Panel 7: Disability and Care

Tuesday 6 September, 2016.

By Gaby Smith and Zoë Shacklock.

  • Amelia Defalco (Leeds), ‘Dismantling the autonomy myth: dependency, comics and care’
  • Arianna Introna (Stirling), ‘Imagining disability and/in the Nation: narratives of care and cure in post-devolutionary Scottish writing’
  • Helen Hughes (Surrey), ‘Looking back at Mapping Perception’ (Skype)



-Discourses of care that are exampled within the graphic memoir, literature and experimental film.

-How care is fundamental to survival but also to identity?- thinking through the human condition, as well as political and ‘national ableism’.

-The experimental and creative process harnessed to display/ illustrate care and how film is able to harness image and sound to create illusion.

Amelia Defalco discusses how the theorisation of care is integral to the theorisation of ageing. She speaks of how literature can illuminate, but often complicate the issues of care and the ageing person. In highlighting the graphic memoir as a particular case study, Defalco argues that these texts expose a disillusion of disembodiment and draw attention to the fundamentals of care. In informing the ethics of care within philosophy, life writing and the comic, this paper presents the ways in which care is fundamental to survival but also identity. Defalco comments on the illusion of self-determination, highlighting Rosemary Garland’s notion of the ‘extraordinary body.’

Graphic memoirs, she notes, repeatedly draw attention to this fragility, but combine the use of words and images to show the conditions of the human, which are paramount to the genre. It has the potential to embody this vulnerability and depict the narrative of care without privileging the care-giver, or care-receiver.

Using Special Exits (Farmer), the book includes many scenes of the tiring minutiae of daily care. The images too, convey the pleasures of care, showing expression, delight and moments of satisfaction of the character. Additionally, Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s My Mother and Me (Sarah Levitt) depicts care that shows a quick oscillation that represents multiple feelings toward care- from happiness, to disgust.

Arianna Introna discusses her wider Ph.D research on Scottish cultural studies, the narratives of care and cure in post-devolutionary Scottish writing. These critical approaches start with concerns with issues of Scotland’s ‘impossible futures’ in addition to certain social political realities. In concentrating on representations of human beings, reproduction and also as outlined by Kittay as dependency work, this analysis is a discussion of texts that speak to the idea of narratives of ‘new politics’, within Scottish society.

Utilising Our Fathers (O’Hagan), You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free (Kelman), Hotel World (Smith) and Paradise (Kennedy), these novels are critical in illustrating a double concern with the body- as incapacitated, interdependent and placed within alternative communities of care.

Helen Hughes joins the panel from Surrey, via Skype to discuss Mapping Perception (Andrew Kötting, 2002). An outcome of the collaborative arts project, this film is an experimental documentary, taking place over four years and as Hughes identifies it is both rich in historical source material and innovative for its time. Situating this at the turn of the new millennium, Kötting uses a number of ‘documentary ingredients’ to screen what it is like growing up with a disability. The teenager Eden, (Kötting’s own daughter) presents the film, who at a younger age discovers that she has been diagnosed with a neurological disability.

Through the expert use of using film, to show aspects of caregiving- this film is a creative response to the socialness of dis/ability.

Referencing Michael Schillmeier (2010) in this paper, who writes about the process of the nature of caregiving, which in itself emerges as back and forth, is placed alongside critical approaches to the film. The story of growing up is shown through the homemovie- telling the truth, whilst constructing a small history of the individual at the heart of the film, and the central role that Eden plays.

The film shows how Eden is a starting point and catalyst (as mentioned by Andrew Kötting in the film’s notes)- she performs herself, whilst associating this with a meta-cognitive awareness, that can enhance learning. In locating the images of Eden, she regards these images of herself during childhood but also through the making of the film. As an experiment of camera work, editing and creating illusion- Mapping Perception is an example of how to film the human subject, observations of the brain which can be accompanied by science, language and communication. The film as an experimental art form expresses a state of consciousness whilst also playing with the scientific processes of image making and scientific research such MRI scans.



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