Abstract

My pathway to becoming a disability studies researcher has been a series of discontinuities, a circuitous route full of twist and turns with the occasional misstep. Enmeshed in my peregrinations are my academic training as a geographer, my shift in institutional location from geography to an interdisciplinary program, and my everyday life organized around living with chronic illness. As I write my story of these entanglements, I cannot help but understand my career in terms of one refractive ray of I as a subject, assembled together through my foray into disability studies. Writing autobiographically, I explore some of the embodied contours of my career and how my own illness has been part of my intellectual shift. In this article, I reflect on how I write and the assumptions that go into how I use one refractive ray of I as a subject to foreground my movement toward becoming-undisciplined.

Becoming-undisciplined through my Foray into Disability Studies

A few years ago, I was talking with a friend I went through graduate school with, which was even more years ago, about friendships. I recounted a story about how I struggled with telling a friend that I was having problems with the way we were interacting. I remember saying that with an intimate partner, I would just break up. But with friends, you don't just break up. Problems just hang there, mostly lurking underneath cutting comments, behind social miscues, ready to ambush the interaction at any time. His response? He told me that I was "such a product of Enlightenment." Whoa! Was I offended! It was worse than calling me a liberal. 1 Or so I thought. At the time. The next day, he and I had a fight that lasted nearly all afternoon. It ended with me taking an early cab to the airport. I waited hours for my flight, hiding in the bathroom stalls sniffling and wiping my nose while leaving intermittent voice mails at home for my partner. Once on the plane I was finally able to sleep, no doubt from emotional exhaustion, and withdrew from the effect of the encounter.

The fight bothered me for days, perhaps even weeks. I don't remember exactly. What I do remember was thinking that apparently I am a modern subject, one that cannot let the flow of people in and out of my life. My being ill at ease with friends had to be a result of not being able to live in flux, with loose ends, amid messiness. And my critical flaw could only be that I always seek closure. Or so I had been told. Oh, yes, and my discourse—make that my discourse—always had to prevail in every discussion. Hum. I didn't recognize myself in this portrait. And I still don't. But it is not identity that I am interested in.

All these years later, writing about the incident here while thinking about careers and enacting embodied knowledges, it helps me free up (I almost wrote clarify, but that strikes me too modern a word) some of the thoughts I have about how I have come to be a subject. I was able to put the hurt aside by conjuring a story whereby the whole scene had to do with career insecurities and theoretical transitionings. Insecurity however is much too psychologizing, and besides, it seems more a defensive attempt to place blame on him rather than figure out what was getting under my skin. I wanted to make the content more intelligible theoretically for I knew something else was in that interaction. I had blown a gasket because I didn't see myself the way that someone else did. It makes me wonder why in that moment even with the history that we had had together that he still made those comments. Was he trying out some new theoretical arguments, using me as a source of data, 2 making claims about subjects without accounting for singularities? Are we all products of Enlightenment, still struggling to break away? Or has poststructuralism wrested binarism out of dichotomies and fused them back together (Hekman, 2009)? How do temporal and spatial contexts matter? Are subjects effects of affects (as bundles of flowing forces) and connections (as spatio-temporal variables) (Braidotti, 2002, p. 21)? Or, are they something else? Had he made those comments knowing that it is not just relationships that are messy, that people are messy, too, then we would have had to agree that acts, events, and encounters form subjects in embodied ways in unexpected venues. That is, if we had talked of such things. What makes his comments still so enthralling to me (I have shifted away from my wounds, well, almost) is that after all these years I still am grappling with theoretical tools to assist me in articulating my objections.

The comment, the fight, and my reaction got me thinking about how subjects form. I have come to articulate more precisely what it is that I think of subjectivity. For me subjectivity is that placeholder for what I refer to as I, an assemblage of flows, intensities, and multiplicities as well as of striated and smooth spaces segmented by lines, including lines of flight. Shifts and changes across these spaces are fuelled by bundles of forces that flow with and against the textures of the spaces and the trajectory of the lines (Braidotti, 1994). Through this flow, my I as a subject connects with other I's as subjects, or what could also be called assemblages, in various ways at multiple scales across time continuums, and they all engage in acts that facilitate movement through these spaces at varying speeds. 3 Rather than the subject, I am interested in a subject—me, that is, I. A subject is formed in situ, as an embodied entity full of the bundles of forces that assembled to make an I a singular I. Although there are many I's that form me as an I, it is not the fragmentation of subjectivity that I am interested in. Rather I am interested in how to describe one refractive ray of I as subject in embodied ways, including for example, managing to conceal affect in situ, yelling once the insult has registered, and brooding for a long time afterwards. For it is through this kind of materialization, that is, acts, events, and encounters in situ, that show how assemblages as embodied subjects enter and exit other assemblages (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 407).

Back to task, that is, writing about becoming-undisciplined through my foray into disability studies. I do not want to write a chronology of my career as a researcher, moving from labor process studies to contested illness, even though I have made some explicit decisions about research as a result of bodily sensations and capacities, as for example, choosing to work alone with historical documents on my two most recent research projects to limit interaction with people. Neither do I want to draw out causal relations between my ill body and my research interests or career development, not only because it is nigh impossible to determine cause, but also because framing trajectories in this way negates the multiplicities of types of connections among my many I's, your many I's, and the other I's I encounter as well as masks the possibilities of relationships among the rest of the components of those I's as assemblages. Nor do I want to write meaning into my story that supports epistemological claims that being ill makes for a better understanding of illness to the exclusion of other epistemological claims that could use illness to explore a variety of health, social, political, and even economic issues. So I have decided to trace a story of one I in yet another way.

I want to tell a story about one of my I's forming, constituting I as a subject. It is the I that brings forward elements of my career alongside my engagement as a disability studies researcher. I have not organized the writing of my story here around becoming a researcher in disability studies in terms of how my experiences with a fluctuating chronic illness shaped my scholarly interests and choices about research or of how I make meaning out of my career vis-à -vis embodied knowledges, as perhaps I would have in the past. Rather, I have organized my writing around ways to talk about becoming a researcher engaged with disability studies literature interested in contested illness and in enacting knowledge in embodied ways. My purpose is to write through the mass of mess 4 that shapes, constitutes, and assembles me as an I and to show how living with a chronic, contested illness has led me to disability studies as a discipline in rather circuitous paths both as part of my research interests in contested illness and as a way to make sense of writing autobiographically. As I write this story about I as subject, I am acutely aware of the multiplicity of I's that constitute me as a subject. Even though I want to mark one refractive ray of my own subjectivity and talk about it, I know that other I's will seep into the story. But this is not the point. The point is that I want to reflect on how I write and the assumptions that go into how I use one refractive ray of I as a subject to foreground my movement through becoming a disability studies researcher to becoming-undisciplined. So I offer these comments as a way that can possibly make my I become less discernible and my pathways to I more discernible, at least for now, especially to the other people who have I's that overlap with some of my I's, in an entangled sort of way. I write in hope that I am moving to a place where it is not important to have to say I and to recognize that I is only a manner of speaking (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, pp. 3, 4-5).

Segues, Parables, Apologues

What I usually do in my daily existence as an academic, when talking about intellectually engaging topics, is segue into a theoretical, methodological, or analytical issue via a story about something that I have recently done, witnessed, experienced, or have just been thinking about. In the classroom, the stories usually begin with an incident of some kind.

Ah, yes, Braidotti's idea of the Deleuzean body. Let me tell you. I walked to the bus stop this morning, well really, I sauntered, because I knew I wasn't going to make it, but I didn't want to rush. I hate hurrying. I catch the 7 or the 15, depending, at Fort & Foul Bay. Where I have to go, I cross the L-shaped parking lot; sit on the small brick wall; swing my legs over; and voilà , I'm right at the stop. And, as you know, this morning the slush was all packed together. So when I stood up and took a step down the incline, wham! I hit the ground, flat on my back. My head snapped back. I was so muddy. And I hurt. I thought first of the snow turning into packed slush, but I also knew that my balance has been somehow impaired since I got sick. When was it? Am I sick again? It has been so long. Is this a relapse? Did I reveal too much as I fell? I got up sheepishly and looked around. There were lots of people milling about—across the street going into the pharmacy, behind me coming out of the bank, and three or four people at the bus stop standing next to me. No one said anything to me. 'Are you okay?' 'Here's a tissue to wipe the mud off your face.' 'Wow, that must have hurt!' Nothing.

So that got me to thinking about how individual bodies get thrown into folds and how these folds are both exteriors and interiors (Braidotti, 1994, p. 112; Deleuze, 1999, p. 104). Through events, desire as life-force, and interaction—that which has gone on before (articulated as memory), that which is going on now (the immediate time framing), and that which will take place in the future—the body takes its place spatio-temporally as a force that is stable enough to endure changes of intensity and speed to keep its shape. That fall brought into focus the elements that constitute the limits of the body and showed that the interface between (what I'm going to call) my body and other bodies is located someplace in the midst of a massive collection of folds. That the incline no longer exists, for the landscape changed this past month when the transit company made a bus stop part way along the brick wall, does not mean that the folds no longer hold my injured body. The folds hold time (through memory) even when there are new folds, new unfoldings, and new refoldings. The spatio-temporal body takes up its place in time and continues to be thrown in and out of folds. Some of these folds are folds of subjectiviation, the process that generates a subject (Deleuze 1999, p. 107).

A student once told me that I like to tell stories—much like this one—and they aren't ever innocent. 5 She said they are more like parables. After giving this some thought, I figured it was better a parable than an allegory or some deployment of archetypes, neither of which I care for and both of which I usually mess up. At least I think this is the case. Allegories and archetypes are two ordered, yes, two ordered, based on binaries that shape one's thinking. For the record, I prefer to think about them, my stories, as methodological apologues, ones that pinpoint an event and then perhaps exaggerate it a little bit to make an argument or claim about something.

With my colleagues, I tend to describe a set of seemingly disparate thoughts that has brought me to the thought that I am going to share with them immanently.

When I was taking a shower the other day, I was thinking about what you were saying about responsibilization in light of the way the university takes up the federally-mandated need to accommodate persons with disabilities—of course without undue financial hardship. And then I thought about Tam's talk on sexual citizenship as defined predominantly in terms of sex acts rather than of how one actually lives one's life. You know how people can take up the same sort of problematic through different literatures—what is ontological security in peace studies is different than in say aging in place, and how I've never engaged with any citizenship literature. So, when I ran into Eisha, and she told me about what she wanted to know about the circulation of knowledge in knowledge transition policy—and by the way, I'm glad you're going to be on her committee—I began wondering about how to incorporate responsibilization readings juxtaposed against contested illness in order to get students to think through how knowledge about, say chronicity and accommodation, gets transformed into mainstream federal research policy for funding institutions. There is something about enhanced responsibility for workers needing accommodation for illness that is ongoing with fluctuating severity. What do you think?

My colleague's first response was "have you been reading about autobiography again?" She followed quickly with "yes, it is about the conduct of conduct" (Gordon, 1991, p. 48). At the non-unionized university where I work, faculty members needing accommodation are charged with the task of creating a plan that includes familiarizing oneself with federal laws governing accommodation, with university policies and procedures for requesting accommodation, with insurance company policies that administer long-term disability benefits and return to work programs, and with acquiring letters of support from health care practitioners. The faculty member is in a unique situation in that each isolated attempt to draw up a plan is an exercise of reinventing the wheel because administrators have sole access to previous accommodation plans. Faculty members, when at their most vulnerable, wracked with fear about losing their jobs, damaging their careers, and getting sicker, are directed to work-life consultants in human resources, consultants that have vested interests in maximizing contributions from each and every employer and saving money for the university. 6 Much like consumers, patients, and clients, faculty members are made responsible for our own ill bodies and disabling illness. We are tied to and enclosed by a "loose assemblage of agents, calculations, techniques, images and commodities" that govern us through our "freedom to choose" (Miller & Rose, 2008, p. 82), including, for example, work-life consultants, actuarial charts, sick leave and long-term disability policy, iconic representations of chronically ill people as malingerers, and uneven access to public and private healthcare services.

Although I hadn't been reading about autobiography, I figured that it was time to re-think autobiography in terms of enacting embodied knowledge in the context of being "not quite abled and not quite disabled" (Moss, 2000) while living with chronic illness and working in the academy. And it came to me that I was no longer thinking in terms of either ability or disability. I realized that my body was but one terrain with which to engage, one that held within it a range of possibilities that would fall into either ability or disability, and potentially both. Such positive potential is squashed by habitual binary thinking, in this case of disability as opposed to ability. 7 What I needed to look for had to do with mechanisms that brought into relationship the varied assemblage of I that I had come to understand as one of my many I's. I's that weren't identities, but were specific materializations of my understanding I as a subject.

Let me try to lay out how I became interested in disability studies.

I played basketball in high school. I was a little clumsy—perhaps the onset of the illness that has so deeply affected my balance?—and ended up with various injuries. One time I twisted my ankle at camp and had to get it taped each morning before going to practice. The trainer told me that my ankle didn't hurt and that I needed to buck up. When I got home, my parents made me go to the doctor. He x-rayed my ankle and told me that I had broken it. He also found other things in that x-ray. He diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis and said that I would lose most of my mobility by the time I was 21. So I quit playing impact sports and stopped eating nitrites. Both helped a bit. I took a geography class in university and decided that I wanted to become a geographer. I studied. I went to a conference. A geography professor suggested that I go to graduate school. What's that, I asked? He told me. I applied. I went to another conference. People yelled at each other. I was a little shocked. The geography professor told me not to worry; those people always yelled at each other. Hum. … I went to graduate school. I had migraines, extreme migraines. I studied. I began hating what I was studying. I didn't have a language to articulate what it was I was interested in. So I worked in the international development field. I got a job as an editor. I was well, still a bit clumsy, and I had no further deterioration of any joints. Should I be including this? Does this contribute to my story of becoming interested in disability studies? My geography professor from my undergraduate degree wanted me to do a PhD. Why? I don't think I even like teaching. And people are really mean. I don't like that. But I also don't like working for an international corporation. … So I taught geography. I became more articulate. I went to more graduate school. I studied women's labor. I got a virus that rendered the muscles in my neck so weak that I had to wear a brace for a couple of months. I finished again, with a PhD degree this time. I had a relapse of what I presumed was RA. Or was it scleroderma? I got a job in a geography department. I wonder why? I walked with a cane and wore wrist splints. A professor I admired was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS. She told me she developed it from years of extended stress in the workplace. Hum … I certainly did not want to develop CFS. She was so sick. Five weeks into my first term teaching the first of a series of personal harassment acts taking place over the space of several years began. I applied for funding from the Social Science and Humanities Council, or SSHRC, for a project comparing women's experiences of RA and CFS. This project marked my first expression of intellectual interests in chronic illness as disability. I studied. I wrote. …

Clearly I can't do it; I can't tell my story this way. It's boring. And you've heard it all before. 8 Maybe not the details, but the discourses embedded in the story are well worn. Yet I do want to tell my story about how I as subject, embodied knowledge, and disability studies research have come together to constitute a specific I. And some of this information you need to get my points. My enthusiasm, my passions, my curiosity. My illness diagnoses, my reluctance as an academic, my choice of research topic. But when I practice telling my story, I keep tripping myself up. At what I can now call key points in my story, it was not my exuberance that led the change, nor my determination to reach a set goal; rather, it was something that blocked me, something that shut me down, something that cut me off. Each time I had to stop; I had to re-group. Much like now: I need to focus on how I am going to tell my story rather than describe the sequence of events that fit the task at hand.

Beyond Methodological Apologues

There are so many choices in writing strategies in autobiographical writing (e.g., Coffey, 1999; Davies & Gannon, 2006; Ellis, 2004; Personal Narratives Group, 1989; Pratt, 1996; Spry, 2001; Stanley, 1995). Within the sociology of health and illness, the geographies of health and healthcare, and feminist disability studies there has been a long tradition of researchers writing about one's own experience of chronic illness (e.g., DasGupta & Hunt, 2007; Driedger & Owen, 2008; Mattingly & Garro, 2000; Wendell, 1996). Most of the stories about chronic illness however do not reflect my thinking in other areas of research I'm interested in. I want my writing to capture some of the things that I've been thinking about in other contexts, things like disclosures in feminist materialism, viscous porosity, and nomadic subjectivities (e.g., Alaimo, 2010; Braidotti, 1994; Hekman, 2010; Hemmings, 2012; Tuana, 2008).

Three pieces of autobiographical writing stand out for me as writing strategies to bring embodied knowledge into my story of becoming a disability studies researcher in a way that makes sense of the mass of mess that makes up me as an I. So what I want to do next is to give you snippets of my story using three different strategies.

Sites of Inquiry

Laurel Richardson (2011) uses her own writing as inquiry. Richardson's work is really appealing because it is through her stories, told through different narrative sites, that life's tensions accentuate collisions of ideas, values, and discourses. She queries what is going on in specific sites, in specific encounters, so when she writes about death, dying, palliative care, hospice, and bereavement, the reader can feel the tension she negotiates; there is deep resonance. The reader, prompted to problematize the same issues in her own life, comes to realize that what perhaps to date were only ever noted as related refracts the complexity of how the relations and connections of things play out through sites of intense significance and varying flows.

I'd like to write like this—if I were skilled enough at it—to show the discontinuities of how I have become interested in contested illness and embodied knowledges then and now, there and here. I would talk about my alienation as I studied aerial photographs, about the ongoing harassment from geography colleagues because I was a feminist and because I was a woman that contributed to my bodily breakdown in 1995, about my passion for learning about things I don't know about that I come across in my everyday life, and so on, and so on. I'd be able to tell you my story as I made my way through various sites of my inquiries into my own subjectivity as I came to understand my own disability studies researcher body as one with contested illness, at least that would be one of the ways I would frame it.

A range of tensions facilitated my movement toward a different subject positioning, a more subjugated one. Institutionally, I moved (after a long ordeal with University administrators) to an interdisciplinary program. I took this opportunity to think more extensively about what interdisciplinarity was about. I did this in the context of policy and practice, text and action, discourse and materiality—praxis. I re-tooled. I read widely in feminist engagements of poststructuralism in women's studies, education and policy studies, as well as in feminist methodologies, autobiographical writing, and sociology of the body. Intellectually, I moved away from foregrounding space and place in my thinking about feminist research, women's bodies, and the production of knowledge. And moved toward becoming an interdisciplinary researcher, fostering my thinking outside the parameters set within the discipline of geography as to what debates are important and significant and those that are valued by the discipline and worth taking up. I developed ways to approach knowledge production through specific topics like disability, embodiment, and chronicity. And I felt liberated. I was able to incorporate problematized understandings of experience into the classroom and encourage students to use their own stories to negotiate the boundaries of texts and bodily sensations. And I felt liberated. I explored the edges of what embodied texts might look like, and with a colleague, held a workshop specifically on aspects of power, diagnosis, and policy. And I felt liberated.

I am not sure if this writing does for me what Richardson's does for her. When shifts are not cataclysmic or epiphanous, that is, they do not burn bright with their intensity, the stories get rather drawn out and bland. Even though chronicity tones down intensity, manifest for me as the substitution of both mundane bodily maintenance strategies for an all-out breakdown of bodily systems and reading widely in a number of disciplinary-specific debates, the embodied knowledge generated is no less insightful for understanding processes through which I get assembled as a subject, whatever that subject is, was, or could be. Once I engaged in presenting my thinking and submitting my work for publication (Moss & Teghtsoonian, 2008), I encountered a bit of a padded brick wall. There was a particular way to read the disability studies literature but you do have a point, here's a specific debate to engage so why don't you frame your argument this way, and an identifiable list of readings to cite for after all you need to know the canon. What happened? My flow was blocked … again. The story of my becoming a disability studies researcher with interests in contested illness may not be striking enough to tell it this way, for it reads much like the disciplining of any academic scholar—but it still is important that my story have within it the articulations of this particular assemblage, no matter its intensity and velocity in its unfolding. It is important because, well, you'll see.

An Expression of Relational Materiality

Annemarie Mol (2008) uses eating an apple as an exemplar for exploring subjectivity. She is able to talk about subjectiviation (or subjectification, the making of a subject) in ways that highlight the processes of how events (incorporeal entities) have effects and how these effects link the virtual to the actual, freeing subjects from causation. Eating an apple is an exemplary situation through which she re-thinks what it might look like "to remodel the subject and play with what it is to theorize" (p. 28). Her approach is an expression of relational materiality, which is an ontological orientation that takes the position that reality is disclosed rather than absolute, and enacted through practices (Hekman, 2010, p. 107). For example, in showing the situatedness of eating apples, the context within which one chooses which apple to eat matters. Having been part of the boycott against Granny Smith apples from Chile in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she can eat Granny Smiths, but they do not give her pleasure (Mol, 2008, p. 29). As well, she makes the case that choice in and the biological interactions between the eater and the apple render the eater semi-permeable in that the eater only eats certain apples and the bloodstream only absorbs certain nutrients from the apple (p. 30). Thinking about eating an apple draws attention to the decenterdness of the subject, and brings out the ways in which the practice of eating an apple plays with the idea of relationships.

I could talk about my subjectivity as a disability studies researcher interested in contested illness along the lines she lays out. I would need to pull out talk (by talk I mean the concepts used to disclose material consequences of acts and events) about: embodiment as a concept, where feminism fits into understandings of the body, what sorts of practices feminists engage in as part of disability studies, what sorts of tests or exams solidify one's identity as an ill body, what sort of textual designations support my claim to be both a disability studies researcher and a body with contested illness, and other kinds of activities that swirl around me in the relational materiality of my world (Mol, 2002, p. 5). Rather than autobiography, I'd name it autopraxiography—it would be an ontology-in-practice, a relational materiality, something that does not separate discourse and materiality, something that does not presume space or time. If I methodically (and methodically is important here for without it my story would be an interim recording of events that would multiply out of control and defy taming in any kind of way) undertook these steps, then being a disability studies researcher interested in contested illness would become a part of what is done, part of what I do, part of what it is to be a researcher (Mol, 2002, pp. 12-13).

Making pasta is going to be my exemplary situation to think through what it is like being a researcher of contested illness within the context of feminist disability studies.

Origins of pasta making, and perhaps more widely, noodle-making, are place-specific; rather than a diffusion model it seems more likely that pasta and noodles emerged simultaneously, much like bread. A description that embraces a generative ontology, one of production, one of positivity instead of an orthodoxy, or a disciplining process for knowledge-making claims. Most pasta has a short list of ingredients—perhaps a set of feminist principles? Holding ethics and political action tightly together?—with some kind of grain and water, with an egg or perhaps a leavening agent. And the shapes! Tubular, stuffed, long, mini, shells, ridged, smooth, wheels, flowers, stars—perspectives? Assemblages of enactments?—and what you can serve them with … an endless number of sauces with their own list of ingredients—groups of inter-related concepts? The path to making pasta varies, much like living a body that is a collection of various intra-related systems that sometimes fail together with contested illness. There is a baseline knowledge and appreciation cultivated in and for pasta as a culinary event, much like the classroom acts as a training site (or is that disciplining site?) to be part of disability studies. As I engaged in the transition toward a disability studies researcher as well as a teacher teaching students to become disability studies researchers, I remember reading book after book, article after article about the biomedical and social models of disability. I read autobiographical accounts by academics of their own disabilities and learned how they came to understand their disability within the context of their chosen-set of ingredients, make that theories and writing strategies. I also learned about how legal, cultural, and social processes informed and were informed by a particular type of disability politics, and I only felt legitimate when I could claim that my own illness is disabling. And then I spent more time thinking through my views on ability, disability, impairment, illness, identity, chronicity, and empowerment because I knew my claim to being a disability studies researcher relied on my knowing various ways to shape the discussions as well as pull together a set of palatable and complementary ingredients to make the flavor just right. I thought that I would be able to contribute to these discussions by putting forth arguments that challenged political and social understandings of what disability is outside the traditional understandings of physical impairment and disabling social and spatial environments. … But before going further, I probably need to tell you that I much prefer pici over ditali—longer durations, connections via wiggles—and rigatoni over paccheri—striated over smooth spaces. Although quadrefiore is too deeply ridged for me. But I have a feeling that I probably would have much more interesting things to say about disability, illness, chronicity, and contestation if I preferred maltagliati over any other pasta. And, oh yes, by the way, I am allergic to wheat. Rice noodles? No, too soft. And it really isn't pasta. Is it? I wonder what pasta made from besan flour tastes like. Will the flavor overpower the sauce? Will the texture be too dense? …

Telling my story this way matters to me in relation to my career and I as subject. I am finally able to find a way to pull my interests in feminist materialism into autobiographical writing. Mol talks about how bodies are both objects and subjects and about how bodies come to be enacted through specific practices that are not necessarily or solely located in a physical body (Mol, 2002, 33-44; see also Mol & Law, 2004). Her exemplar of eating an apple kindles different ways of thinking about the subject and draws out a different kind of relationship to focus on in thinking about the processes through which subjects are made singular I's and about the porous relationship and transformative potential subjects have with objects and other I's as subjects. I want to think more about this to figure out how to link sets of embodied practices together as part of subjectiviation as an ontological process. I know I would need to demonstrate more subtly how exemplary situations—maybe pasta, maybe not—differ from metaphors and to trace how a thought makes its way through a set of statements in light of a topic like becoming a disability studies researcher interested in contested illness. There seems to be something else that I need. I need a writing style that holds I as a subject in a fold long enough to hold its shape, so that boiling water doesn't make I dissolve.

Autoethnography as a Hacceity

Jodi Kaufman (2011, p. 38) sets her task succinctly: how does one write a poststructural autoethnography when "there is no stable self to write." While acknowledging that autoethnography is but one type of autobiographical writing, Kaufman's insights are useful in pushing autobiographical writing to be more analytical. She works with Deleuze and Guattari's ideas about hacceity as an individuation without being either a subject or an individual. Her "I"— my "I"—is unstable, a deindividualized entity that is also a "desubjectified individuation" (p. 38). It is lines; it is folds; it is in media res. "Hacceity is constituted by its materialities and intensities—its virtual elements—belonging to it at any one given moment" (p. 39), full of emotion. It may be an event, that which changes or actualizes through movement.

I can see "I" as a hacceity; my career as a researcher, a hacceity; "I am ill," a hacceity. Hacceities need not be people, just as it need not be completely separated from the world we live in and through (Kaufman, pp. 38-44). A haecceity is the singularity of an assemblage, the refractive ray of an I as subject, the effect of a materialization of a bundle of forces. A subject. An I. Language is a way to express hacceities and assemblages, especially the infinitive, because within the infinitive movement has not been actualized; infinitives remain virtual, and hold within them possibilities. "To be" holds within its folds positive potential that "I am" could never grasp. One could say, actually I could say, that I is a fleeting and momentary materialized hacceity that could be an event, an act, an encounter that is but a refractive ray of I as an assemblage.

Status-to-be-geographer-no-longer-to-exist
To-move-to-academicrefugeestatus-to-transform-to-reterritorialize
To-become-aliquid-to-reconstitute-intellectually
To-ravel-disciplinarity
I-to-desire-to-become-disabilitystuidesresearcher
An-occasion-to-unravel-disciplinarity
To-experience-to-become-disabilitystudiesresearcher
A-collapse-to-think-a-strained-body
To-reengage-institutionally-without-desire
With-externalreport-I-to-be-decanted
Policyandpractice-to-close-to-discontinue
To-refuse-to-become-to-discipline-again-to-become-disabilitystudiesresearcher-again
To-becomeundiscplinedresearcher
I-to-be-hacceity-with-event-to-disclose-arefractiveray-to-move-through-etcetera

But as you can see, I'm not all that good at this kind of writing. I'm much better at telling stories. Well, maybe I'm not. What I can say is that Kaufman offers to me an idea of employing a conscious writing strategy that keeps in play the positive potential of the multiplicity of things extant within an assemblage of I—entanglements, masses of mess, forces, events, settlements, relations, mangles, hacceities, disclosures, and so on—that come together to generate the refractive ray of I as a subject. And, and yet (after Herising, 2012), 9 my multiplicity appears to me to be a random sequencing of non sequiturs. Need I write about being pick-pocketed? Drinking limeade every Thursday? Falling down a flight of stairs? Sitting in coffee shops? Chasing deer away from my strawberries? All of which for I as subject is far more interesting than becoming a disability studies researcher. To move from one discipline to another. And, and yet, the purpose of this piece of writing is to talk about becoming—in the sense of moving away from a dominant subject positioning to a more subjugated one as a researcher— through my engagement with disability studies. Yet I stumbled. I encountered imperatives set out by disability studies researchers in interdisciplinary spaces that were much like the disciplinary spaces I thought I was moving away from. My draw toward positivity, toward generating is still strong. And I want to resist becoming re-deployed within a set of literature imperatives, whether they emanate from sociology, education, women's studies, geography, or disability studies. Though Kaufman's writing strategy brings me closer to the positive ontology that I want to express in my writing, I still find it difficult to articulate one of my varied hacceities that I live with daily. Each one momentarily produces me as a person through which emerges on occasion the node of I as a disability studies researcher. Yes, I do think I need more words so that I can disclose more pathways, because for me it is these pathways that are more exciting ontologically (both discursively and materially!) than the fluctuating hacceities that hold within them any one I.

Becoming-woman; Becoming-undisciplined

These three strategies of autobiographical writing give me a conceptual framework that allows me to tell a story about becoming a disability studies researcher interested in contested illness that will resonate with me, and maybe with you. This framework takes seriously subjectivity as a site of inquiry in the various spaces I comes to be a subject, at least for a moment. Not only can the framework address the intra-actions of embodied entities, it can also be embodied itself, that is, it can arise out of a way of thinking that is sensitive to intra-related relations that generate embodied knowledge. It can capture the movements of hovering, swirling, and temporarily alighting, even in fits and starts. It also can capture movements at different scales—right, acute, and obtuse angles, changes in trajectories, and arcs of duration. It can hold multiple tensions, contradictions, and contestations without trying to resolve them. And it can permit the generation of subjectivities that can thrive in their state of flux, flexibility, and instability. Yet I am still left with the question, what would writing autobiographically within such a framework look like?

I know that the process of becoming is somewhat ubiquitous now, that we are all—both identity-wise and with our own subjectivities—in a state of flux. Poststructural-feminist-theoretically-sensitive academic audiences and students bristle when a teacher or a colleague stumbles across the words "I am …" who then feels compelled to introduce all the appropriate caveats. Even though I live and understand myself and those around me to become within becoming, I never know when I should invoke language to describe these processes, or expand upon the mechanisms that direct my trajectories. I always feel as if I am imposing my own thinking and doing so pretentiously. I desire it not to be so, but intentions are not always accounted for in individual encounters. The embodied knowledge emerging in situ is rarely immediately recognized let alone seized in the moment. I have tried to untangle bits of a point arising from a remark that started a fight with my friend and acted as a catalyst for me to be more precise in what I think about subjectivity. My flow appeared to be blocked, but I now think that it was only redirected.

So rather than use this widely-based notion of becoming, I want to be more precise. I'm interested in becoming as it is actually linked to movement, in the flux, in the fluid, over the unevenness of striated and smooth terrains. So I'm thinking in terms of becoming-woman. But it is not quite what I'm looking for because becoming-woman is something else. I'm defining becoming-woman as Deleuze and Guattari do (1987, pp. 292-293), the movement of a subject positioning away from a dominant one toward a subjugated one. Away from "man" toward "woman," away from "human" toward "animal," away from "difference" toward "imperceptible." I think about how becoming-[a subjectivity] (or is that becoming-[an identity]?) as an indeterminate process with hiccoughs, detours, and technical (that is, form and content) glitches. There always seems to be issues that arise and organize themselves around missed opportunities and thwarted trajectories. And each one of these striations has a story—and those are the stories that I'd like to think that I'm telling. My hurt from being seen as a product of Enlightenment. But I also want to keep in mind Richardson's ideas of writing as inquiry, Mol's expression of relational materiality, and Kaufman's thoughts around hacceity. So let me begin … again …

I want to think about becoming-disabilitystudiesresearcher in terms of subjugated subjectivities; more specifically I want to think about the movement from a dominant positioning, which may well be becoming-disabilitystudiesresearcher, 10 toward a subjugated one, one that I'm going to call becoming-undisciplined. I think about my own ties with the disability studies literature as a researcher interested in contested illness. And I find that the becoming-disabilitystudiesresearcher is not necessarily someplace I want to be going, some subjectivity that I want to take up, or someone—some I—whom I'd like to become. Nor is becoming-chronicillnessresearcher a trajectory that I think I would like to move toward. I have engaged with disciplinary processes that have set up some of the boundaries of distinguishing disability studies from other disciplines in my academic practices. To become a disability studies researcher, I have participated in disability activism on and off campus, trained students to become versed in disability studies as a discipline, written about disability, reviewed disability studies manuscripts, participated in disability studies networking—all activities that guard the boundaries of disability studies as a knowledge-based discipline. To know canonically the models, the politics, the issues, the theory, and the debates sets up disability studies to be interdisciplinarily disciplined.

Yet it is hiccoughs and crimps in my foldings and unfoldings that have redirected me and my trajectories. As a re-tooled after my arrival into an interdisciplinary program, I immersed myself in the interdisciplinary patina of disability studies. I was excited by the widening of disability studies to include feminist perspectives. To talk about contested illness as a disability from a feminist perspective was exactly what I was looking for. My understanding of interdisciplinarity was forming into something other than the patina of the university's strategic plan. I looked beneath the verde-gris and found something shiny. Something that I could actually enjoy again, intellectually. I could sense my movement in meetings with discussions about programming, student co-op placements and job searches, and university formal evaluation processes that on paper value interdisciplinarity. But so many people in the university claimed the patina as their own, and supported one type of interdisciplinarity—that of "bringing disciplines together" in a multi-disciplinary research model type of way—in practice.

And, and yet, I still felt liberated when I and my colleagues ran a two-week disability institute that brought together in an interdisciplinary context research, teaching, arts, and activism in innovative ways. The institute was not disability studies as written out in the literature, even though we covered the literatures in depth in class settings; it was something else. The institute was not about bringing disability activists together with disability studies researchers, even though we brought together a number of groups with competing views and contradictory interests together to talk; it was something else. The institute was not about examining structural and organizational practices that marginalize groups of people because of impairment and illness, even though many of the sessions discussed change through policy in non-profit organizations, governments as institutions, and workplace policies governing employment; it was something else. What that something else was, and is, has been stalled in its generation, stranded between the incessant need of an institution to produce academics qua academics, as for example, in reminding us that pay increases are for those who publish and are assessed for contributions to disciplined knowledge, and in producing good employees, as for example, in the attitude that "that was a nice project, come and be on the diversity committee and tell us how to make the university accessible to people with invisible illness (read mental illness)."

My movement toward this something else, that is, beyond disability studies, beyond interdisciplinarity, demonstrates to me that I as subject no longer fit in an institution organized around knowledge-based disciplines; that I as subject am caught in a relational material tension that rhetorically claims one thing and discloses something else. I feel less desire to take up a disciplined subject positioning. Even though I feel frustrated hovering around and within an I as subject that is moving toward this something else, I know it is a something—act, event, encounter—facilitating my movement toward smoother spaces, less organized body, and more deterritorialized spaces. My movement has been informed by the breaking apart of my body (see Shildrick & Price, 1996), something that enhanced my lack of desire to engage with institutional and disciplinary-based processes upon returning to the university after having been off to recover from a relapse of whatever illness process my body held at the time. The interdisciplinary program in policy and practice that created that something else as beyond-disability-studies-space, beyond-interdisciplinary-space, is now defunct. 11 There is no space for something else in an outcome-oriented institution that normalizes academic practices via standardization, surveillance, and the responsibilization of our own conduct, at least not in this place. Yet I see this move supporting my own movement—not toward the disciplines of public health or social policy, not toward geography, sociology, or women's studies, not toward disability studies. Rather, my movement is raveling disciplinarity and I am becoming even more undisciplined.

Becoming-undisciplined holds within it a set of tensions that push me further into the margins of a university setting, an academy, and disability studies intellectually, pedagogically, and politically. As I move toward becoming ever more undisciplined, I find that I, and perhaps I's, embracing undisciplinarity for it provides me the opportunity to practice an affirmative ethics, one that is committed to change in the present that brings about "multiple modes of belonging" in the future (Braidotti, 2010). My practices involved in my becoming-undisciplined are positive, generative, productive and hold within them the potential for a plethora of articulations of that which is as yet unseen, unknown, unthought.

Does movement toward becoming-undisciplined mean that my interests, passions, and curiosities have changed all that much? Sure, they have fluctuated much like the rest of my world. But research-wise I'm still interested in contested illness, embodied knowledge, and the making of subjects. Yet the concepts I use to disclose the materiality of the world around me tells a different story, hopefully one that is more nuanced in the connections between living with the chronicity of a contested illness and my research interests in contested illness. As a first attempt, this is not so awful that I can't make the points I want to make. So bear with me a little longer.

Closing Remarks

One of the things that I'm interested in now is seeing what texts do rather than what they mean (Colebrook, 2000, p. 3). I expanded my thinking to look at the production of the texts and not just to read them. I want to do something with my texts. I want to effect something. It isn't that I want to throw away all meaning, for I think that would be premature, for meaning has something to do with all of this. But meaning is not my entry point, it is not an articulation of and, and yet. I don't want to talk about what it means to be chronically sick with a contested illness vis-à -vis being a disability studies researcher, just as I don't want to claim that I as a subject with a multiplicity of I's in process is more important than another I as an assemblage because I write about them. Rather, I want to reflect on how the acts I disclose show how one refractive ray of I as subject is inhered in these hiccoughs and crimps that form the texture of my foldings, unfoldings, and refoldings of my many becoming-woman subject positionings, some of which I am not necessarily comfortable with. And I want to invite you to inhabit this text with I and me and maybe some of my other I's just in case you might find something else useful or effective from all the I's that are entangled in the assemblage that has come to piece your "I" together.

For this piece of writing, I set my task as writing about becoming-undisciplined through my foray into disability studies and how it has contributed to reinforcing and dislocating my positioning as a disability studies researcher in an interdisciplinary setting. Why is it I-to-desire-to-become-undisciplined in a university setting in two disciplines that do not value interdisciplinarity in the way that I (would) practice it? For me, it is because such a subject positioning opens up more possibilities for I as subject. Although I may be a product of Enlightenment, in a particular place at a particular time for a fleeting moment as one of the folds of subjectiviation, I don't have to be all the time. I want to know if my story about the pathways that have led me to articulate this particular refractive ray of I as subject through the striations I've talked about, as part of an assemblage that holds within it non-materialized singularities of this particular I, resonates with anyone else, no matter the overlaps, entanglements, or criss-crosses. I know that becoming-undisciplined marks a limit (perhaps a threshold?) that exists only as a horizon. Yet keeping my sextant on that horizon is what gets me through the academic day.

I presented a version of this manuscript in a Special Session organized by Emily Pabst at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Seattle, Washington, USA. I appreciate the close reading of two of the anonymous reviewers. I thank the students I work with who challenge me to become undisciplined.

References

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Endnotes

  1. In my social and activist circles, being called a liberal is akin to stating that you have sold out your radical principles to maintain the status quo. I understand that in other places, as for example in the United States, being called a liberal is not as insulting. In fact, many radicals embrace the label when discussing or engaging with formal, political party politics.
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  2. By data here, I am not referring to my talk about my experiences of a troubled friendship as might be the case if I were to be a research participant in a qualitative research project about friendship. Rather, I am referring to me as an academic interested in feminist poststructural arguments being placed under a theoretical gaze by another academic who finds my struggles worth scrutiny.
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  3. In short, the idea of the subject rests on an ontology of becoming, with associated claims that the subject is in relationship to other things including other subjects and that alternative configurations can be imagined. Braidotti (2011a, p. 209) argues that accessing subjects through figurations, that is, through conceptual personae that situate and frame the subject position enacted through memory and narrative, permits an accounting of the embodied and embedded locations of the subject's political and epistemological practices. The problem posed here is that of the subject, not a subject. In this piece of writing, I trace a subject.
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  4. A research participant referred to her illness, diagnosed by a physician as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, as a "mass of mess." For me, her phrase captures the multitude of relations, affects, forces, flows, and intensities that make up what Deleuze and Guattari (1987, pp. 88-89) refer to as assemblages that continually pass through one another.
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  5. I presumed she meant innocent in the sense that my stories do not convey merely incidents, facts, or truths (whatever those may be); but I never asked her what she meant.
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  6. It has only been since fall 2011 that the faculty association at my university has had a dedicated position to deal with individual requests from members for advocacy and assistance with accommodation, sick leave, and return to work. Many faculty members and librarians do not know that this position exists. I venture to guess that they do not know mostly because a disability advocate is for someone else; thus, the announcement of the position and the circulated descriptions do not register because it is a possibility that has not yet happened.
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  7. Although Braidotti (2011b, p. 291) talks about pain, both physical and emotional, similar things can be said about illness and disability more generally: Habits sustain the form of the subject just as habits sustain the affects and connections among subjects.
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  8. I thank one of the anonymous reviewers for making this point.
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  9. Drawing on Deleuze (1994), Herising (2012) demonstrates that "and, and yet …" is an intervention strategy that allows a writer or/as a subject to engage with a partially- and temporally-fixed encounter that forces one to think through that which has brought about the present (p. 6). It is a (nodal) point of departure whereby an inquiry can not only begin, but also dissolve, join a different inquiry, or perhaps involute (pp. 18, 85 and 107).
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  10. Becoming-disabilitystudiesresearcher can be a becoming-women subject positioning in that it is a move away from the dominance of a biomedical positioning of viewing disability as primarily a biological impairment or damaged physiological system. This move away from the biomedical model is very much part of the training of becoming-disabilitystudiesresearcher that reinforces its dominance in relation to, for example, becoming-undisciplined. But it is these tensions that are so interesting and need to be picked at.
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  11. In July, 2011, the program moved into a school of public health and social policy, a move intended to enhance marketability and draw a robust application pool. My colleagues and I did not move with the program. As of January, 2012, the program is officially undergoing closure. At the time of this writing, I am without an academic home.
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Copyright (c) 2013 Pamela Moss



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