Accepted Paper:

Agency, wheelchairs and the arts disability movement  

Author:

Andrea Stockl (University of East Anglia)

Paper short abstract:

Looking at the disability arts movement, we will examine how the anthropology of art and agency, following Alfred Gell’s theorem, is indeed the ‘mobilisation of aesthetic principles in the course of social interaction’, as Gell argued in his Art and Agency.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will bring together three strands of theory, namely the anthropology of art and artefacts, the phenomenological approach to the study of personhood, and the disability arts movement. Strikingly, all three of these different perspectives have one thing in common: they seek to understand entities - be they human or nonhuman - as defined by their agency and their intentionality. Looking at the disability arts movement, we will examine how the anthropology of art and agency, following Alfred Gell's theorem, is indeed the 'mobilisation of aesthetic principles in the course of social interaction', as Gell argued in his Art and Agency. Art, thus, should be studied as a space in which agency, intention, causation, result and transformation are enacted and imagined. This has a striking resonance with debates within the disability arts movement, which suggests an affirmative model of disability and handicap, and in which art is seen as a tool to affirm, celebrate and transform rather than a way of expressing pain and sorrow. I will use case studies of artistic representations of the wheelchair in order to further explore these striking similarities and their potential to redefine the role of art in imagining the relationship between technology and personhood.

Panel P10
Imagining disabilities in multiple agents