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Eli Clare's "Exile and Pride"

more than just about queer and disability rights

Forum: WMST-L
Date: 06/10/2002

On 06/10/02, "Kimberly Simmons" wrote:

Eli Clare's book Exile and Pride is an excellent example of theorizing intersections between queer, feminist and disability rights.

It's more than that: Eli's book is also about the contradiction of coming from and identifying with the rural working-class white culture that is often blatantly racist as well as homophobic and is sustained through the logging industry - and being among largely middle-class, urban environmentalists and queer activists. I just worry that some people would view _Exile and Pride_ as a book about disability and queerness only, and miss its deeply working-class, anti-racist analyses, just like how the television movie version of _Bastard Out of Carolina_ gutted the working-class realities Dorothy Allison described so eloquently in the book.

Also, Eli's discussion of disability extends beyond "disability rights" (a term that presumes an identifiable class of "the disabled" who would organize for more rights) - he looks into the social construction of his disability as well as his sexuality and gender, locating himself among the tradition of circus freaks who survived through the display of their exotic anatomy, who strived for dignity in extremely tight places.

I used a small portion from _Exile and Pride_ in my class about intersexuality (which I'm going to present at NWSA about) this term because some of my students were saying things like "I can't believe doctors do such a horrible thing to intersex children; they would never have done it to anyone else!" or "It's wrong for doctors to treat intersex children as if being intersex is a disability." I also used "Public Stripping" by Lisa Blumberg, which is quoted by Clare. I used these writings from the disability theory/studies in a class about intersex because I wanted my students to understand that the erasure of intersex existence does not happen in a vacuum, and that there is a larger context to what was being done to intersex children. After class, at least three students (out of only 10) fell in love with Clare's writings (as I have!), went out and bought the book. It's really powerfully and beautifully written.

Emi Koyama <>
Program Assistant
Intersex Society of North America

-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.