So Friday I attended another really awesome conference, and I thought I’d post about it. It was the York University Critical Disability Studies Students Association’s 11th annual conference. And, as always, it absolutely rocked! I’ve been going for years, and have even presented at a couple of them. And they just keep getting better! The organizers did a great job as they always do. The awesome part is that, right from its inception, the conference is entirely student-driven and student run!
The theme for this year was “Cripping Canada”, so all the talks and workshops looked at disability in our Canadian context in some way. But many also looked at Canada in its global context, and where disability is in that broader picture. Really cool, critical, thought-provoking stuff as always! I left with a lot to contemplate!
So it opened with a really wonderful introduction by an Indigenous elder that included a smudging ceremony – which was really awesome! Then we went into the first session.
The first session had a panel in one room and a workshop in the other, and I opted for the workshop. It was by an organization called Deliciously Disabled, and was on disabled inclusion, or not, in Queer communities. It was really interesting! Although, frankly, I wish the presenter had cut a lot of the preliminary stuff on disability, ableism and sex in general, which, honestly, every one there already knew, so we could have had a lot more time for questions and discussion. I wish we’d had a lot more time to actually talk about disabled participation in Queer communities – what’s happening, what’s not, if and where there are safe, accessible spaces for Crip people to participate in Queer communities and how to access them, etc, because that stuff’s not so well known. At least, not to me anyway.
So then we had a break, and went into the second session – which was just a panel this time, no workshop. So this panel was on intersections of disability and race, both here in Canada and beyond. The first speaker discussed transnationalizing disability studies so that it’s more attentive to the way disability is situated in its global contexts – to, for example, the role that war plays around the world in producing both disability and disabling conditions, and also to the role/s that transnational relations of power play. It was fantastic! Then, the second speaker talked about issues around mental health and encounters with the Toronto police, and how those issues and the people who live with them were represented in a series of articles in the Toronto Star. Again, really interesting work!
Then we had lunch, which, blessedly, was provided by the conference, and which, blessedly, was not all vegetarian and vegan LOL! And, over lunch, LOL I got roped into going to join the meeting of the York AODA Alliance (a York-centered group working to see the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act actually implemented) that was happening then. And, actually, it was really great! There weren’t many of us there, but it felt very productive. Apparently the group’s only just getting up and going, so there hasn’t been much activity yet. So the meeting was still largely set-up. Plus, of course, it’s the end of term, and everything’s about to really scale back over the summer. But hopefully stuff will get going in the fall! 🙂
Then, after lunch, we had the keynote. It was given by Dr. Tanya Titchkosky, and it was absolutely mind-blowing! I wasn’t familiar with her or her work before then, though she came very highly recommended by my colleagues. But her talk was absolutely amazing! Seriously, she just wrote my manifesto as an artist for me! Her talk, as best as I can sum it up – and this completely fails to do justice to it, was on engaging disabled imaginaries to unseat normative “man” from his privileged position as difinitive humanity. And, when they’ve got the transcripts of the conference posted on the website, I can’t reccommend highly enough that you go and read what she said! In fact, I hope they are, or some one is, given permission to post the recording so you can actually hear her speak it! Because, part of what made the talk so powerful was her way of delivering it. She is a great speaker! She has a wonderful cadence, and a real gift for pacing, inflection and emphasis, without in the least talking down to her audience. It absolutely rocked!
Then we had another break, and went into the first of the afternoon sessions. There was supposed to be another workshop during this session, but, unfortunately, it apparently got cancelled. So it was just the panel. Bummer, as that workshop was one I was really looking forward to! But the panel was really awesome too, and, in fact, would have been a really tough choice between it and the workshop anyway. So it worked out! Anyway, the first speaker gave a really interesting, delightfully informal talk on “Taking Back Self-Harm” from medical discourse, and giving voice to the actual experience of those who do it. Really interesting, and not a topic you hear discussed often! Then, the second speaker, again, talked about intersections of disability, race, class and gender from her experience, both as an activist/organizer, and as some one who’s done front-line work with people with cognitive “disabilities”. Once again, really cool!
Then, the last panel of the day was on disability in the education system. So speakers looked at, for example, the construction of “behaviourally problemed students” in the Ontario public school system, and at ableism in early childhood education, both toward students and toward educators with disabilities. And again, examinations of how race, class and gender intersect/ed with disability figured strongly. In fact, that was very much a theme throughout the conference, which was fantastic!
So, alas, that was the end of the conference for this year. And, as this hopefully gives a hint of, it absolutely rocked yet again! 🙂 I’m already looking hugely forward to next year’s. I can’t wait to hear what the theme is and what folks will do with it! And, in fact, I hope I get the call for papers in time, because I’d love to actually present again, depending on the theme and if I have a relevant topic to speak on. As I said, I’ve presented at their conferences in the past, and it’s been super fun! So I’d love to do it again now that I’m back in school!