Overturning Feminist Phenomenologies: Disability, Complex Embodiment, Intersectionality, and Film
Cohet Shabot, S
Rethinking Feminist Phenomenology: Theoretical and Applied Perspectives
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In the film Examined Life (Dir. Astra Taylor, 2009), disability activist Sunny takes a walk with Judith Butler through San Francisco, discussing the relationships of physical impairment to cultural constructions of disability. Together they laugh, shop, and talk about the language of philosophy and identity, and tacit assumptions about what a body can, or cannot do. More recently, South African queer thinker and disability activist Eddie Ndopu launched a viral video campaign (Dir. Nadine Kutu 2016) to support the additional costs of his admission to the University of Oxford, where he emphasizes that independence is an able-bodied illusion. Interdependence is therefore a fundamental part of human culture. In recent years, innovative embodied representations of impairment have flourished in global cinema. Nicolas Philibert’s documentary, In the Land of the Deaf (Au Pays des sourds, 1992), Jacques Audiard’s feature films Read my Lips (Sur mes lèvres, 2003) and Rust and Bone (De Rouille et d’os, 2012), Morteza Farshbaf’s feature Mourning (Soog, 2011), Seung-jun Yi’s documentary Planet of Snail (Dalpaengee eui byeol, 2011) and Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Grigris (2013) all provide cinematically complex invocations of embodiment, ability and interdependency. In my discussions of these films, I put forward a film-phenomenology that rethinks cinema’s connections to the embodied sensorium. Drawing on feminist phenomenological theories of embodiment (Young 1989, Sobchack 2004) and recent work in disability studies and performance studies (Kuppers 2003, McRuer 2006, Siebers, 2010), my chapter discusses cinematic presentations of bodies that contest normative assumptions about the ordered sensoria of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. In turn these representations challenge existing cultural delineations of ability and disability, and disrupt generic notions of phenomenological experience. Feminist phenomenologies, queer phenomenologies of disability and complex embodiment, and phenomenologies of film, all intersect, and are themselves interdependent. It is therefore not enough to say that cinematic representations of disability give a window onto the diversity of embodied experience. Complex embodiment acknowledges the interdependence of bodies upon one another and their environment, and the potentially infinite variations and interconnections between forms of embodied experience. It therefore queers the logic of a dominant sensorium capable of independently determining what the world is. I want to suggest in this chapter that, by overturning the enworlded subject (cf. Sobchack 1992) and its intersubjective relations, cinematic representations of impairment and disability revise and rethink feminist phenomenologies. And this is to the benefit of a more inclusive, fairer and more diverse model of the human-phenomenological world.
- Film Studies