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Department of History - Department of Economics - Department of Law - Department of Political and Social Sciences - Max Weber Programme for Postdoctoral Studies - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies - Florence School of Transnational Governance

Queerness meets crip: disruptive dialogue and collective action

In a befitting run-up to LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, the EUI’s Queer and Feminist Studies Working Group organised their annual conference with activists, artists and researchers from around the globe. Participants reflected on how queerness generates discomfort and can become a political tool for collective action.

23 June 2023 | Event - Research

Queer (dis)eases conference participants

On 22-23 May 2023, the EUI's Queer and Feminist Studies Working Group hosted an international, multidisciplinary conference on Queer Dis-eases: Disruptive Histories, Politics, and Bodies. Activists, artists, and researchers reflected on how queerness and crip theory (questioning notions of abled and disabled) can generate discomfort with 'normal' perspectives and thus support collective action for rights and political change. The Working Group has now published a detailed conference report.

We interviewed PhD researchers Mónica Morado Vazquez and Riccardo Bulgarelli, who are conference participants and members of the organising committee, about the event and its main takeaways.

How did this conference come about?

Last September, after deciding that the EUI's Queer and Feminist Studies Working Group would once again organise an international conference in 2023, we came across disability and Queer-Crip theory as potentially productive topics. This choice was inspired by several considerations: For one, realising that such debates are mostly explored in US academia and activist circles, we wanted to make space for them in Europe. Also, it seemed especially fitting to tackle them at EUI, an institution that has paid increasing attention to both academic and institutional inclusiveness in recent years. We wanted to contribute to those efforts by connecting them to promising new developments in queer and feminist studies.

This choice of topic proved to be worth it: Our call for papers received over 100 abstracts. With the support of the EUI Department of History and the Interdisciplinary Research Cluster on Decentering Eurocentrism, we were able to bring participants to Florence from different parts of the world, disciplines, and career stages for two days of fruitful debate and reflection.

What do you think were the most interesting themes and the main takeaways?

The body, the self, and the collectivity were common themes across our four multidisciplinary panels. In our conference report, we follow three main lines of conversation: tensions; violence and power; and disruption or transformation.

Many presenters explored tensions, in their capacity to generate something new. In her keynote speech, Mara Pieri criticised hegemonic understandings of reproduction, productivity, and happiness, noting that abelist and cis-heteronormative conceptions of linear time "fail to align to non-conforming subjectivities." Such contributions that pinpoint tensions between grand narratives and marginalised voices open up possibilities for doing and thinking otherwise.

Other papers highlighted the elusiveness of subjectivity – from different disciplinary perspectives and at the individual and collective level. Examples are explorations of multi-species entanglements in human bodies or artistic productions based on bodily fluids. The subject here is the opposite of the allegedly stable and modern (white/able/cishet) 'normal' person.

The discussions around violence and power started from an understanding of the intrinsic violence of categorisation. Naming subjects and creating categories for each and every person reinforces power structures that overlook and oppress crip and queer experiences. The violence of medical categories was reflected upon several times, as was the intersection between moral and scientific discriminations.

All of these dynamics could be framed in terms of disruption or transformation, the third recurrent theme. That some narratives and subjectivities resist a clear-cut identification, living outside and against normative categories or conventional time/space frameworks, was described as an empowering practice. Is there a tipping point at which such quiet or slow transformations become fully-fledged, sudden, and loud disruptions? Or are the transformative and the disruptive rather two registers along which certain dynamics can simultaneously unfold? Boredom, heartbreak, and anorexia were among the examples discussants brought up that show how queer and crip experiences keep a transformative value in society. The connection between research, activism, and art was further highlighted when participants exchanged the lecture hall for the EUI's Bar Fiasco, to attend a performance on the relationship between queerness and the ableist, colonial, and cis-heteronormative character of most city planning.

Where do we go from here?

The conference showed that practices of 'becoming' are political, as they are able to resist disciplining and teleological discourses, and instead produce transformations in society, care, and research. Experiences that live in the colourful shades of openings and potentials can create connections and disruptions.

Queer-crip studies are emerging fields of study and activism in Europe, and we want both the EUI and our Working Group to keep pace with such developments. In the next academic year, we hope to continue the conversations that began here, with more research and events.

Last update: 23 June 2023

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