Thinking the Disable

How are we thinking disability? Perhaps it is a good indicator of our care and concern. In fact, thinking disability can also manifest how we think power. Michel Foucault’s work opens our eyes to manner in which we think the normal and the abnormal or the disable and the healthy. Disability is mainly thought in relation to power/knowledge approaches of the medical practices. It is these epistemes that ground how people are classified as sick, heathy and diseased and disabled. Often this knowledge/power laden medical practices have led us to marginalize and disenfranchise the disabled. This means the disable are doubly disabled, first by the body and its disease and then by the socio-political medical power. Socio-political power often thinks the bio-medical disability is limiting and regulated movements, accesses to freedoms and other joys of life. Unfortunately, we are not critical enough to discern how these medical as well as socio-political practices are undergirded by eugenics. Hence, we have the challenge to rethink what is deemed as natural, ethical and normal in the realm of the disable.

We may require to rethink the way we think power in order to get deeper insights in our understand of disability. Power is not merely juridical, linear and oppressive. It can be emancipative. It is not exchanged but is practiced. No exercise of power is without resistance. Foucault tells us that we have to ask how or by what means power is exercised. All power works through constrain. With modernity, power began to concentrate on the body. It became what Foucault describes as bio-power. Bio-power becomes a new technology of power that begins to administrate or bring its government on life. Thus, we entered the era of bio-politics that kept the record of births, death, rate of fertility and reproduction, statistics of disease etc. Bio-power medicalized the population. Medical science and practices were then used to regulate, control and discipline people. We thus, entered a disciplinary society. This recording turned into different surveillance systems and we got transported into a panopticon.

Our medical disciplines, as well as other human sciences than began to discipline our bodies. It is within this disciplinary matrix of power that we can see the emergence of the disable subject. Thus, normal people as well as disabled are classified, codified, managed and controlled. People are classified to make them governable. We may extend this to understand how politics today classifies and codes us a Hindus ( normal/ nationalist) and Others ( abnormal) and thus disable a section of our citizens. The running political discourse has led to the emergence of Hindu supremist subject in our society. This shows how we as disabled subjects are materially produced through the production of political discursive practices. Hence, we have the challenge to understand how discourse subjects us and we by accepting the subject position arise as subjected subject. This is a subjection and subjectivation imposed from the top. Bio-power, thus, controls it subjects by dividing practices. Dividing practices can be practices that usually control our access to resources and freedoms. Those that are deemed disabled face several restrictions of access. Thus, these practices of prohibition and control can tell us a lot about the way we think of the disable. The cry of too much democracy is also related to these social-political disabling and dividing practices in our country.

All dividing practices are practices of power. As practices of power, they are grounded in the epistemes of the reigning discourse. Hence, to resist our subjection to a discourse, we have the challenge to look critically at the discourse that subjects us. Thus, by contesting the disciplinary power, we have to construct counter discursive practices. This means disability is created and maintained through a medical knowledge/ biological, sociological etc., knowledge that polices the limits or boundaries of our inabilities. Hence, the disciplines that discipline us have to contested. This is why we have to revisit the human sciences that have produced our disciplinary societies.

Today disabilities are not just produced by bio-power. They are also produced by necro-power that is administrating death and not life. The bio-power has not just degenerated into bare life of Gergio Agamben but have come to administrate death/ Thanatos. Thus, who lives and who dies is decided by one who is in power. The dividing practices of disciplinary power has metamorphized practices that makes life disposable. With terror as well as the entry of AI humans have become disposable though this new apparatus of necro-power. With the coming of necro-power, we seem to have entered the society of control described by Gilles Deleuze and are fast becoming burnout societies ( Byung-Chul Han) because of our dividualizing ( Multi-tasking) practices. This has also pushed us into a society of banality of evil where evil is no longer shocking us. In such a society, the power apparatus converts the disable into monster. The dividing practices then transmute into practices of monstrosity where the disable is killed while aggressor gloriously chants God’s name. Unfortunately, we in India seem to moving towards this society.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao