Colloquium: Matthew Wolf-Meyer

Date(s) - 11/01/2019
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

AP 246


Colloquium Series:

Matthew Wolf-Meyer ,PhD (Binghamton University)

Title: Liberal Humanism, Logocentrism, and the Problem of the Symbolic Subject

Abstract: Drawing together disability studies, posthumanist theory, Deleuzian affect studies, and Science and Technology Studies, this article critiques the dominance of symbolic forms of subjectivity in Anthropology. Symbolic forms of subjectivity rely on human exceptionalism and render a variety of human experiences of the world as less than fully human. By focusing on a historical case of a family navigating the medical-industrial complex in the U.S. as they seek support for a child who will eventually come to be diagnosed as autistic, the burdens of symbolic subjectivity come into relief. Seen as unable to express his inner self, Noah Greenfeld is treated as a person, but unrecognized by the institutions he interacts with as a full subject. This article argues that Anthropology – as an institution that developed out of liberal humanism – similarly lacks the tools to be able to recognize non-symbolic ways of being in the world. Memoirs of disability provide the empirical backbone of this argument, skirting ethnographic approaches to disability that often depend upon representative individuals diagnosed with disabilities to narrate their lives and the exclusions they experience. Such an approach forwards memoirs as cultural products in the project of developing inclusive models of subjectivity.

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