The present essay interrogates cross-coalitional, anti-racist and anti-ableist movement building in the global north and in the global south through the perspectives of fugitive, maroon knowledges and global south epistemologies. The essay builds upon the theoretical grounding offered by LatDisCrit through its integrative bridging work across DisCrit and LatCrit theory and its prioritization of diasporic, sociopolitical engagements with sociohistorical manifestations of trans-Latinidades throughout U.S. imperial territorialities. As such, the essay relies on the use of counterstorytelling as a hermeneutic method. This method surfaces otherwise hidden dimensions of global south epistemologies that in this essay are operationalized as knowledges born in the struggle, regardless of whether the struggle in question takes place in global north, global south contexts, or both. The essay concludes with critical explorations on the concept of quilombo. This notion is proposed as a possibilitarian space for cross-coalitional resistance, emancipatory learning, radical agency and radical solidarity.


It's the year 1982. The evening was hot. We're in Barinas, Venezuela. At the corner of my mother's house there's an acacia tree. Its shade had a sort of magnetic force that convened us in that part of the barrio with a ludic communal spirit. All of a sudden, silence was broken by the noise of several motorcycles. Before we knew it, my oldest brother Miguel and I were surrounded by police officers who jumped from their motorcycles. "Against the wall!" several of them shouted at the same time, making the atmosphere even more horrific. One of the officers put a long weapon against my head and cried aloud a phrase I shouldn't repeat in the present context. He's convinced that I wasn't blind. "You're on drugs, right?" I'm decently paraphrasing what he kept shouting. It didn't matter how many times my brother repeated "He's blind!" The obsessive, monologue-like, angry voice of the officer kept on with its demeaning mantra. Fortunately, another officer who appeared to have special rank in the group told him to stop and order the group to leave, at which point the nightmare ended abruptly… at least in its interactional frantic expression of the moment. For decades, those images have stayed with me, filling my mind with all kinds of terrible "what if" possibilities.

Within the institutional framing of higher education, I often told this story to my criminology students. It's a way to dispel the weight of the images; an attempt at preventing anger from taking over my soul… I told them that this was my "baptismal experience into the criminology trade."

I'm a brown blind Latinx seasoned scholar. I'm a radical academic activist working at the fringes of so-called community engagement and advocacy. As such, I'm fully committed inside and outside academic contexts to social justice and intersectional decoloniality causes. I've approached these causes in several, often non-linear stages during my scholarly and activist life trajectory through the successive and at times parallel lenses of socio-legal studies, liberation philosophy/theology, critical race theory and critical disability studies.

Counter-narrative threads like the one I described above remain absent from the academy. This is truly shameful and strategically naïve from the standpoint of needing to foster global cross-coalitional movement building approaches centered on anti-racist and anti-ableist justice seeking. This article aims to tackle this issue reflexively. It does so by interrogating the strategic value of what Liat Ben-Moshe (2020) calls fugitive, maroon knowledges in conjunction to what I've called LatDisCrit (Padilla 2021b, 2022a). LatDisCrit pursues a critical merging of the literature strands associated with LatCrit theory and DisCrit. Both of these frameworks stress the significance of looking critically at the interplay of race/ethnicity, diasporic cultures, historical sociopolitics, and disability within the multiple subversive possibilities of global south and global north Latinx identities. Thus, LatDisCrit's historical and future-orientedness should serve to charter new possibilitarian spaces. These spaces are couched on counter-narrative transgression and actionable intersectional justice seeking modes of decolonial, counter-hegemonic subalternity (Malhotra 2017; Obourn 2020; Piepzna-Samarasinha 2018; Reddington and Price 2018; Soja 2010; Waitoller and Annamma 2017).

Given the centrality of critical race theory (CRT), LatCrit theory and DisCrit with respect to the epistemological, ethical and axiological enactment of counterstorytelling, in the next section, I start by engaging these literature bodies. I look at them in terms of their potential exchanges with critical disability studies (CDS) in the pursuit of cross-coalitional antiracism and anti-ableism as justice seeking movement building processes. Next, I spell out the conceptual scope and coalitional power of fugitive, maroon knowledges, particularly in global north contexts as an expression of abolitionist coalitions involving both disabled and non-disabled activists and knowledge workers. 1 I'll thus be exploring LatDisCrit's bridging role across global north and global south epistemological and justice-seeking spheres of action, emancipatory learning 2 and radical solidarity. 3 I conclude the essay by reflecting critically on the strategic pros and cons of adopting cross-coalitional, horizontal movement building approaches in the current context of anti-racist and anti-ableist struggles worldwide. I'll center on elevating especially common threads of material precarity and discursively charged instances which demonstrate what Maldonado-Torres (2007) calls coloniality of power, knowledge and being (see also, Castro-Gómez 2002, 2007, 2008, 2021; Escobar 2004; Maldonado-Torres 2004, Mendieta 2007; Mignolo 2000, 2016; Quijano 2000, 2006; Quijano and Wallerstein 1992).

Framing CRT/LatCrit/DisCrit and the Transformational Epistemology of Counterstorytelling

As used in CRT and LatCrit theory formulations and applications (Fernández 2002; Solórzano and Bernal 2001; Solórzano and Yosso 2002; Yosso 2000, 2006), The significance of counterstorytelling is epistemological rather than merely methodological. This means that its main transformational purpose is to theorize, not merely to narrate or even denounce. In Latinx and Chicanx circles, counterstorytelling is interchangeable with the word testimonios. As defined by Cherrie Moraga (2011) testimonios are theory in the flesh, which entails that (1) counterstories are always embodied; and (2) that they're required to become into much more than mere narrative exercises. They theorize complex ways to disrupt and resist oppressive modes of domination through alternative knowledges and ways of undoing things that aren't right.

My particular application of counterstorytelling seeks to bridge cross-coalitional, justice-seeking movement building efforts. As such, it fuses two additional ideas worth noting. I've borrowed these ideas from the critical hermeneutics of Paul Ricoeur: (1) the notion that authors are the first interpreters of their own work (Ricoeur 1981), which has powerful implications for the analysis and facilitation of co-authorship as a multimodal component of movement building; and (2) the conception of collective action as a social text (Ricoeur 1971, 1974). The enactment of this latter idea entails that knowledge workers and activists in emancipatory movements read through specific identitarian lenses. For example, in my case, the multi-layered lenses of blindness and Latinx identitarian complexities are always at work in my authorial and interpretative endeavors.

The epistemological genealogy and multifaceted ramifications of CRT are complex. Unpacking them is certainly beyond the confines of the present article. For the purposes of what I'm trying to accomplish here, it's important to underscore (1) that, as obvious as it may seem, CRT is fundamentally a social theory which pertains to all the spheres of the social system, requiring that in both global north and global south contexts antiracist efforts transcend circumscribed, single-issue approaches (see, e.g., Meghji 2022); and (2) that for the most part, CRT has remained oblivious to disability matters. On this latter point, the most notable exception is the seminal groundwork on whiteness and disability as well as Black disability studies conducted by Bell (2006, 2011), setting the basis for what later became DisCrit (see also, Schalk 2022 as well as Bailey and Mobley 2019; this latter source provides an analytical version which also takes into account gender dimensions at the intersection of work, race and disability).

There are two social theory perspectives within CRT worth talking about with some length here. On the one hand, there's the prolific work by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019a, 2019b, 2020, 2021; Bonilla-Silva et al. 2006) under the broad nomenclature of the "racialized social system (RSS) approach" (see also, the early theoretical work in this direction by Cox 1959).

Within such an approach as that outlined by Cox, we see clearly that the very notion of 'race' itself – in terms of what we think race signifies – is a by-product of a total social system. Within such a reality, the only way to get rid of these ideas around race, and the effects of racialization, is therefore to completely overthrow the social system. This is the ethos embodied in Cox's (1959: xxxviii; emphasis added) claim that the '"master race" ideology and fascism, however, are social attributes of a particular social system […] The master-race idea and fascism can be purged from the social system only by a change in the system itself. Meghji 2022, 3)

On the other hand, there's a CRT perspective which has interesting parallelisms with state-sponsored ableist formations still proliferating worldwide in both global north and global south contexts, especially as part of the so-called post-pandemic normality ethos. According to this view encompassed under the nomenclature of race formation theory (RFP) which was popularized in the modality formulated by Michael Omi and Howard Winant (2015), the racial state through policy, legislation and other informal approaches shapes the way racialized practices get enacted and transformed throughout the social system. The state therefore is conceived as playing "a crucial part in racialization, the extension of racial meaning to a previously racially unclassified relationship, social practice or group" (Omi and Winant 2015, 142; see also, Marable 1983; Meghji 2020; Meghji and Niang 2021).

Like CRT, LatCrit theory has been for the most part inattentive to disability concerns. At the risk of oversimplification, it could be argued that its main contribution has been to emphasize the complexified racial nature of trans-Latinidades. Thus, LatCrit theory avoids focusing exclusively on pan-ethnic or national origin considerations to explain the racialized dynamics that pertain to Latinx segments of the American and to a very limited extent, Latin American populations (Morán 1997; Moreno Figueroa 2010; Valdés 1999, 2000; Valdés and Bender 2021). Some of its exponents have been able to translate elements of RFP into the racialization of Latinx populations within the American empire, often bringing up interesting socio-historical and counterstorytelling dynamics. The seminal socio-legal analyses carried out by Ian López (1997, 2004, 2006) are classical examples in this respect.

Lastly, the growing field of DisCrit studies have had the virtue of bringing intersectional dimensions of disability concerns to the forefront. Nevertheless, it must also be said that until recently, DisCrit was too circumscribed to particular kinds of schooling experiences in the U.S. Furthermore, few DisCrit works engaged specifically with dynamics uniquely relevant to Latinx disabled folks (for exceptions, see, Alcoff 2009; Calderon 2014; Flores and García 2009; Mueller 2005; Padilla 2022a, 2022b). DisCrit's seven tenets (as spelled out in Annamma et al. 2013, 2016) are as follows. First, DisCrit studies and counteracts the ways in which "the forces of racism and ableism circulate interdependently, often in neutralized and invisible ways, to uphold notions of normalcy." Secondly, "DisCrit values multidimensional identities and troubles singular notions of identity…" Third, while elevating "the social constructions of race and ability," DisCrit also "recognizes the material and psychological impacts of being labeled as raced or dis/abled, which sets one outside of the western cultural norms." Fourth, DisCrit endeavors to privilege "voices of marginalized populations, traditionally not acknowledged within research." Fifth, DisCrit examines legal and historical dimensions of disability and race in terms of "how both have been used separately and together to deny the rights of some citizens." Sixth, as theorized by DisCrit, whiteness and ability are property and, as such, "gains for people labeled with dis/abilities have largely been made as the result of interest convergence of White, middle-class citizens." Seventh, "DisCrit requires activism and supports all forms of resistance" (Annamma et al. 2016, 19).

Before moving to the next section, I'd like to reiterate my conviction: the best way to work from a subaltern perspective on trans-Latinidades as an identitarian space capable of fomenting cross-coalitional synergy toward enduring movement building, it's paramount to regard trans-Latinidades as possibilitarian justice-seeking thirdspaces (Waitoller and Annamma 2017; Soja 1989, 1996). These are indeed subaltern identitarian pockets of diasporic utopia. Being made up of waves and wakes of converging diasporas, these diasporic identities are constituted by what Robert Young (2001) calls tri-continentalism (alluding to Africa, Asia and Latin America as neocolonial sociopolitical spaces). Often, these diasporic waves and wakes are filled with mixtures of extreme violence and hints of hope. They embody alterity. In the very making of continuous identitarian birth through border-crossing dynamicity, they're tremendously porous.

For instance, Black Studies are indispensable to understand/explain the inter-imperialist legacies of coloniality which make up LatDisCrit's contemporary manifestations of collective action as they enfold, for example, in global north and global south classrooms (Dei 2017; Dei and Hilowle 2018; Dei and McDermott 2014). Also shaping the process of decolonial emancipation is the cripping abjection associated with the embodiment of disability (Shildrick 2002; Padilla 2021a). This is an often-neglected example of what Vallega (2014) calls radical alterity or extreme otherness. Therefore, even in trans-Latinx embodiments of indigeneity and mestizaje, one needs to consider the vestiges of anti-Black and ableist sentiments. They proliferate in the form of micro-political, epistemological and sociocultural oppression (Padilla 2021b, especially ch. 6). Hence, the work ahead toward cross-coalitional enactments of justice-seeking movements while tremendously exciting, isn't simple. It cannot be dreamed as something that happens overnight and without complex layers of counterrevolutionary/recalcitrant/turf-preserving modes of resistance.

Interpreting Fugitive, Maroon Knowledges: On Decolonial Ways of Interdependent Becoming

Marrón is the word which In Spanish, my native language, designates the word brown. As many North American readers know, often via tangible firsthand experiences of epistemic violence (Bourdieu 1979, 1999; 2008), in racialized contexts such as those of the U.S. the word Brown designates a racial sub-group which is neither Black nor White. Therefore, brown is often used to describe racial representations of Latinxness, or what I prefer to call trans-Latinidades to emphasize the plurality of identitarian contours encompassed by this word. Importantly, in colonial times, during the strongest grip of the Hispanic American empire, this kind of skin pigmentation was designated as "Pardos." Pardos were a racial sub-group rather circumscribed which didn't occupy the lowest rank of the hierarchy (on this and similar complexifying contours of skin-based structural hierarchization in various contexts, see, e.g., Allen 2012; Patterson 1982, 1991, 1997, 2019).

I say all this to stress that fugitive, maroon knowledges aren't vague modes of learning or epistemic vacuous stuff. They're the embodiment of concrete maroon freedom-seeking/sustaining, justice-seeking realities.

In this section, I'd also like to include another counterstory. This one is from the global north and from the spring of 2021. In this case, surprisingly, there's no COVID involved but rather a much older, much more normalized, much more endemic kind of pandemia: the killing of Latinx children throughout American cities. I tried getting this counterstory published at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Predictably, it's rejected. That's part of my point. When we're talking knowledge, getting stuff published in the most reputed academic life venue of the global north makes a lot of sense. Nevertheless, under conditions of what Miranda Fricker Calls epistemic injustice, matters of testimonial credibility and epistemic disposability run the show, making sure that these fugitive, maroon knowledges don't count, get excluded, literally erased (see, Fricker 1991, 1998, 2003, 2006, 2010).

To be sure, we aren't talking here merely about matters of voice or about having space in the public sphere. We're talking about matters of survival, freedom and justice.

March 29, 2021 should have been a very sad day for the academy. Yet, in its visible and invisible ivory tower walls, nobody cared to notice that 13-year-old Adam Toledo had been shot and killed by a police officer in Chicago. Police video showed that Toledo had dropped his gun before the officer lethally shot, targeting him on purpose. The reason for me to send this commentary today is precisely because as an academic and even as an academic activist of color, I am not supposed to do so. The Chronicle covers the academy, and, at the surface, this is by no means a news that pertains the academy. I wholeheartedly disagree. As a blind brown Latinx who … focuses on intersectional disability … and who has spent more than 25 years teaching in various academic settings in the U.S. and abroad, I have learned one fundamental thing. Kids like Adam don't belong in the world of the academy. And I'm not even talking of elite institutions. They don't even belong at the level of community colleges. The saddest thing is that millions of kids like Adam know it; thus, they act accordingly. They move within the normalizing ideology of the gun carrying super-male who imposes a sense of "respect" through violence, even at 13. What the heck can school mean for them? It's a dead-end street. All their teachers and counselors remind them with so much frequency at the detention room, at the office of the principal, everywhere they go. Hence, inat the ghetto, the police officer's super-male counterpart of this reminder involves shooting at them. Officers do so with the certainty that their work is heroic; after all they are cleaning society of life-long career criminals, right? But this also matters a lot for you as the reader of these pages. This is especially so if you have some sort of connection to the academy, particularly the so-called "public" modalities of academic disciplines: public sociology, public theology, community psychology, you name it. What kind of change has been engendered through those public "engagements" when it comes to the realities of kids like Adam? These individuals lack material resources, are not white and they are deprived of mentoring networks or tangible pathways toward college as a real prospect for their lives. And even when female students of color's access to college is a bit better, there is an ableist assumption about their chances of success there. The specialized remedial work of countless bureaucrats inside college level student services offices corroborates this. However (and this is what needs to change urgently and dramatically), you are well aware that your faculty work, your administrative duties for the most part have little to do with the plight of these kids and adults of color. You are busy with the imparting of knowledge for those who have the "brain to hold it" and the connections to transform it into a successful, profit making career. What if folks like Adam become the majority in elite classrooms? Could their funds of knowledge transform the academy? Yet, for many folks, especially for those with real decisionmaking power in the academy, this prospect sounds like a desecration of wisdom's supremacist purity. The repetitious sound and invocation of multiple knowledges has become a buzz word in most disciplines. The thing is that its enactment rarely gets into the classroom; God forbid… (Padilla Unpublished Manuscript)

Some readers probably wonder, did Adam have a disability? I wonder the same thing. The problem is that if he had been diagnosed with some form of learning disability or was mandated to consume drugs for behavioral disorders or whatever, isn't something that would've altered Adam's plight and Adam's ultimate Fate. In many respects it could even accelerate it (Annamma 2018; Annamma and Morris 2018; Voulgarides 2018; Voulgarides et al. 2013; Voulgarides et al. 2017).

Adam is the symbolic father/mother of a cadre of fugitive, maroon embodiments of the epistemology of the global south. In other words, Adam's death becomes generative by engendering and centering upon knowledges born with and from the collective struggle of millions of Latinx and other people of color with and without disabilities (Santos and Meneses 2020). Their generative power allows these collective, cross-coalitional organic movements to galvanize folks who, together, want to become free, justice seeking intersectional decoloniality agents in the global north.

From Organizational to Movement-Centered Fugitive, Maroon Knowledge Cross-Coalitions

So far then, we've touched on two illustrative counterstories, one from the global south and the other manifesting itself in the global north, although its macro-causal roots bridge both global south and global north contexts. From the perspective of LatDisCrit, it's paramount to cultivate, as creatively as possible, Black-Brown coalitions of people of color with disabilities, embracing Indigenous as well as Pan-Asian interests. The identitarian ethos of trans-Latinidades (Padilla 2021b, 2022a) tries precisely to highlight this need by recognizing most explicitly the unique diasporic realities of Black Latinx, Indigenous Latinx and Pan-Asian Latinx who've migrated from the global south into the global north.

Now, one must be aware that, in the complex process of enacting these radical solidarity mechanisms, organizational interests often drive the agenda, or at least key portions of the agenda. A Black friend of mine who resides in Albuquerque, NM, in most of our frequent telephone conversations fills me in with details of BLM's latest news challenge. For some reason, this is a favorite target of his concerns. What this teaches me is how much easier it's for folks who want to attack radical transformational processes to use organizational, often individually based scandals to pursue these aims. Especially in the global north, well-crafted organizations are key in helping to carry out movement outcomes. However, they cannot be the sole context for the intellectual and actionable brewing of grassroots forces which keep the movement authentically cross-coalitional.

In a non-disability context, Amy Thurber et al. (2015) tackle specifically the unique strategic predicament faced by White community activists involved in anti-racists collective action. They point out the following:

In response to hegemonic White supremacy, Black Lives Matter (BLM) foregrounds the experience, leadership, and values of Black people in the United States … At the same time, BLM has emerged as a multiracial movement, engaging a wide diversity of people concerned for and committed to the struggle for racial justice… this diverse base has raised a particular set of ideological and practical challenges. The sustained, national attention garnered by the antiracist activism of the BLM movement has refocused attention on who should serve in a leadership capacity in movement work that intentionally centers the leadership, experience, and values of a particular social group. As the movement gained national momentum, antiracist activist organizations began to disseminate their understanding of how White people could participate in BLM and remain consistent with the intentions, values, and meaning-making power of the movement as it concretely prioritizes Black lives, including among its leadership and participants. Among these suggestions is the succinct, compellingly illustrative "stay off the megaphone." Megaphones play a distinctive role in movement-building work. Literally and metaphorically, a megaphone concretely functions to amplify the voice of its user, broadcasting her words to those who would not hear her without it. It often demarcates a movement group's leader, its presence signaling her authority. The megaphone helps to shape the trajectory and content of a movement activity, such as the direction and chanting of a protest march. By reinforcing authority and directing movement tactics, the amplifying features of the megaphone play an important role in casting particular individuals as leaders and anchoring movement content in particular values and goals… Their attention to the cultural mores of the movement and desire to act accordingly demonstrates the importance of the BLM movement's internal dynamics in building towards cultural, as well as institutional, change. The directive to White activists to stay off the megaphone proscribes certain modes of White activists' movement activity, suggesting that White activists might take part in movement work most effectively by actively relinquishing the literal and figurative megaphone. (Thurber et al. 2015: 2)

In practical terms, does this selective directive speak of organizational effectiveness or generalizable cross-coalitional movement building broadly conceived? For instance, if a global south protest tries to highlight disability issues of marginality and discrimination, would it suffice to enforce this directive so that non-disabled people stay off the megaphone? In many instances, non-disabled actors who come to help in these global south context activities tend to do so with the idea that disabled people are in special need for help. At the same time, this is precisely a core ideological element that needs dispelling. The invisibility of disabled folks is rampant in these contexts and, most perniciously, their organizational capacity is typically minimal. Under such circumstances, apart from self-regulation, how could a directive of this sort be effectively enforced?

Logistics apart, in terms of actionable coalition movement, LatDisCrit facilitates the contextual intersectional space for some of these issues to be explored in advanced so that fugitive, maroon knowledges and justice-seeking dimensions drive the agenda. The articulation of these knowledges and their justice-seeking ethos become the core feeding focus of the movement. Hence, it doesn't matter so much who's in charge of the megaphone. When abuses take place, the movement itself should have dialogical and emancipatory learning mechanisms unique to each situational context not only to correct but to use this as a source for further knowledge and intersectionally-grounded collective growth. And I reiterate, this collective growth isn't reserved to the disabled members of the movement.

For instance, I was recently talking with educators about anti-ableist practices in the classroom (Author 2022b, Forthcoming, 2023). More than once, they insisted on being completely unfamiliar with the word ableism. For many of them, it's the first time it had surfaced. However, instead of being an obstacle, this became a wonderful teaching moment for the group. In many ways, I think the dialogue went as far as it did because there's a keen understanding of the need to step into unfamiliar territory which, of course, turned out to be very familiar. It's just a matter of making the terms contextually relevant to the things they face on an everyday basis. Once this happened as a way to turn on their intersectional analytic antennas, the whole conversation became extremely fluent and highly productive. Of course, I'm not there to see how this translates into their classrooms' interactions. Yet, at least for a moment, it seemed as though this small group of educators wanted to become activists in their own awakening of anti-ableist actionable things. At least at this moment, they didn't want to be mere intellectual contemplating scholars or bureaucratic handlers of students with "special needs," a term which we're also able to decode a bit with critical anti-ableist perspectives in mind.

Transnational Justice-Seeking, Human Rights and Intersectional Disability Decoloniality: Foregrounding Fugitive, Maroon Knowledges and Their Oppressive Realities in Global North and Global South Contexts

In the global north as well as among many transnational non-governmental organizations of persons with disabilities, their organizational structure and rigid enactment of processes can often get in the way of implementing flexible, situated emancipatory learning modalities of anti-ablest justice-seeking (Meyers 2014, 2016, 2019a, 2019b). Therefore, it's crucial to pay close attention to the substantive and broad strategic contours of what Soldatic and Grech (2014) stressed years ago in this same journal. They're talking about the politicization of notions like impairment by the very way in which disability organizations pursue their transnational justice strategies:

On 7 June 2013, after years of struggle, the Mau Mau people of Kenya finally had their claims for transnational justice recognized by the British Government. With the release of secret government documents, the full extent of the British colonial military's extreme brutality against the Mau Mau people's anti-colonial liberation struggles was revealed. The exact numbers of people killed, impaired and traumatized, though, remain unknown. What is known is that the Mau Mau people suffered extreme violence at the hands of colonial powers. This violence was embodied — as memories, as impairment, as cultural destruction and dislocation — propelling them to seek justice for the crimes committed against them as individuals, peoples and subjects who had been violently colonised. Other such cases had previously been tried in the US Courts, but had failed. The people of Bhopal and the peoples of Vietnam had too attempted similar cases against Northern states on the grounds of embodied violence, but to no avail. In fact, as Soldatic (2013) documents, the claims for justice on the grounds of impairment brought to the US Supreme Court by the people of Bhopal and Vietnam were mutually constituted, despite their separation by time and space. The collective embodiment of (neo)colonial violence, from war, capitalist global production chains and injustice, is mobilizing collective struggles for justice. Increasingly, central to many of these claims is the politicization of impairment. Impairment in this context symbolizes the ongoing suffering that is embodied, memorialized and incarnate of the corporeal pain that remains a marker of the violated body and mind. Over recent years, a growing number of disability activists, advocates and scholars have increasingly tried to engage in a transnational disability politics. Within the realm of the academy, disability scholars have begun to critically consider the framing of disability beyond the boundaries of the nation-state. (Soldatic and Grech 2014: n.p.)

On the other hand, Obourn (2020) uses an intersectionally informed lens which combines disability, race and gender. Obourn (2020) elevates for example ways in which an intersectional analytics of pain and power differentials can provide us with new disability justice futures grounded on sophisticated self-reflexive movement building forms of interdependent engagement.

If we are to truly use intersectionality as the radical—as in reaching to the roots—tool that many believe it to be, we need to keep sharpening its edges and looking for the most subtle and nuanced ways we can use it to decipher and thus hopefully intervene in workings of power… attending to a complex understanding of social identities and oppression as constructed by our environment and simultaneously lived at the material level of the body. Such an understanding can help us to think about how we can live in the present with a full awareness of the histories of woundedness, disempowerment, limitation, and harm done by our coming into subjecthood within a matrix of oppression that marks and forms our bodyminds to serve dominant forms of power, without letting that awareness pull us away from conscious and conscientious action, activism, and allyship in the present. Such a model enables us to think about futures that we may desire that are not free from histories of or even present experiences of woundedness, limitation, frustration, or barriers. Disability studies provides models for holding conceptual space for both the negative and positive experiences of our lived identities and relations to power. Holding those experiences and affective relations in the present provides a foundation for future imaginaries that can prompt action in resistance to power that limits and confines us while simultaneously understanding that liberation is not freedom from all limitations, wounds, or pain… disability theory provides alternate ways of thinking about ambivalent but necessary and even potentially productive relations to pain and current/historical woundedness… there is potential epistemological value to pain … we must "learn to talk about … that which cannot be noticed without pain and that which cannot be celebrated without ambivalence" … Tobin Siebers articulates this ambivalence on a political/theoretical level, arguing that while "opponents of identity politics are not wrong … when they associate minority identity with suffering," they are mistaken in that "they do not accept that pain and suffering may sometimes be resources for the epistemological insights of minority identity" … Pain and other physical and emotional negative feelings like fatigue, guilt, trauma, and anger may be bodily signals of social inequities that those who embody minority social identities have more access to. Physical and psychological pain can be both experiences we may want to mediate and sources of knowledge and connection. Suffering, particularly when shared with others in similarly oppressed positions, can create theoretical knowledges about the functioning of power, privilege, and inequality. (Obourn 2020: 8-9; see also, Kafer 2013; May 2015; May and Ferri 2005; Minich 2014; Mitchell and Snyder 2000… Patsavas 2014; Price 2015; Puar 2011, 2017; Siebers 2009; and Wendell 1996.)

Yet, let's come back to the point made by Soldatic and Grech. Especially in the global south, disability justice strategies which rely exclusively on human rights dimensions of pain and suffering tend to fall short of addressing the full gamut of disability justice concerns afflicting disabled people in their contexts with their unique and multi-layered situatedness in emancipatory learning, radical agency and radical solidarity. As Kathryn McNeilly (2017) points out, the very notion of human rights needs a radical revamping for the notion to be truly useful as a tool for radical transformation of societies both in global north and global south contexts.

There are Latin American countries like Colombia, for example, where peace agreements sponsored by the United Nations have created specific deliverables. In those nations, there are de facto two separate categories of disabled folks: those impacted by the war and those deemed outside of such dynamics. This happens despite the fact that everybody knows that the entire society has deep wounds that run all over in the configuration of the everyday social fabric after having experienced armed conflicts which date back eight decades or more. Meanwhile, in non-war-torn nations in the Latin American region like several countries in South America, the situation isn't better. The very bureaucratization created as a result of implementing the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has created layers of disabled groups. Large portions of the disabled population are unable to pay the fees associated with getting certified as disabled, which essentially means getting formal access to carrying an identification card on top of the national identification card required from all citizens in these nations. In practice, therefore, this arrangement leaves those disabled people facing the greatest degrees of material precarity without their state-sponsored disability certification, in turn excluding them from the meager subsidies that come as an entitlement with such disability certification. This is by all means a very nonsensical arrangement directly resulting from CRPD implementation dynamics.

On a different note which brings us once more to the reality of fugitive, maroon knowledges, I ran across a desperate plea from a disabled activist in Singapore. The plea came through one of the global disability list serves based in the UK and alludes to the prospective execution of a neurodivergent person by November 10, 2021. Thus, by the time this piece gets published, the fate of this person will have been determined. I'm honestly not optimistic. Here in my state, at the heart of recalcitrant spirits in the global north, the Clemency Board just recently rejected requests for the commutation of the death penalty for a Black male individual. Unfortunately, only the Governor is left to decide, which, in the political environment prevailing here, essentially constitutes an execution announcement. 4

Back to the plea from Singapore, I think it's worth paying attention to the signs of fragmentation it inadvertently conveys among disabled activist organizations both nationally and worldwide:

Dear fellow activists, my name is Emmy and I am a Mad and neurodivergent person from Singapore. I write to you about the execution of a man with an intellectual disability and ADHD on Wednesday [November 10, 2021]. I am writing to ask if you or your organisations might be interested in signing the attached statement on stopping the execution. It is written as a statement from persons with psychosocial disabilities, persons with intellectual disabilities and cross-disability organisations, but we understand that Autistic people face many of the same barriers we do, and would really appreciate your signatures too. We would also be most grateful for signatures from other groups of persons with disabilities as well. I am so sorry it comes so late as I have executive dysfunction and writing problems. The timeline for this is truly inaccessible for Mad and neurodivergent people. I also know there isn't an easy read version for this. I am very sorry! I basically wrote this statement alone alongside other advocacy to stop the execution, and didn't have the capacity. I wish there was more time. Thank you very much! … Summary: We, persons with disabilities, call on the Singapore government and president to halt the imminent execution of Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam, a person with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. In this statement, we would like to inform the public and the state about points that we understand may not be so well-known, but that are essential to ensuring the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities to life and access to justice. We will address: (1) Who is a person with a disability? (2) Why there have been specific calls to stop imposing the death penalty on persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities (3) Barriers to due process and fair trial guarantees, and the need for procedural accommodations for persons with disabilities (4) Real access to justice for persons with disabilities (5) The need to recognise what persons with disabilities are saying about what we need, and to give us an accessible timeline to do so. (E-mail Communication with the Author, Monday, November 8, 2021)

Reading this, there are several questions which run through my soul, burning to ashes my inner being. Why should disability groups appear so divided? Why are they fragmented by the very disability categories which should unite them? On the other hand, in matters of death penalty, regardless of the circumstances of the case, why should it be necessary to get to a recourse of "clemency" when it's clear that the very practice of death penalty corroborates the system's determination to annihilate certain categories of individuals, some of which, unfortunately include persons of color with disabilities? This is the kind of radical abolitionist premise at the heart of Ben-Moshe's (2020) framing of fugitive, maroon knowledges.

Likewise, Sheila Wildeman (2020) writing in the abolitionist context of Canadian prisons demonstrates that the very centering on disability specific normativity to litigate isolated cases of solitary confinement, ends up having the opposite consequence when it comes to broad coalitional intersectional modes of justice seeking. In other words, in pursuing individualized victories through rules specific to mental disability yet disconnected from race, anti-Indigeneity settler coloniality and so forth, these lawyers gave strength and sophisticated multi-modality to existing solitary confinement regulations affecting large intersectional populations.

Anti-carceral lawyering requires that we work backwards from anti-carceral remedies—and that we do so in solidarity with prisoners and others across the carceral archipelago, united by a commitment to intersectional substantive equality. It expresses a radical lawyering ethic grounded in the aspirations and capacities of specific communities to resist incarceration and fashion radical alternatives. It requires a willingness to devise strategies in and beyond the courts and to seek remedies reaching beyond the material sites of incarceration. At the same time, lawyers aspiring after an anti-carceral ethic should cultivate familiarity with the insights of both prison abolitionism and critical disability theory, in order to resist (and advise resistance to) strategies that obscure the justice claims of those located at one or the other side of the prison justice/disability justice divide. Last, pursuit of anti-carceral remedies requires challenging conceptions of disability, or mobilisations of this concept or identity category in law, which would isolate disability from social-structural injustice in ways that invite individualising and pathologising "remedies". This means busting disability out of solitary and situating disability-based justice claims within a broader account of intersectional substantive (transformative) equality. Ultimately, cracking the foundations of solitary confinement requires us to rethink disability, justice, and human rights in a way that is mindful of intersecting oppressions as well as liberations. (Wildeman 2020: n.p.)

Concluding Remarks: On the Possibilitarian Framing of Quilombos as Thirdspace Justice-Seeking Models for Cross-Coalitional Movement Building

In South America, when maroon folks escaped the grip of their enslaving actors, they formed communities typically called quilombos. In one of my recent works (Padilla 2021b, see especially Ch. 9) I suggest using the concept of quilombo as a prototypical model for possibilitarian spaces of justice. One of my motivations for suggesting this is the double-meaning associated with the word quilombo. In contemporary circles within countries of the Southern Cone, the word quilombo carries with it a pejorative discursive weight. It alludes to all sorts of problems, chaotic situations and so forth. This, to me, signals the emphatic nature of fugitive, maroon knowledges as well as the structural realities of inter-imperialism and intersectional coloniality which are at the root of their continuous enactment in the lives of disabled and non-disabled folks at the margins of society (Capurri 2018; Erevelles 2011; Hartblay 2014; Love 2004; May 2014; Meekosha and Soldatic 2011; Piepzna-Samarasinha 2018; Puar 2017).

After articulating this suggestion, I've been meditating extensively about the practical implications of adopting such an approach. A crucial feature in doing so is flexibility. Trying to adopt a single size of quilombo context which feeds all emancipatory learning possibilities would be as mistaken as remaining in the current environment of hierarchical, issue driven movement building which seems to prevail in both global south and global north settings.

Secondly, I think it'd be wise to keep an eye on triumphalism. Assuming that indeed the current environment favors anti-racist initiatives (which perhaps requires some qualifications to verify if we're truly talking about anti-racist or simply non-racist turning points), it's paramount to anticipate the limits of the current era. What will happen when this favorable wave fades away? How can we learn from knowledges born from the struggle regarding these waves and their counter-waves? How prepared are we as collective cross-coalitional structures to embrace as needed and resist the ensuing transformations that the counter-waves will bring with them? In terms of anti-ableist strategies, how much can we learn from the current environment? Can we remain at once within a politicized framing of disability justice without nullifying mundane modes of disability oppression?

Lastly, adopting a critical reflexive stance toward quilombos themselves is also paramount. How do we recognize quilombos? How do we make sure that just by self-proclaiming a community as a quilombo thirdspace for fugitive, maroon knowledges we don't run the risk of blessing new oppressive contexts under the banner of communality, intersectionality or whatever? How ready are we to undo these oppressive contexts and remain guided by a careful self-corrective approach to movement building and inter-organizational grassroots modes of relationality?

My own encounter with the police in the corner of my house, Adam Toledo's, the man in Singapore, all these encounters and the knowledges born from these encounters and dis-encounters are a search for new kinds of possibilitarian quilombos. How will we approach collectively the task of building and keeping open the spaces for continuous revamping and reexamination in these fugitive, maroon knowledge spaces of possibility and decolonial resistance, emancipatory learning, radical agency and solidarity? Who will lead the way? How shall we make sure that our efforts in the global north and in the global south don't remain isolated from each other?


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  1. "Therefore, by viewing radical agency through the critical hermeneutic metaphor of co/ creating/co-authoring, one should involve oppressors as well as oppressed agents, along with a plethora of knowledge workers such as educators, organic intellectuals, emancipatory researchers and others whose critical analytical roles should remain in dialogue with the very dynamics at the heart of the emancipatory process per se in all its complex existential derivations… This is particularly true in the unlearning of oppressive techniques of domination because … Foucault and Habermas represent a powerful contrast "between two modes of moral education: teaching by and through rules and teaching by and through examples" in relation to radical agency and the critical thinking paths that make it possible or stifle it in contemporary contexts." (Padilla 2018: 18-19)
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  2. Concerning emancipatory learning, I've said elsewhere that values and "knowledge paradigms make possible emancipatory learning and collective resistance. Emancipatory resistance is not only an external manifestation but an embodiment of values. Therefore, understanding/explaining these underlying values…allows for a hermeneutic analysis of the roots of … resistance that can lead to emancipation/liberation." Padilla 2018: 7). My approach examines "emancipatory learning even where it is least expected (e.g., prison education contexts, boarding schools, sheltered/secluded employment establishments … so that one can indeed center on the emancipatory learning seeds that utopian, ideological and performativity dimensions of meaning making plant for actors … under such adverse circumstances" (Padilla 2018: 23-24). Moreover, I'm absolutely convinced that "local manifestations of radical agency and emancipatory learning do not take place in isolation … the intellectual seeds of resistance and radical agency can … be triggered by the very existential materiality of oppression and domination which leads … folks to depart from the norm and start questioning things that most … take for granted" (Padilla 2018: 37).
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  3. For me, the "relational make up of alliance formation and networking towards collective decolonial modes of resistance and change making … constitutes radical solidarity" (Padilla 2018: 7).
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  4. I must report that, due precisely to well-mobilized cross-sectional pressures from inter-faith groups across the country, the Governor ended up sparing the life of this Black citizen into life sentence. Insider reports tell me that folks within the criminal justice system are trying to make sure that this life sentence is far from "enjoyable," if such a thing could be thinkable in this racialized environment. As for the person in Indonesia, we're told that the execution was postponed. However, I haven't received further messages updating us on the ultimate fate of this neurodivergent individual.
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