Global Disability Studies
Only recently has interesting work on disability ventured
to engage with the context of globalism or develop projects that
in any meaningful way are transnational in focus. Disabled people
constitute the world's largest minority. Approximately 650 million
people (10 percent of the world's population), have a disability.
Thus it is important to examine how global exchanges and movements
require a reframing of our understandings of disability. Discourses
of disability such as as the medical model or social model, can help
us to understand disability globally, but they also may need to be
challenged to more fully include the varied experiences of people
around the world. When 80 percent of disabled people live in developing
countries, many in poverty, it seems essential to reframe what has
largely been a Western understanding of what it means to be disabled.
What are the shared experiences of disabled people around the globe?
Are these shared experiences enough to claim some sort of global
Yelling Clinic will explore these questions,
but will also make them more specific by focusing on war. How does
the shared experience of war, affect this potential "culture" and
the identities of individuals who are disabled? What are the shared
experiences of those who have become disabled in combat? What of
those who become disabled as civilians? And what about those who's
bodies are affected generations after a war has ended? Despite
global differences, one point of commonality between these people,
seems to be through the way they are represented. War "victims" are
used as symbols of tragedy, remembrance, and patriotism. They are
also often used as warnings against war, such as when shocking
images of' "deformed" babies are used in protests, or when victims
of Agent Orange are described as monsters or horrors. How can we
learn from these people's experiences and be critical of what happened
to them, while also seeing them as individuals who are more than
symbols? Indeed, individual's who may want to have pride in their
bodies? Yelling Clinic wants to examine these complicated intersections
between disability studies and war.
Yelling Clinic does not wish to explore
these things only through anthropological research and fieldwork,
but instead wants to examine these issues through a mutual sharing
and creative expression. Yelling Clinic is itself made up of individuals
who have direct experience with disability and war, thus as a collective
Yelling Clinic embodies the disability rights slogan "nothing about
us without us." Yelling Clinic is not made up of able-bodied journalists
and photographers, who document disability, but who have not experienced
it. How will the conversations between Yelling Clinic and the people
we visit around the globe, differ from the classic model of journalism?
Will a conversation between two disabled people allow for a more
nuanced exploration of experience? Could it potentially allow for
a certain healing that comes from finding pride in a community?
Yelling Clinic is an art collective.
Its four initial members are professional working artists in the
fields of painting, drawing, ceramics, and film. Yelling Clinic's
approach will take from such movements as relational aesthetics
and social practice in art. Through a myriad of mediums and strategies,
including public art, performance, project-based community practice,
urban interventions, and much more, art through social practice
is about mutual exchange, interaction, and participation. The name
Yelling Clinic, plays off of the idea that anything to do with
disability should automatically be put into a medical framework.
It also references the sometimes trite expression that art is healing.
Yelling Clinic acknowledges the deep benefits art making can have
on personal and political struggle, but feels that often when this
healing has been explored with disabled people it has taken on
a patronizing quality. The world's disabled population does not
only need crayons and hospitals, they need a political voice and
varied, mature creative outlets. Yelling Clinic sees art making
as a way to mutually engage people who are often spoken about,
but rarely to. Being able to yell, is being able to have a voice,
and what's more, a voice that is not passive. Through art making
and exchanging Yelling Clinic wants to reframe what it means to
be both disabled and a victim of war.
One might wonder why Yelling Clinic
wants their first project to be centered around a war that ended
decades ago. Why focus on Agent Orange when such dangerous toxins
as perchlorate and depleted uranium are currently being used in
wars all over the world? Yelling Clinic has chosen Vietnam as the
site for their first project, specifically because of the decades
that have gone by since the spraying of Agent Orange. Agent Orange
shows that persistent chemical warfare agents can have devastating
affects on the environment and on people long after a war has ended.
Agent Orange is one of the only war chemicals to have entered into
the American public's imagination -it has become a notorious symbol
of the horrors of war. Along with entering into the American lexicon,
the term Agent Orange has become a cultural signifier. Yelling
Clinic wants to work in Vietnam because the problem of Agent Orange
goes beyond its symbolic meaning. Agent Orange is still an urgent
problem more than forty years later. Yelling Clinic hopes that
through exposing and exploring history, new ways of perceiving
our worlds current war's and use of chemical weapons may be achieved.
In February, 2009, the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Second Circuit, dismissed a class action lawsuit
brought on behalf of Vietnamese nationals, including former North
Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters, against a group of American
chemical companies for their role in producing Agent Orange during
the Vietnam War. The US courts have repeatedly impeded suits by
the veterans on both sides of the conflict. This situation has
galvanized the political terrain of Vietnam. In light of this,
Yelling Clinic believes it is appropriate to bring a disability
studies perspective to the social problems of the three generations
of survivors of military pollution with special focus on the genetic/reproductive
effects on mothers and children. We have made contact with the
Vietnam Friendship Village Project outside of Hanoi, started by
American and Vietnamese veterans. Our proposal is to work with
the residents there in drawing/painting and ceramic projects in
January, 2010. We hope to supply the communities we visit with
art supplies that will last well beyond our three week visit.