Disaster Ableism, Academic Freedom, and the Mystique of Bioethics

Today is the day on which presenters to the Philosophy, Disability and Social Change II conference in December will provide me with (among other information) the titles of and brief abstracts for their presentations at the conference. Thus I expect to receive some exciting emails throughout the day! Indeed, this year’s conference promises to be as pathbreaking as last year’s and, like last year’s, even to exceed expectations.

My presentation (whose title is given above) will draw upon arguments that I make in the fifth chapter of Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability according to which the field of bioethics is a neoliberal technology of eugenics. Among other things, I will discuss the role that feminist philosophers and theorists have played and continue to play in the elaboration of the constitutive eugenic logic that underpins and (re)produces bioethics, including through an examination of claims made in some corners of philosophy according to which my insurrectionary posts on BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY against Bill C-7 and MAiD infringe(d) upon the academic freedom of bioethicists and their publications.

The presentation will be motivated by my reading of Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine. In particular, I will adapt Klein’s insights about “disaster capitalism” in order to argue that the pandemic especially has enabled Canadian politicians and the (neo)liberal philosophers, bioethicists, and other academics who provide the justifications and rationale for the practices of these politicians to enact a series of policies and events that constitute what I call “disaster ableism.” It should come as no surprise to readers and listeners of BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY that the expansion and normalization of MAiD will be a fulcrum for the presentation.

I will take as my starting point this highly influential passage from neoliberal economist Milton Friedman:

“Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

Philosophy, Disability and Social Change II takes place online December 7-10, 1-7pm GMT on each day.

The preliminary programme and information about registration will be posted here and at the Oxford University webpage in mid-September.

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