This stand-alone text declaring feminist disability studies' (FDS) presence is exciting for all those who recognize the need for this area of study, as well as those being introduced to its liberating potential. Using five parts to denote key FDS themes, Part One provides a topical and theoretical overview of FDS; Part Two presents new ways of interpreting literature by considering madness and blindness from a FDS perspective; Part Three brings in needed disability studies ideas and critiques as related to citizenship, nationality, war, and various vectors of oppression; Part Four addresses critical queer and sexuality analyses; and Part Five brings in perspectives less frequently included, and ideas for transformations.

This anthology has a stellar and interdisciplinary cast, including activists, scholars, a graduate student, and an artistic director of a theatre company. Employing feminist and disability strategies, the book delves into a variety of diversity issues. The editor, Kim Q. Hall, argues that, "Feminist disability studies makes the body, bodily variety, and normalization central to analyses of all forms of oppression" (6), and this anthology does an exemplary job of supporting this claim. She skillfully presents timely and uniquely FDS analyses in the introduction, though the span and complexity of ideas in this introduction may be difficult for readers less familiar with theory.

The gateway chapter to this book provides an important overview of multiple and intriguing convergence zones of feminist and disability studies thought, which the author, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, breaks into four themes: representation, the body, identity, and activism. This reprinted chapter remains a distinguished article, and she introduces a couple of intriguing ideas, including "inadvertent activism" (38) and "academic activism" (40), highlighting ways in which social justice can be achieved. Garland-Thomson's article, and the article by Ellen Samuels that follows it, are asserting a position I have found central—that FDS promotes a methodology that tolerates a somewhat ambiguous process that uses sometimes incomplete and contradictory theories, so long as such a process serves as a tool to explore the inner workings and politics of our identities and provides opportunities for transformation. Samuels' essay provides a more theory-specific, complicated, and integral inquiry having to do with the limits, shortcomings, and insights of Judith Butler's theories as used in disability studies.

Susannah B. Mintz's article provides an intricate look at the methods Georgina Kleege uses in her autobiographical writing, which challenge ableist and patriarchal tropes about sightedness, disability, illness, and gender. It provides a compelling look into the ways in which feminist disability studies narratives not only have the potential to challenge, but also transform, social norms for the self and the reader. Elizabeth J. Donaldson's essay, "Revisiting The Corpus of the Madwoman: Further Notes toward a Feminist Disability Studies Theory of Mental Illness," uses a literary and media timeline to trace feminist literary reflections on such texts as Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Literary criticism by feminists shows a rebellion against the ways in which women were pathologized with psychiatric disorders in order to control them, especially those women who challenged social norms. However, Donaldson discusses how literary and theoretical reactions against this patriarchal and sexist phenomenon has in turn "Othered" and further stigmatized people living with experiences of mental illness. She encourages us to further explore these critical vectors of oppression.

The articles in the third section call us to account for the ways in which intersecting forms of oppression are used and reinforced through transnational means. Nirmala Erevelles calls attention to the neglect of feminist/disability studies scholars in considering the implications of eugenic, racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, and ableist ideologies used during war times. She reveals a variety of oppressions for all those involved in war, with attention to inequities between women and men, heterosexuals and homosexuals, and, significantly, peoples of first and third world countries. This article, in particular, stirred my desire for activism.

Jennifer James' article, too, provides a framework from which we can better understand interconnected systems of oppression within war. By analyzing African American war writing in her chapter, she claims Gwendolyn Brooks' "black womanist" writing (142) as "explod[ing] the myth of racial 'rehabilitation'" by exposing the different, painful, and resistant ways that black women and men attempted to be (or not be) "normalized" through heteronormative, sexist, nationalist, and ableist roles during World War II (141). Although an enormous and complicated matter, I would like to encourage James not to pass up the opportunity to address the issue of potentially "Othering" people with psychological and cognitive disabilities in response to oppression (see 143).

This central issue of Othering is taken up in Cindy LaCom's article, "Revising the Subject: Disability as 'Third Dimension' in Clear Light of Day and You Have Come Back." Though engaging, I am left feeling as though I need more disciplinary background to critique some of the theoretical claims that she makes about the novel and play she discusses. She implements transgressive ideas into her analyses of these texts, such as Bhabha's "third dimension," when the "Self cannot be wholly contained within a Self/Other binary" in which a new, third and slippery space is created (160). One of the characters she uses in her analyses, "Baba," represents a disability identity that, although argued as creating this alternative and transgressive space, is left (for me, uncomfortably) with little to no voice or political agency (164-5). Perhaps the silence informs, but I would like this issue addressed more directly.

Sharon Lamp and W. Carol Cleigh's chapter is a great foundational article for those new to FDS. It links modern day feminism's dismissal of atrocities against women with disabilities (e.g. Terri Schindler Schiavo and Ashley X) back to Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Margaret Sanger. Gilman and Sanger, fighting for women's rights to obtain birth control and reproductive freedom, used eugenic beliefs that argued that we should keep "unfit" and "defective" women from reproducing. In addition, I would love to read more about how Gilman struggled with internalized ableism (184-185).

Abby Wilkerson's article should be a cornerstone for all studies that take up anti-oppression work. It continues to challenge us to not avert our eyes from the ways in which controlling and stigmatizing sex and sexuality is used as a means to oppress all those considered deviant. Considering a few recent and positive changes by the Obama Administration (203), Wilkerson reminds us of the continued need for a sexual democracy (195). Alison Kafer's chapter reveals how Marge Piercy's novel, Woman on the Edge of Time, continues to be an intriguing feminist text that is drawn into current debates, such as a case about deaf lesbians who wanted a deaf child. Yet, as Kafer points out, Piercy's work is troublesome, as disability is erased, segregated, and ultimately considered undesirable. Kafer articulates counter-arguments for how disability is necessary and good for working toward a feminist utopia. This should definitely be a required supplementary reading in every course that reads Piercy's piece.

At a time when outrageous anti-obesity campaigns persist, April Herndon's article remains pertinent. Herndon brings our focus to the powerful ways in which "fat" is pathologized and socially constructed as deviant in her essay. I also value how Herndon recognized in an endnote that she still struggles with these issues and does not wish to further "chastise women." Rather, her goal is to bring alternative and liberating theories into conversation. Following Herndon's lead, I would like to encourage more open conversations about the implications of oppression and how we internalize it, and how struggling with internalized oppression might possibly be embraced and directed toward liberation-processes.

I am personally grateful for Karen Elizabeth Jung's work and look forward to future research that will provide alternative and liberating ways to study, work, and live with chronic illness. She exposes the unique barriers that occur when one's disability-impairment does not fit visible, physical, and more typical disability molds within academia. Ann M. Fox and Joan Lipkin contribute three great theatrical scripts by Lipkin at the end of their essay, "Res(Crip)ting Feminist Theater Through Disability Theater: Selections from the DisAbility Project", which challenge the audience and feminist theatre to reconsider and possibly transform their beliefs about disability from a FDS perspective. While moving beyond the abundance of negative stereotypes of disabled people that are even portrayed in feminist theatre, FDS theatre "build[s] upon and complicate[s] the thematic and aesthetic interrogations feminist theater initiates" ( 299). While I appreciate the fact that this book closes with a piece that so nicely bridges a form of activism with theory, I would like more "grassroots" reflections in this FDS text.

I value the complex overlapping of feminist, disability studies, and interdisciplinary theories in this book. I would like to propose that our next step be to work on a more introductory book that we can use, for example, in a freshman survey course—thereby hopefully creating a large ripple effect of liberation by its inclusion. I would also like to encourage us to expand our analyses around vectors of oppression by paying more attention to how disabilities and impairments can overlap and intersect, creating unique experiences and barriers that need to be explored and addressed.

This is a rich and liberatory text, and I support what Rosemarie Garland-Thomson expresses in the "postscript" to her chapter. She hopes that by naming this area of study, FDS, she helps create a "quacking critter" (42) that will manifest itself in new forms of much needed and recognized social justice scholarship that will impact individual lives. The goal is liberation, and this book is, simply put, a pillar from which we can "quack" and foster social justice.

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Copyright (c) 2012 Kristina Knoll



Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

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ISSN: 2159-8371