Thursday, April 23, 2015

Anarchist Neuroqueeritude, by Susan Song

[Editor's Note: This is the transcript of a talk given at the Disability Studies in Education 15th Annual Conference, April 14th, 2015, at National Louis University in Chicago, Illinois.]
My talk seeks to discuss queer and anarchist theory as they intersect and lend to
neurodiversity theory. I will start with a short discussion about what I mean
when I talk about queer anarchism and continue into a way of looking at neuroqueer through that
lens. I argue for an anarcha-feminist theoretical impulse in creating relationships based on love
and mutual aid.
Queer anarchism and disability have similar understandings in the ways they trouble the
boundaries and borders of identity. Classical anarchism is mostly focused on looking at power relations between people, the economy and the state. Feminist theory adds to this by encompassing the idea that gender is not natural, stable or “innate” and queer theory opens this up further. Queer theory opens up a space to critique how we relate to each other socially in a distinctly different way than typical anarchist practice. Queer theory understands people in relation to the normal and the deviant and troubles those borders surrounding identity instead of simply focusing on issues of economy and capitalism. Queer theory seeks to disrupt the “normal” with the same impulse that anarchists do with relations of hierarchy, exploitation, and oppression. We can use queer theory to conceptualize new relationship forms and social relations that resist patriarchy and other oppressions by creating a distinctly “queer-anarchist” form of social relation. I see this intersect with disability theory in how both perspectives de-stabilize what it seen as biologically normal or natural in the physical body and identity. Identity exists on a continuum of experiences and not in discrete binaristic terms.
I ground this queer-anarchist understanding in some of my favorite anarchist theorists:
Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman and Gustav Landeur. The classical anarchist Peter Kropotkin
in his book Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution critiques social Darwinism’s conclusions that the
“fittest” in nature are those that compete and dominate over others. Kropotkin writes, “[If] we resort to an indirect test, and ask Nature: “Who are the fittest: those who are continually at war with each other, or those who support one another?” we at once see that those animals which acquire habits of mutual aid are undoubtedly the fittest”[1]. From this, we can see the roots of
relationships built on the strength of community interdependence which contrasts with a
capitalist logic of individualist production.
I find the work of Gustav Landauer and Emma Goldman also compelling in theorizing
the kinds of relationships I believe we should create. Landauer in Revolution and Other Writings writes that “The state is a social relationship; a certain way of people relating to one another. It can be destroyed by creating new social relationships; i.e., by people relating to one another differently.”[2] And Emma Goldman in Anarchism and Other Essays writes about free love. She discusses the power of love, writing “Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love.”[3] From these writings, I find that social relationships based on radical love and a shared sense of community create a model for the kind of world I wish to create.
I have recently asked myself the question what is it that we are supposed to be able to do
under capitalism and for what reason? It is not simply that we are to produce labor or to consume
goods. We participate in this system that has been intentionally structured to create power differentials that reinforce social difference designed to divide us. I see the way this system works too in how I have internalized ableism about how I link work and production with my value as a person and also see this ideology in the professional work that I do working in mental
health social services. I feel as if I cannot take sick days for my mental health and feel pressure
to be a “good” worker.
So what are we to do with this to combat this practically? I find the work of Liat Ben-
Moshe in her essay “Queer-Cripping Anarchism” particularly refreshing. She writes that
“through a queer-crip lens we should perhaps focus more on DIT—do it together. The focus on
independence, we would argue, is an adoption of capitalist values. […] This ideology, however,
is a lie as all of us are interdependent and rely on each other not only for our food, shelter, and clothing, but also for our emotional, physical, and intellectual needs.”[4] This is a critique on a
prevalent individualist punk ethos of DIY or do-it-yourself and articulates what I feel we must
have in the relationships we build with each other. To me, being in community means that we
must create a space where we are accepted, supported and loved and we cannot participate in a
meaningful world unless we do it together. Unless we do it together, we cannot do it ourselves.

[1] Kropotkin, Petr. Mutual Aid, a Factor of Evolution. London: William Heinemann, 1902. Print.
[2] Landauer, Gustav and Gabriel Kuhn. Revolution and Other Writings: A Political Reader.  Oakland, CA: PM Press. 2010. Print.
[3] Goldman, Emma. Anarchism and Other Writings. New York: Mother Earth Association. 1917. Print. 

[4] Ben-Moshe, Liat, Anthony Nocella II and A.J. Withers. "Queer-Cripping Anarchism:
Intersections and Reflections on Anarchism, Queerness and Dis-ability". Queering
Anarchism: Addressing and Undressing Power and Desire. Oakland, CA. AK Press: 2012. Print.

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