Crip Times is a 283-page book dedicated to an interdisciplinary, "queer disability studies project" (49) and divided into an introduction, four chapters, an epilogue, notes, references, and index. It is largely focused on austerity politics in the UK in a time of neoliberalism, where austerity is "characterized by a lowering of government spending, an increase of labor hours for workers … cuts to benefits and social services, and – wherever possible – privatization of those social services … to again spur capitalist growth" (16). McRuer's main argument is that there needs to be an explicit theorizing of disability within the global politics of austerity and its disproportionate impact on disability communities. By documenting how activists and artists are responding to "crip times," or the normalization of able-bodiedness and the decentering of disability in times of austerity, he contends that disability has been "purged … in the service of the smooth functioning of a globalized neoliberal capitalism" (23-24). He argues that, while disability activists have been fighting for the centrality of disability, the "emergent uses of disability" (6) are simultaneously being co-opted and marked by the neoliberal "guardians of austerity politics" (30).

McRuer devotes a considerable amount of time in the introduction defining terms, such as "crip times" and "austerity," within the context of his work, emphasizing the radical, culturally generative possibilities in the terminology. Using the film The King's Speech as an example, he focuses on the complex ways in which disability representations operate and circulate in the public sphere. He notes that certain disabled subjects may be considered exceptions by governments and "gain significant representational currency for the neoliberal establishment when situated within local manifestations of the current crisis of capitalism" (44), where they are considered valuable in securing austerity measures despite the negative impact on entire disability communities. Meanwhile, other disabled bodies are positioned as "inadmissible or incomprehensible … (and thus paradoxically in need of intense control)" (46). McRuer ends the introduction by outlining the rest of the chapters of the book.

In Chapter 1 – An austerity of representation; or, crip/queer horizons, McRuer theorizes the economic strategy of austerity and the austerity of representation, which works to "foreclose other crip possibilities" (56). He does this elegantly by highlighting and contrasting the limited representations of disability from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, particularly the South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, with the "critically crip dispossession" (59) of activists, such as the photo project This is What Disability Looks Like, working against austerity measures. He demonstrates how the inspiration porn of the time was used to not only generate revenue, but to draw attention away from the reduction or loss of disability benefits due to "fit to work" policies. Adapting Kevin Floyd's work on queer sociality, McRuer then suggests that "neoliberal capital identifies or targets some who are caught up in that crip or queer sociality and then uses their identities to mask capital's predations … neoliberal capital essentially relocates, displaces, dispossesses, or disappears the rest" (78).

In Chapter 2 – Crip resistance, McRuer provides wonderfully detailed examples of six crip tactics of resistance used by disability activists to challenge austerity measures from around the world: queering crip resistance through theory; crip camp; craving disability; conscientious objection; social medical centers; appropriation and theatricalization. Meanwhile, in Chapter 3 – Inhabitable spaces, he illustrates how policies and practices in the UK have spatialized austerity in both the UK and Mexico, generating crip displacements where there is literal relocation as well as "the processes whereby one issue is avoided or repressed in and through a focus on or diversion to something else altogether" (132). He describes the gentrification of a neighborhood in Mexico City and attempts to be more like the UK in terms of discourses around accessibility. He writes, "As openness and accessibility are exported and imported, so too are the forms of displacement and dispossession that are masked by them" (161). Using activist movements and resistance to highlight the displacement of unruly bodies, or "bodies inconvenient to and for processes of neoliberal development" (174), McRuer demonstrates how crip displacements create more unpredictability, disability, and illness.

Discussing the ableist rhetoric of Margaret Thatcher regarding aspiration, McRuer uses Chapter 4 – Crip figures – to point out how politicians like Thatcher in the UK talk about disabled people as being "excess waste, rubbish, or debris that needs to be cleaned up or moved away" (181) in an attempt to promote and sustain austerity. He describes how the performance work of UK artist Liz Crow entitled Figures, which was sadly inspired by the suicide of disabled people negatively impacted by austerity measures, challenges that rhetoric by centering disability. Each of the small, abstract sculptures she created were accompanied by real-life stories that were shared on her website as a part of the collective experience. In awe of her installation, McRuer argues that Crow's work crips austerity in the fact that it "forges … a coalition of 'left behinds' who may or may not identify as disabled" (216) but who are connected through vulnerability and resistance.

The epilogue in Crip Times ends the book with a consideration of difference, particularly race, in times of austerity. It would have been nice if a racial analysis was incorporated throughout the book, as race and ethnicity are definitely involved in rhetoric, policies, and practices related to austerity. Another thing left out of the book was accessibility. As brilliant as McRuer's analysis is, he writes with so much jargon and abstract theoretical concepts that the very people he is writing about – disability activists and the disability community – would be unable to follow. He is clearly writing for an academic audience. McRuer calls for cripping austerity by "tracing resistance and revolution" (48), and although this request is worthwhile, the message may be buried and the actual use of the text within activist circles may be limited.

Return to Top of Page


Copyright (c) 2021 Lisette E. Torres

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

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

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact libkbhelp@lists.osu.edu.

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)