Bed/Life: Chronic Illness, Postcolonial Entanglements, and Queer Intimacy in the Stay
Keywords:Chronic Illness, Disability, Intimacy, Kinship, Queer, Settler Colonialism
In the conceptual sculpture titled, I Think We’re Alone Now (Host), Constantina Zavitsanos presents the bed as a site of desire, intimacy, and horizon for the sick/disabled queer body, bringing a multitude of meanings to the notion of “host.” This paper engages this artwork considering the politics and poetics of hosting and “the stay” as queer intimacies are formed in and with bodies—both in the chronicity of pathogenic presence effected through transnational flows of medical coloniality; and as an anti-colonial practice of disalienation, hospitality, and invitation into the erotic and social life lived in the space of the bed. I approach this work of disability scholarship through a feminist understanding that chronic illness is a condition of global entanglement within the colonial and postcolonial milieu of racial capitalism, its afterlives, and its historical traumas. To host challenges the notion that to be chronically sick and bedbound is an existence delimited by isolation and social death produced in the bedbound subject as one denied full entry into the western, liberal, public-political articulation of the human. I reflect on what it means to be a queer, brown, sick/disabled body and turn toward the possibilities of the bed as a material spacetime and hermeneutic for alternative expressions of aliveness through stillness and immobility as the entanglements of our histories and medical conditions also open space for our entangled practices of countermemory and ontological disobedience: how we refuse to be colonized objects of ruin. As settler colonial framings of illness evoke an always-already racialized diagnostic apparatus through which surveillance, impugnment, negation, and alienation are deployed via the medical industrial complex and the medical gaze as a subjugating mode of relation, bedlife is a vital counterpoint to this violence, a portal to crip fugitivity, existential and political affirmation, and connection. Finally, through encountering different artworks, this essay explores the linkages between intimacy and future-making, collapsing the space between queer desire for each other and one another’s bodies, and the particularly queer politics of desire for a world unbound by oppressive structures and the limitations of imposed binaries. Against what disability scholars Eli Clare and Eunjung Kim, among others, have critiqued as the hegemonic imperative toward cure, which seeks to get us out of bed and into capitalism’s racist and ableist coercive temporalities, this paper looks to the bed as a heuristic and material site for a radical politics of feminist carework, queer desire, crip time, and decolonial worldmaking. What it is to want — in all its senses, suggests there is a relevant kind of intimacy between what we are denied as sick and disabled queers in a heterosexist society founded on racial capitalism and colonial regimes of body, self and other—and how we share closeness, cultivating desire for each other and other possible worlds.
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