DSQ > Winter/Spring 2007, Volume 27, No.1-2

When I returned home from the hospital last summer due to an exacerbation of my Crohn's disease, which can cause debilitating diarrhea among other symptoms, my brother-in-law, Mike, called to extend his sympathy and concluded by saying, "Man, I'd never, ever want your disease." What is worth noting is that Mike is paralyzed from the nipple line down and has spent the last twenty-six years in a wheelchair.

Though I will consider the question of where we might situate illness and disease within Disability Studies, I want to first focus on the question of why, in a community where bodies are so often unstable and unpredictable, the taboos which enforce silence about our bowels is so pervasive.

As someone with both multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease, and as a scholar and teacher of Disability Studies, I agree with Susan Wendell (1996) that "the failure to control the body is one of the most powerful symbolic meanings of disability" (p. 61). Certainly, my brother-in-law faces diverse reactions to his paraplegia, all of which are culturally informed and many of which are negative. Harlan Hahn has argued that people who consider themselves able-bodied respond with existential angst when confronting a person with a disability because they are compelled to recognize that the chasm which separates "us" from "them" is artificial, vulnerable, and subject to erasure. However, I believe that most see the chasm between themselves and my brother-in-law as far wider and more unbridgeable than the chasm between my uncontrollable bowels and their own. Less than 1% of the general population will develop MS, but all of us poop, and the often desperate attempt to Other those with disabilities becomes far more difficult when a central symptom of an illness is so often, both literally and metaphorically, right under our noses. Shit is filthy, and it represents contagion in ways that many physical and cognitive disabilities do not. I have found it relatively easy to publicly negotiate symptoms of my MS (even bladder incontinence); in fact, many are curious and will pursue conversations about the disease and its symptoms. But when people discover that I might shit my pants or pass gas through an open fistula on my buttocks as a consequence of my Crohn's, conversation stops cold and verbal constipation becomes the order of the day.


History of Shit/Shit as Contagion

Jacques Lacan has argued that humans distinguish themselves from animals in the moment during which shit becomes something shameful. However, in human history, there is evidence that as long as people lived in small communities which were isolated from each other, epidemics spread through human feces were rare. Only when people began clustering together into cities, where waste removal became an issue, did disease from excrement become prevalent ("Plagues and Epidemics" n. pag.). The diseases spread by shit include dysentery, typhus, typhoid fever, cholera, and hepatitis A. Historian Charles Creighton writes that "The Crusaders of the 11th - 13th centuries were not defeated so much by the scimitars of the Saracens as by the hostile bacteria of dysentery and other epidemics." The conquest of the Americas was vastly aided by the importation of worms and germs by European soldiers and settlers (Desowitz, 1997, p. 26-62), and some have argued that Napoleon was defeated in Russia because his troops were felled by typhus. In the nineteenth century, the infamous "Typhoid Mary" spread the disease to over fifty people in New York, and more recently, in 2003, the largest outbreak of hepatitis A in the U.S. sickened almost six hundred people at a Chi-Chi's Restaurant north of Pittsburgh, killing three and requiring liver transplants for another three. In a post-furor analysis, The New York Times clinically noted that hepatitis A is "spread by fecal matter from infected people . . . [and] can survive in food" (Grady, 2006, p. 1-2) Finally, in the last thirty years, the association of HIV and AIDs with feces has further contributed to a public recoil from shit (as well as from homosexuality — consider the right-wing efforts to ban gay marriage). In very real and measurable ways, shit has changed the course of human history, and if disability must often be excavated from the margins of texts to be read and interpreted, so must shit. It is, quite literally, everywhere, and though we may try really hard not to step in it, we are going to come away with some of it smeared on the soles of our ideological shoes.

However, if shit has connotations of disease, it has also historically been seen as a useful fertilizer source for agriculture. Though there was no consistent perception of the agricultural value of human excrement in Europe, in Asian cultures, "the husbanding of human excreta was (until very recently) unexceptional and routin[e]" (Rockefeller, 1997, p. 3). This may be why, as the Tokyo bureau chief for The New York Times notes, "I realized why people [in China] did not use words for excrement in a negative way. Traditionally, there was nothing more valuable to a peasant than human waste" (Jenkins, 2005, p. 14). That clearly stands in contrast to western societies, where excrement supplies us with a host of insults, from shit-head to shit-for-brains to shit-faced.

Still, even before bacteria was added to the list of disease-causing micro-organisms in 1850 (Ackerknecht, 1982, p. 176) — even before medical proof that human excrement could cause disease — even then, shit was taboo across most cultures. As Menninghaus notes (2003), "The strongest feeling of disgust is in general directed toward human excrement, whereas animal excrement — from 'horse manure' to 'rabbit droppings' — is often enough perceived without disgust" (p. 224, italics his). Thus, in Victorian England, there was far less shame attached to those who earned their living cleaning out horses' stalls than to those workers, called "night men," who emptied privies. Their doing their work under cover of darkness did not protect them from mockery and segregation. Today, a majority of sewage workers in India are "untouchables." Working with shit seems to infect the worker, and I question Barthes' claim that "when written, shit does not smell" (cited in Laporte, 2002, p. 10) and would argue that that talking about shit somehow seems to infect the speaker. Clearly, though we have real reasons to be anxious about shit as a potential carrier of disease, there are broader cultural and psychological reasons behind our recoil from and silence about it.

Freud and the anal stage

In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), Freud posits three psycho-sexual stages of development: the oral, the anal, and the phallic. Focusing on the anal stage, he argues that "as children learn to control excretion so they undergo a primary and fundamental socialization" (Clark 1). Children enter the anal stage at about eighteen months, and with the advent of toilet training comes a child's obsession with the retention or expulsion of feces. During this stage, a child also learns to distinguish between what is dirty and clean, at physical, cultural, and discursive levels. It's a complex process, one which often pits the safety and familiarity of dependence on a parent against a child's desire to control bodily functions on his own. Ultimately, according to Freud, gaining mastery over our bowels becomes a paradigm for more general self-control, while failure to control our bowels engenders sensations of shame so that, in the end, "waste . . . come[s] to seem to the child to be dirty, disgusting, taboo, and off limits" (Norman Brown, cited in Clark 3). As Tangney and Dearing note, "shame is a more 'public' emotion than guilt . . . . seen as arising from public exposure and disapproval of some shortcoming or transgression, whereas guilt is seen as a more 'private' experience" (2002, p. 14). Thus, the shame a child feels when unable to control her bowels is experienced as a public failure; there is, by necessity, an "audience" (real or imagined) which is at the root of her shame.

It makes sense, then, that one reason why we recoil from public discourse about shit is because it reminds us of this potential for failure and consequent shame. Literally, shit has the potential to infantilize us, and the private nature of shitting becomes of paramount importance. Swift had it right in his poem, "The Lady's Dressing Room," where an ardent lover explains his melancholy after gaining access to his mistress's bedroom and discovering her "foul Disgrace," explaining to his friend, And yet, I dare confide in you:
So, take my Secret, and adieu.
No wonder how I lost my wits;
Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits. (1937, p. 529)

Kristeva, Bataille, and Abjection

The word "excrement" comes from the Latin "excrementum," meaning "to sift out, to discharge." The word "shit," however, comes from the words "skit" and "skheid." Related to the verb "to shed," it means "to split, divide, seperate." Though Freud's theory of the anal stage focuses on a child's separation from his parents (and especially his mother), theorists like Julia Kristeva and Georges Bataille revise and refine concepts of separation in their theories of abjection. In Powers of Horror, Kristeva outlines a psychoanalytic theory of the subject as grounded in a primary loss through separation from the mother and the subsequent need to establish one's own identity. How does a child achieve this separation? By making the mother an object of revulsion. Toril Moi summarizes Kristeva's theory of the abject thus: "The abject, then, represents the first effort of the future subject to separate itself from the pre-Oedipal mother. Nausea, distaste, horror: these are the signs of a radical revulsion (or expulsion) which serves to situate the 'I' . . . in a space where before there was only emptiness" (1986, p. 238).

For Kristeva, "Excrement and its equivalents (decay, infection, disease, corpse, etc.) stand for the danger to identity that comes from without: the ego threatened by the non-ego, society threatened by its outside, life by death" (1982, p. 71). Literally, then, shit represents a threat to our very identity, our subjectivity, and its ties to anxieties about separation and revulsion offer yet more reasons to revile and reject it. Ernest Becker argues, perhaps more radically, that "'Excreting is a curse that threatens madness because it shows man his abject finitude'" (cited in Hamlin, 2005, p. 5).

However, for Bataille, shit and, by extension, abjection, offer more liberatory possibilities. Called by some the "metaphysician of evil" and profoundly influenced by de Sade and specifically by 120 Days of Sodom, he is fascinated by sex, death, and excrement, and his works explore "the power and potentialities of the obscene" ("George Bataille," n. pag.). Actively working to annihilate the rational individual, he celebrates chaos and what Habermas calls "the eruption of elements opposed to reason" (from Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, cited in "George Bataille"). Thus, for him, shit becomes not a symbol of potential shame or disgust but a symbol of explosive protest against rationalism and idealism. As Menninghaus puts it, "Bataille's theory of tragedy and the social extends [a] (sensationalistic) figure of the transformation of affect — which makes use of everything disagreeable for an enlivening of the observer's self-perception — to that one unique sensation which classical aesthetics had excluded from such a redemption: disgust" (2003, p. 8).

Finding the abject in modern texts

In Return of the Real, Hal Foster suggests that there were two main directions of art in the 1990s: "one towards the body and the abject, another towards the social and the site-specific" ("Abject, Informe, and Trauma," n. pag.). Performance artists like Bob Flannigan experimented with shit, and art exhibits integrated the concept of abjection into their titles. Kiki Smith's sculpture "Tale" portrays a trail of shit behind a person crawling along the perimeter of a room, while John Miller's sculpture "Dick/Jane" portrays a doll's head emerging from a large cocoon composed of shit. In 1995, Gilbert and Georges's "Naked Shit Pictures" was selected as the best exhibition for the December issue of Artforum. And in Buñuel's Phantom of Liberty, as Zizek notes, "the roles of eating and shitting are inverted; people sit at toilets around a table, chatting pleasantly, and when they want to eat, sneak away to a small room" (2004, p. 4).

Still, shit constitutes a stronger taboo in art than other bodily acts and other bodily parts. It is far easier to imagine (and enjoy) the Broadway musical "Urinetown" than it is to imagine (and enjoy) a similar musical called "Excrement-town." Annie Sprinkle's (in)famous "Public Cervix Announcement" (PCA) garnered national attention in the early 1990s, and though much of that attention was negative, I agree with Terri Kapsalis that the PCA "can be considered part of a genre of Sprinkle's work that is typified by the creation of a body-based mini mise-en-scene to house the theatrical animation of specific body parts" (1997, p. 129). Having said this, I also think it's worth noting that such public artistic/aesthetic displays of the anus and/or of shit remain incredibly rare, and when shit is integrated into art, it tends to be done with greater aesthetic care so that the physical, bodily act of shitting and of human shit itself is sanitized, in part because, as Russo puts it, The grotesque body is . . . identified with the 'lower bodily stratum' (RW, 20) and [has] associations with degradation, filth, death, and rebirth. The images of the grotesque body are precisely those which are abjected from the bodily canons of classical aesthetics. . . . [It] is open, protruding, irregular, secreting, multiple, and changing (1994, p. 8). I think it is fair to way, then, that if we have successfully challenged certain bodily and cultural taboos (for instance, the public display of sexual organs and genitalia in aesthetic forums), "real" shit is still notably absent from such displays.

Using humor to sanitize shit

In literature, treatments of shit typically have a humorous or satirical basis. Perhaps the best fictional representation of the opposing desires of the child to withhold and expel her feces is found in Swift's Gulliver's Travels, "which . . . contrasts Gulliver's hyper-rational repression of the faecal with the Yahoo's use of faeces as a weapon" (Clark 1, sic.). Dominique Laporte's History of Shit, in the tradition of Bataille, resists rationality while arguing that "the management of human waste is crucial to our identities as modern individuals" ("Publisher's Comments," p. 1). Other texts specifically about bowel functions include The Five People You Meet When You Shit Your Pants (Jeff T. Kane); Who Cut the Cheese? A Cultural History of the Fart (Jim Dawson); and Up Shit Creek: A Collection of Horrifying True Wilderness Toilet Misadventures (Joe Lindsay). In film, we have the infamous scene in "Along Came Polly" when Philip Seymour Hoffman's character has to leave a party because he has "sharted" — shit his pants while trying to fart. And in a scene from the TV show "Scrubs," the comically inept Elliot, a medical intern, grows so flustered after her new boyfriend tells her that she has something on her face that she blurts out, "It's poo." His comeback? "Hey, I like poo. I just pooed, in fact." Thus their romance commences; it is perhaps no surprise that it soon ends. And anyone familiar with "South Park" will also probably be familiar with Mr. Hanky — Heidy ho!" — the cheerful dancing turd who leaves skid marks wherever he goes.

We laugh at such scenes, because if shit is disgusting, it is also potentially funny. But why? William Plank argues that "The existence of scatological humor is as a tension between two terms of a dialectic structure. The first term of this dialectic is the hidden and the disgusting, which upon being revealed contribute to the loss of self-image, with a resulting . . . shame. The second term is the fascinating and the visible, with the assertion of the most secret, private, and individual [organic] self" (2006, n. pag.). Taking a page from Bataille's book, Plank suggests that shit has the capacity to compel or encourage us to shed our inhibitions in a manner which can be liberating. However, such liberation is, to my mind, temporary and still fraught with potential shame. Bakhtin's theories of carnival apply here, for if shit offers an opportunity to challenge convention, I agree with Mary Russo that a "temporary loss of boundaries tends to redefine social frames, and such topsy-turvy or time out is inevitably set back on course" (1994, p. 58). In other words, the subversion of those social, cultural and physical "rules" which govern how, where, and when we shit has limited potential to create a space to talk about shit in new terms. The laughter which might ensue at a scatological joke thus is quite limited in its power to diminish public shame around the biological facts of shit.

Like Plank and Bakhtin, Menninghaus explores the intersections of laughter and shit, suggesting that The 'vital sensation' of disgust might well be considered a property no less characteristic of humanity than the capacity to laugh — a property, in fact, that represents the negative complement of laughter. The sudden discharge of tension achieves in laughter, as in vomiting, an overcoming of disgust, a contact with the 'abject' that does not lead to lasting contamination or defilement (2003, p. 10-11). Again, in this analysis, laughter provides a temporary and uneasy means of coping with shit. Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological argument of a "corporeal schema" in which an individual's organized experience of her body offers a means by which we perceive (and arguably sympathize with) others works only if Russo's argument that laughter in a carnival context "is coercive, and like much comedy, participated in by the marginalized only in an effort to pass" (1994, p. 72) is wrong. In such a scenario, we laugh at scatological jokes both because of our own anxieties about our potentially unreliable bowels and because it can help to shore up those (ultimately artificial) us/them and mind/body boundaries where we laugh safely on the side of complicit and well-regulated bowels. Laughter about shit is, then, typically a way for us to attempt to distance ourselves from its physical reality.

As we all recognize, the physical reality of shit is unavoidable, and thus I would return to and answer the question about why shit might be funny in starker terms: I think that we laugh about shit because though it causes embarrassment and disgust, we simply can't separate ourselves from its production. Kant's argument that disgust is what makes ugliness fall outside of the aesthetic merits attention here: "There is only one kind of ugliness which cannot be represented in accordance with nature . . . viz., that which disgusts. . . . Nothing is more contrary to the beautiful than that which arouses distaste" (1951, p. 155-8). And as Laporte notes, shit is associated with stench — it stinks of bad health, poverty, and morbidity, while "the odorless . . . emerges as the signifier for the rich, the attractive, the beautiful" (2002, p. 82). Regardless, as Laporte further notes, we can never fully escape or master our bowels and their consequences, neither through healthy digestion nor through the application of perfumes. In the end, though we may pretend otherwise — well, shit happens.

Metaphorical Shit

Shit is not always funny, though, nor is it always mired in abjection. Unlike Bataille, who sees shit as a potential conduit to passion, even joy, or authors like Swift who assuage anxieties about shit by satirizing it, Milan Kundera suggests in The Unbearable Lightness of Being that shit is necessary in our lives to keep us grounded but also, more grandly, to resist political and ideological tyranny. The novel, a complex narrative which follows the stories of four characters living through the events of the 1968 Prague Spring and the subsequent Soviet occupation of Czechoslovokia, explores various dialectics — weight/lightness, light/dark, life/death, love/lust, being/becoming. Kundera opens Part Six of the novel, "The Grand March," by informing us of how Stalin's son, housed in a German concentration camp with British officers, electrocutes himself on barbed wire after being told repeatedly to clean up the latrine which they share and then being ignored by a German officer, who "refused to talk about shit" (1984, p. 243) when Stalin's son tries to complain.

If Kundera begins by treating the biological realities of shit in this section, he quickly moves to a metaphorical discussion of it in chapter two, where he remembers his concern, as a child, about the possibility that if humans are made in God's image, then God must have intestines and must also therefore shit. He complicates his claim that "Shit is a more onerous theological problem than is evil" (p. 246) by situating his discussion of it within the context of kitsch, which he defines as "the absolute denial of shit, in both the literal and the figurative senses of the word; kitsch excludes everything from its purview which is essentially unacceptable in human existence" (p. 248). In world where dichotomies exist and deconstruct one another — where pure evil and pure goodness can never exist in absolute forms — kitsch poses a danger, because it compels us to conform, to deny ugliness and horror, to toe a party line. And when that party line is totalitarian in nature (and even potentially when it is not), a denial of shit creates "the gulag as a septic tank used by totalitarian kitsch to dispose of its refuse" (p. 252).

Kundera's commentary on the human impulse to embrace kitsch is profound; in a very existential sense, the courage to continue facing the world's ugliness is exhausting, and even Sabina, the artist and activist who declares, "'My enemy is kitsch, not Communism!'" (p. 254), falls prey to a desire to recreate the family she never had when she moves in with an older couple, creating a "beautiful lie" (p. 256) which comforts her after she leaves Prague.

The desire to turn away from shit informs all aspects of our lives; as Kundera puts it, "kitsch is an integral part of the human condition" (256). Complete denial of shit is ultimately impossible, though, at both literal and metaphoric level. Physical and political bodies continue to function (however imperfectly, in some cases), and refuge in laughter and metaphor cannot cleanse it from our lives.

So — what has this to do with the politics of shit?

So — what has this to do with the politics of shit? Kristeva writes, "it is thus not lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order, what does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite" (1982, p. 4, italics mine). I want to close by suggesting that if shit disturbs identity and order — collapsing boundaries of self and object, inside and outside, child and adult, control and loss — that the place of illness and disease within Disability Studies is analogous to shit in its potential to disturb identity and to challenge borders. It places us firmly in the realm of the ambiguous, and I agree with Wendell that with a nonvisible disability (like Crohn's), "I feel the weight of a social obligation to be either healthy or miserable" (1996, p. 63). But of course we know that it is rarely as simple as being one or the other. And that is why we need to take seriously Ellen Samuels' claim that "people with nonvisible disabilities not only are marginalized in disability communities but walk an uneasy line between those communities and the dominant culture, often facing significant discrimination because our identities are unrecognized or disbelieved" (2003, p. 245).

If queer theory has finally found a place in the field of Disability Studies by interrogating points of overlap — for instance, in terms of "passing" and "coming out" — then we might use these ideas to reconsider how and where disease and illness "fit" in Disability Studies. I find it ironic but also potentially useful to consider the ways in which these very terms return us to the politics of shit. "Passing" and "coming out" imply choice — control — but as theorists like Robert McGruer and Georgina Kleege have argued, such control is often negligible, so that "coming out," whether in fecal terms or in terms of a homosexual identity, retains the potential for public shame and anxiety.

Theory has been incredibly helpful in interrogating disability and in building a body of work in the field, but it has also threatened to erase the lived experience of embodiment. I think that few things remind us of that lived experience more vitally than shit. Grosz's point that the human body is always "psychically invested, never a matter of indifference" (1994, p. 81) is writ large when we realize that some consider euthanasia as justified by the (culturally-based) "indignity" of having someone else have to wipe their ass. On a recent DREDF website, Marilyn Golden cited an assisted suicide advocate who argued that "'Pain is not the main reason we want to die. It's the indignity. It's the inability to get out of bed or get onto the toilet . . . . [People] say 'I can't stand my mother, my husband wiping my behind'" (n. pag.). Shit has incredible power to silence and to shame us in troubling and deeply problematic ways, and for that reason alone I think it is useful to talk about it. But beyond that, shit functions metaphorically here: if we have been uncomfortable talking about where disease and illness might situate themselves within Disability Studies — and I think that we have been — we are also deeply uncomfortable talking about shit. An overview of edited books in Disability Studies elicits very few essays on illness and disease. In The Disability Studies Reader, we have Susan Sontag's "AIDS and Its Metaphors"; in Embodied Rhetorics: Disability in Language and Culture, we find "The Rhetoric of AIDS: A New Taxonomy" by Emily F. Nye and "Am I MS?" by Miriamne Ara Krummel; and in Bodies in Commotion: Disability and Performance, we have Petra Kuppers' "Bodies, Hysteria, and Pain: Staging the Invisible." However, I can find only one book-length collection of essays outside of a medical, rehabilitative, or Special Education framework which specifically examines the interstices of illness, disease, and disability: Mind and Body Spaces: Geographies of Illness, Impairment, and Disability, edited by Ruth Butler and Hester Parr.

The absence of such texts begs the question of why diseases like Crohn's and cancer might cause such discomfort within Disability Studies. Part of it may simply be due to growing pains as the field continues to evolve and to define its parameters. As Garland Thomson notes in Extraordinary Bodies, there are some real, measurable benefits to privileging a minoritizing discourse within the field. Doing so allows for coalition-building, and the creation, however artificial and arbitrary, of a disability culture which allows people with paraplegia to collaborate with people with blindness to advocate for legal protections, better accessibility, and the credibility of DS as a discrete field within which presentations and publications warrant serious consideration in cases of tenure and promotion rather than a summary dismissal of our work as "untheoretical" or "non-academic."

Like most theoretical schools, then, part of the evolution of Disability Studies is the ongoing project of determining its boundaries. At a 2000 summer NEH institute, I was struck by the insistence of a small minority within a group of twenty-five participants to create a space in which we might more critically consider cognitive disabilities. In a field which began in the early 1990s with analyses primarily of physical disabilities in literature, history, and culture, we were encouraged that summer to broaden our own boundaries and to consider head trauma, autism, and developmental disabilities as well as mobility impairment, , blindness, or Deafness. As naïve as it sounds now, many of us simply hadn't taken that step, and the tensions of those five weeks working together ultimately augmented Disability Studies, I think.

Nonetheless, questions of appropriation (and misappropriation) still inform the field. If my Crohn's disease is in exacerbation, do I have a more legitimate claim to write and teach in the field? If cancer recurs, does that more fully anchor one's "right" to address issues of "deviant" bodies more authentically? My brother-in-law will not "recover" from his spinal cord injury, nor will he experience a remission that allows him to walk again (even temporarily). There is a permanence to his disability which secures him legitimacy to speak. However, the nature of my disease is sporadic. When I am well, does my authority diminish? My disease also does not usually mark me in observable ways, so I am often able to "pass" more easily than Mike. Thus, I am constantly faced with the question of how to disclose my Crohn's disease. In my day-to-day life, it has taken me close to twenty years to become somewhat comfortable in discussing its primary symptom with friends, colleagues, and students. After fifteen years working in the field of Disability Studies, I feel a certain trepidation simply in making the claim that disease and illness become the "elephant on the table" which we tend still to ignore, the shitty mess that still hovers in the margins of the field. In part, the ability to participate in the powers bestowed upon those who seem "normal" in an ableist culture dislocates my sense of how fully I have the "right" to critique that culture.

Finally, there is the very difficulty of finding a grammar and vocabulary to discuss shit and its metaphoric place within Disability Studies. Identity categories are notoriously liminal, and though standpoint theory offers some strategies for articulating one's situated knowledge, there is still a tendency to locate one's self within artificially rigid boundaries. Thus, Eve Kofosky Sedgwick can identify herself as a straight woman doing queer studies, and Robert Young can identify himself as a white man working in postcolonial studies. But I cannot identify either as "PWD" or as a "TAB" (person who is temporarily able-bodied). I am neither or both, depending on the moment and my state of health. Do I thus revise and articulate my identity category on an ongoing basis? Like shit, which disturbs so many cultural norms, people with Crohn's diases (and "disease" is itself a medical and existential category which often resists stable definitions), can disturb identity categories and raise complex questions of power, transgression, and the damning issue of the imposter syndrome which are hard to critically deconstruct.

Clearly, I do not have the answers as to where illness and disease might fit within Disability Studies, but I think it is imperative to consider questions of legitimacy, appropriation, and impostership, to contemplate the place of acute and chronic diseases and of invisible disabilities, and the admittedly vexed question of whether or not or to what extent a "disability culture" might exist — and may or may not include people who have diseases like Crohn's or who have (or have had) cancer. I believe that if we can begin to have those kinds of conversations — well, then, in the parlance of my students, we really are the shit.


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