaponized - deviance as a form of critical cripistemology. I examine temporal deviance in particular: the ways in which crip lives take place in crip time(s), alongside the ways in which medievalist research can and does de-center “linear” (i.e. telelogical) history by blurring bounds between the past, the present, and the future. Temporal deviance becomes an embodied methodology, a means to re-instate the marginalized and silenced to the historical record, to forge crip-chronic communities across time.

With my focus on crip time and/as methodology, the keynote covers similar ground to recent other papers I’ve given, so see here if you’d like details of the forthcoming publications that form the basis of my keynote. I’ve embedded my slides below, which convey the thrust of my arguments. As much as I tried - and believe me, I tried - I couldn’t feasibly integrate the Blingee into my deck. But never fear, I have embedded it here - an orphaned artistic jewel - as a treasure for your eyes only. You’re welcome.

Fig. 2: A  Blingee  of Fig. 1, with dazzling pink animated starbursts overlaying the image. In this version, the skeletons are static. Source: my deepest creative urges.

Fig. 2: A Blingee of Fig. 1, with dazzling pink animated starbursts overlaying the image. In this version, the skeletons are static. Source: my deepest creative urges.

'It's About Time': Ableism in the Academy - Seminar at the Swansea University Centre for Research into Gender, Culture and Society

By the time this is posted - all hail the glory that is the auto-scheduling tool - I will be ensconced on a train, whizzing my way to Swansea, Wales. Hello, future me! This minor-league time travel is in honour of an exceptionally kind invitation, made by an exceptionally kind academic Dr Roberta Magnani, the Director of Swansea University’s Centre for Research into Gender, Culture and Society (GENCAS). I will be - I currently am? - giving a seminar as part of the Centre’s series on intersectionality, speaking about ableism in the Academy.

All my temporal dilly-dallying with this post is eminently apt, it turns out, because my paper is all about time , or rather times plural - academic time, disability time, crip time - and temporal slippage, pasts and presents and futures all colliding. Check out my abstract for the full(er) story:

It’s about time we talked about disability in the Academy. Many, if not most, academics do not disclose their condition(s) for well-grounded fear of discrimination. Neoliberal rhetoric about “productivity” – we must always produce more, we must always be seen to be producing more – is fundamentally ableist. Ever more nominally non-disabled scholars are disabled by the “hyper-work” prescribed by the academic regime. The academic timepiece stops for no-body. And yet, those of us living with disability, we watch – we must watch – different clocks: those which show ‘crip’ time – episodic, non-linear, thickened. It is a radically different temporal orientation than hetero-patriarchal linear time. Radical is the key word here. The logic of crip time offers us a new methodology for medievalist work: a practice of empathetic and politically urgent trans-historical engagement with our sources. What’s more, recognition of time, or manipulation thereof, as a central weapon in the Academy’s dysfunctional arsenal allows for the creation of a broader collective for resistance. If the Academy disables, then let us crip it right back – decentering the neoliberalized normate in our scholarship, in our pedagogy and in our professional lives.

If you’d like to read my paper, then you’ll find most - though not all - of the material in two chapters which should be published in the near-ish future:

  • ‘Chronic Pain and Illness: Reinstating Crip-Chronic Histories to Forge Affirmative Disability Futures’, in A Cultural History of Disability in the Middle Ages, ed. by Jonathan Hsy, Joshua Eyler, and Tory Pearman (London, UK: Bloomsbury Press, forthcoming 2019);

  • ‘Stopping the Clock(s): Precarious Times in the Academy’, in Theorising Ableism in Academia, ed. by Nicole Brown and Jennifer Leigh (London, UK: University College London Press, forthcoming 2019/2020).

For a flavour of the talk itself, flick through the slides posted below at your leisure. Forget the content, if you like clocks (and watches and venerable timepieces), you will love this deck. And just below that, you can (now) scroll through tweets posted about the talk by myself, and attendees. Check out @RobertaDMagnani’s thread in particular for a summary of my key points.

Edited 19/03/19 to embed the Wakelet and relevant text.