1. Fragility

    In so many research projects: you end up enacting what you are accounting for.

    Another story.

    Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals ([1980]2007). Lorde describes with acute detail how it feels to wake up after a mastectomy, to wake up to the gradual realization through the fog of tranquilizers that her “right breast is gone,” and of the increasing pain in her chest wall: “My breast which was no longer there would hurt as if it were being squeezed in a vise. That was perhaps the worst pain of all, because it would come with a full compliment that I was to be forever reminded of my loss by suffering in a part of me which was no longer there” ([1980] 1997: 37-8).  It is not only that we can suffer an absence but what is absent can suffer. The Cancer Journals also offers an account of the willfulness required not to wear a prosthesis in the place of a missing breast.[i] Once when she goes to the surgery the nurse comments, “You’re not wearing a prosthesis,” to which Lorde replies, “It really doesn’t feel right.” The nurse responds: “You will feel so much better with it on,” and then, “It’s bad for the morale of the office.”(60) Not to wear a prosthesis, not to cover over an absence, is deemed to compromise the happiness of others. Audre Lorde’s response to this demand is not only anger but a call for action: “What would happen if an army of one-breasted women descended on Congress and demanded that the use of carcinogenic, fat-stored hormones in beef-feed be outlawed?” she asks (14-5).

    What would happen? What could happen? A queer crip army would be assembled, made out of bodies without parts, perhaps even parts without bodies. Carrie Sandahl, drawing on the work of Robert McRuer, among others, teases out the “affinities and tensions” between crip and queer (1993: 26). Perhaps a queer crip affinity might be possible when you share what you are not missing. A queer crip politics might allow the body deemed not whole to be revealed, a revelation that might be registered as a willful obtrusion into social consciousness (“bad for morale”). A queer crip politics might involve a refusal to cover over what is missing, a refusal to aspire to be whole. What I call the will duty often takes the form of an aspiration: even for bodies that are not able to be whole, they must be willing to aspire to be whole.

    There can be nothing more willful than the refusal to be aspirational.

    We can refuse to miss what we are deemed to be missing.

    We can share a refusal.

    Does this mean: we can give ourselves a break? Does this mean: there is a way of relating to breaking that does not aim for restoration? Can the fragments reassemble in or from being shattered?

    Shattering: scattering.

    What is shattered so often is scattered, strewn all over the place.

    A history that is down, heavy, is also messy, strewn.

    The fragments: an assembly. In pieces. Becoming army.


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