The Art of Non/Resilience for People with Disabilities (Creative)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Creative Writing, Editing and Publishing

Maria Guarino (Columbia University-Teachers College)

Kara Pernicano (Queens College, CUNY)

Iona Murphy (The University of Huddersfield)

What is resilience for people with disabilities? What is recovery?

Narratives of illness, trauma and disability are often framed to emphasize recovery. Reflecting on resiliency, constructed ideas of normalcy, and “crip time,” Ellen Samuels writes: “Disability and illness have the power to extract us from linear, progressive time with its normative life stages and cast us into a wormhole of backward and forward acceleration, jerky stops and starts, tedious intervals and abrupt endings” (2017).

In working with disabled performers, disability scholar and artist Petra Kuppers notes the connection between the material oppression experienced by people with disabilities and the performance space. She writes:

“Many of the performers’ physical experiences mirrored their silencing in, and exclusion from, representation. Some had no space for themselves, their bodies, their movements in the social and physical environment. They are excluded from life alone, from getting an apartment; conformed to a timetable of contact with medical practitioners, or the even more rigorous timetable of pills and injection. Their bodies can be invaded, as the law allows them to be drugged against their will and involuntarily hospitalized. Their physical and mental privacy is often under threat” (2005).

Kuppers suggests there may be an added level of invisibility for people with disabilities because of the likely invasion of privacy through the process of disclosure. In offering up this context, Kuppers raises many questions about the production and spectacle of arts by people with disabilities. How do we see disability? How can we understand the tension of disclosure and hypervisibility? How do we build safer and more comfortable spaces for people with disabilities to present their art? How do relationships change after disclosure, and/or how do we recognize the need to pivot in states of crisis and illness? How do we recognize the work of disability artists?

In his poem, “I am too pretty for some Ugly Laws,” Lateef McLeod speaks to these experiences of both invisibility, hypervisibility, and historical oppression. He says: “My mere presence//of erratic moving limbs//and drooling smile//used to be scrubbed off the public pavement” (2018).

Through writing, poetry, acting, and many other mediums, we have the opportunity to convert the disabled bodymind from being solely what disabled performer Catherine Cole calls a “performer in a script [they] did not write” (2003). We can engage further and sit, stand, walk, seize, lay, etc in these spaces of disability, and ask what resilience and recovery means. We can also ask not only how disabled bodyminds are resilient, but how they are not.

This is a call for creative submissions that explore representations of disability, resilience, and recovery. Submissions can include, but are not limited to: poetry, art, film etc. What is resilience? What is recovery?


This is a call for creative submissions that explore representations of disability, resilience, and recovery. Submissions can include, but are not limited to: poetry, art, film etc. What is resilience? What is recovery?