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Our November, 2020 meeting of LMCC took place on Wed. Nov. 18 at 5:30pm via Zoom. We focused on Jasbir K. Puar’s The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability, especially:

  • Preface: “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!”
  • Introduction: “The Cost of Getting Better”
  • An additional chapter of each person’s choice

If you missed the meeting, you can still access the text on the Readings page of this site!

For a recording of our virtual meeting, click here.


Puar, Jasbir K.  The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability. Duke UP, 2017.

Some key passages:

“Disability is not a fixed state or attribute but exists in relation to assemblages of capacity and debility, modulated across historical time, geopolitical space, institutional mandates, and discursive regimes. The globalization of disability as an identity through human rights discourses contributes to a standardization of bodily usefulness and uselessness that discounts not only the specificity of location but also the ways bodies exceed or defy identities and subjects” (xiv).

“In The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability, I think through how and why bodies are perceived as debilitated, capacitated, or often simultaneously both. I mobilize the term ‘debility’ as a needed disruption (but also expose it as a collaborator) of the category of disability and as a triangulation of the ability/disability binary, noting that while some bodies may not be recognized as or identify as disabled, they may well be debilitated, in part by being foreclosed access to legibility and resources as disabled. Relatedly, some bodies may well be disabled but also capacitated…. I am arguing that the three vectors, capacity, debility, and disability, exist in a mutually reinforcing constellation, are often overlapping or coexistent, and that debilitation is a necessary component that both exposes and sutures the non-disabled/disabled binary” (xv).

“Julie Livingston uses the term ‘debility,’ defined broadly to encompass ‘experiences of chronic illness and senescence, as well as disability per se’…. Debility in my usage is not meant to encompass disability. Rather, I mobilize debility as a connective tissue to illuminate the possibilities and limits of disability imaginaries and economies” (xvi).

“Debility is thus a crucial complication of the neoliberal transit of disability rights. Debility addresses injury and bodily exclusion that are endemic rather than epidemic or exceptional, and reflects a need for rethinking overarching structures of working, schooling, and living rather than relying on rights frames to provide accommodationist solutions” (xvii).

“I therefore seek to connect disability, usually routed through a conceptual frame of identification, and debilitation, a practice of rendering populations available for statistically likely injury” (xviii).

“I am arguing that debilitation and the production of disability are in fact biopolitical ends unto themselves, with moving neither toward life nor toward death as the aim. This is what I call ‘the right to maim’: a right expressive of sovereign power that is linked to, but not the same as, ‘the right to kill.’ Maiming is a source of value extraction from populations that would otherwise be disposable. The right to maim exemplifies the most intensive practice of the biopolitics of debilitation, where maiming is a sanctioned tactic of settler colonial rule, justified in protectionist terms and soliciting disability rights solutions that, while absolutely crucial to aiding some individuals, unfortunately lead to further perpetuation of debilitation” (xviii).

“Many bodies might not be hailed as disabled but certainly are not awash in the privileges of being able-bodied either. This project is thus less interested in what disability is (or is not), less interested in adding to the registers of disability—for example, including people of color with disabilities—and more driven by the question: what does disability as a concept do?” (xx).

“I argue, first, for a critical deployment of the concepts of debility and capacity to rethink disability through, against, and across the disabled/non-disabled binary. I situate disability in relation to concepts such as neoliberal and affective capacitation, debilitation, and slow death; ‘slow death’ is in some sense a mode of neoliberal and affective capacitation or debilitation as mediated by different technological assemblages” (2).

Critiquing campaigns such as “It Gets Better”: “The focus on the future normalizes the present tense of teen bullying and evacuates the politics of the now from culpability, letting contemporary conditions, along with any politics attempting to redress it, off the hook. In terms of genre, it parallels what disability studies scholar Stella Young called ‘inspiration porn’” (7).

“From this vantage, IGB [It Gets Better] reflects a desire for the reinstatement of (white) racial privilege that was lost by being gay, one that is achievable through equality rights agendas like gay marriage and participation in neoliberal consumer culture. In other words, IGB is based on an expectation that it was supposed to be better. And thus IGB might turn out to mean, you get more normal. Such affirmations—and, indeed, mandates—of life may well work to actually inhibit other kinds of lives. Thus, ‘It Gets Better’ circulates as a projection of bodily capacity that ultimately partakes in slow death, even as it reforms the valence of debility—homosexual identity—through a white/liberal/male assemblage: a recapacitation machine” (10).

“Critiquing the disability rights movement, disability justice activist Mia Mingus, who identifies as a ‘queer, physically disabled Korean woman transracial and transnational adoptee,’ writes: ‘Most access right now is about inclusion and equality: how do we bring disabled people to our table? How do we make sure disabled people have access to what we have? How do we get disabled people access to the current system? Rather than thinking that the entire ‘table’ or ‘system’ might need to change or working to embrace difference. Justice does not have to equal sameness or assimilation; and justice and equality are not the same thing’” (15).

“The political mandate behind such conceptualizations of disability—not what disability is but what it does and how it is used to simultaneously capacitate and debilitate—is to put the disabled/non-disabled binary in dialogue with assemblages of disability, capacity, and debility. Inviting a deconstruction of what able-bodiedness and capacity mean (they are not equivalent to each other), affectively and otherwise, entails schematizing the biopolitics of debility, one that destabilizes the seamless production of able bodies in relation to disability and also suggests the capacitation of disabled bodies through circuits of (white) racial and economic privilege, citizenship status, and legal, medical, and social accommodations. Access is theorized not only in terms of infrastructure, work, social services, and public space but also in terms of access to health itself. While providing a much-needed intersectional critique that destabilizes the white, Euro-American, economically privileged subjects that are most likely to be interpellated as ‘a person with disabilities,’ I am also building off of solidly argued critiques of identity to highlight constantly shifting assemblages of power” (20).

“[T]he promoting and lauding of certain people with disabilities as markers of acceptance and progress ultimately serves to further marginalize and exclude most people with disabilities and serves also to sustain and create networks of debilitation in relation to these privileged disabled bodies” (22).


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