Moments from the Disabling Normativities Conference

As regular readers/listeners of BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY know, last week I participated in the Disabling Normativities Conference at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The conference, which was organized by the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, was outstanding, in a variety of ways: the sessions were interesting and provocative, the discussions amongst participants between sessions were friendly and engaging, the performance pieces at the gala and the conference itself were thought-provoking and emotive, and the food during lunch breaks and at the conference gala was so delicious. To my delight, I was provided with gorgeous vegan meals both at the conference and at the guest house where I stayed. The accessibility of the conference was good.

I am enormously grateful to Melissa Steyn, the Director of the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, and the other conference organizers for generously inviting me.

One of the central themes that underpinned the conference was the urgent and abiding impetus to decolonize academic discourse, including so-called progressive discourses. In this regard, my work on disability as an apparatus was warmly received; nevertheless, I shall continue to identify ways in which I can further decolonize my own work in philosophy and theory of disability and these fields more generally.

In the coming weeks, I hope to share with you a number of guest posts by speakers at the conference. In the meantime, I would like to share with you, in photographic representation, some moments from the conference and gala. These photos are courtesy of Lubabalo Lesolle at Luba Lesolle Photography.

[Description of photo below: Melissa Steyn, the Director of the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, stands at the podium in Room 4, the main conference room, to deliver her Welcome, opening the conference.]

[Description of photo below: a speaker in one of the concurrent sessions of the conference stands at the front of a classroom, addressing the room. Participants in the session listen attentively.]

[Description of photo below: Kat, a presenter and avid participant throughout the conference, addresses the room. They are holding a microphone, wearing a hard scarf and bright nail polish.]

[Description of photo below: Boaventura de Sousa Santos, a keynote speaker at the conference, stands at a podium delivering his keynote address.]

[Description of photo below: a photo of me responding to a questioner during the Q and A of my keynote. I am seated with my laptop in front of me and looking to my left. Maybe having a bad hair day?]

[Description of photo below: Black disabled philosopher Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman listens to a speaker, their folded hands rest in their lap. They seem interested, though perhaps not convinced.]

[Description of photo below: At the gala, Katleho Kano Shoro provides an entrancing spoken-word performance and is accompanied by Joe Makanza on a variety of African instruments. Makanza sits at a microphone and Shoro stands, arms outstretched, to the left of one of the conference sign-language interpreters.]

[Description of photo below: a speaker addresses the room in one of the concurrent sessions at the conference. A Powerpoint presentation is projected on the screen to their right.]

[Description of photo below: Room 4, the main conference room, filled to capacity, with the logo for the conference, a dung beetle, displayed on two screens at the front of the room.]

[Description of photo below: Sanjay Jain, a critical disability theorist from India, addresses one of the keynote speakers. Jain wears dark glasses and is holding a microphone.]

[Description of photo below: a session at the conference that involved performance, spoken word, and participation. Attendees in the session draw on a piece of paper as the session takes place. One of the conference organizers, Kudzai Vanyoro, can be seen at the top of the circle of attendees in the shot.]

[Description of photo below: a conference participant addresses a question to a speaker. They have short hair, large cat’s eyes glasses, and are holding a microphone.]

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