Canadian Philosophers: Your Ableism is Killing Us (CW: Suicide)

If you pay some attention to Canadian philosophy Twitter, you might have gotten the impression over the last week that the most pressing issue for Canadian philosophers was the closure due to the Emancipation Day holiday on Monday of stores that sell high-quality coffee beans.

If you scrolled through Twitter a bit longer, however, you would likely have landed upon a post about the campaign that Nathan Moore began on Monday (August 1) to draw attention to the exclusion of disabled philosophers from Canadian philosophy departments, the continued refusal of philosophy faculty in Canada to acknowledge the issue and address it, as well as how these situations are directly linked to the eugenic culture of Canadian philosophy that many philosophers in Canada have fostered.

That is, in order to motivate Canadian philosophers to do something about the current grievous state of affairs with respect to disabled philosophers, Moore intends to tag a different Canadian philosophy department Twitter account each week into a Twitter thread that they wrote about how they have considered ending their life because of the way that they have been treated in Canadian philosophy. As they said:

“Going to retweet this every week tagging Canadian philosophy departments until I see concrete change in (i) addressing ableism within Canadian philosophy and (ii) taking responsibility for harm caused by ableism within Canadian philosophy.”

On Monday, Nathan directed their initial tweet in this series at the Twitter accounts of the Philosophy Department at Western (where they did their Ph.D.) and the Rotman Institute at Western. You can read/listen to the Tweet that Nathan Moore will continue to send out to Canadian departments here. Content warning: explicit discussion of suicide.

I have written about the dire situation for disabled philosophers in Canada in a variety of contexts and venues, including here. I must admit: I no longer believe that Canadian philosophers will do anything sufficient to change the situation for disabled philosophers any time soon. Personally speaking: In addition to the dozens of blog posts and publications that I have devoted to the matter, I have approached individual Canadian philosophers about jobs, have written on BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY about how I live in poverty, and have pointed out the substantial influence that I have had on the discipline and profession, including the substantial body of work that I have produced. None of that seems to matter in the ableist cultural climate of Canadian philosophy.

Over the years, I have, on a number of occasions, challenged Canadian (and non-Canadian) philosophers, including Canadian feminist philosophers, on their ableism. Not once, that is, on none of these occasions has anyone followed up with me and actually asked me what exactly the problems were that I had encountered, who produced the ableism that I experienced, how it was inflicted upon me, why (say) the action was ableist, and what the particular organization and Canadian philosophers in general need to do in order to motivate institutional and structural change that would prevent similar situations and events in the future, as well as actually begin to transform the ableism that underpins Canadian philosophy.

Nondisabled people do not like to be in positions in which disabled people have epistemic or social authority over them. Condescension, patronizing behaviour, and dismissal are the learned responses appropriate to interactions with disabled people. So, notice that any change with respect to disabled philosophers and ableism that you encounter from nondisabled philosophers is presented as something new, something that they themselves initiated without any prompting, obscuring the complaints (in Sara Ahmed’s sense) that some of us have produced for years.

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