Waves of Ableism: Affective Arrangements in the Time of COVID-19
Drawing on critical disability studies and affect theory, this paper centers the affective arrangements that have governed the COVID-19 pandemic, and looks ahead to new articulations that might emerge in which disability and ableism structure state responses. While the last two plus years have demonstrated in powerful ways how COVID-19 is a space brimming with affective energies, they have also shown us that health emergencies can be the occasion to replay feelings about others who rest outside of the normative boundaries of healthy/unhealthy. Developing a theory of institutionalized affect that attends to ableism in a neoliberal context, we seek to contribute to an affective disability studies that can generate new meanings of pandemic time that can crip notions of normal or pathological. With the pressure to return to “normal”, to fast-forward away from lockdowns and mask mandates, and to replace bad feeling with good feelings, there are legitimate fears that the waves of optimism and care that characterized the start of the pandemic, sentiments of support for people made vulnerable by COVID-19 will recede as citizens return to the feel-good narrative of pre-COVID time (Tremain 2020). For many disabled people, that normal toggled between hypervisibility as Other and invisibility, as if the concerns of disabled people never mattered in the first place.
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