Sick Woman Theory

Johanna Hedva’s 2015 lecture and essay 2015 My Body Is a Prison of Pain so I Want to Leave It Like a Mystic But I Also Love It & Want it to Matter Politically (Sick Woman Theory) was immensely impactful for me last semester, and as the semester ends I think it would be useful to bring it to bear upon the work we did and the discussions we had this semester. In this light, I am particularly compelled by her politicization of chronic pain within a radical disability framework. Her contestation of the meaning of “political [public] space,” and her locating of pain within embodied legacies of racism, colonialism, capitalism and misogyny modifies existing critiques of the social model, repoliticizing chronic pain while simultaneously reorienting radical disability activism in the body and in spaces not conventionally considered “public.” Her mobilization of feminist mystic histories and practices additionally refigures the guiding embodied philosophy and approach of disability activism. Hedva demands an end to the isolating individualism of the myth of independence and argues for a future in which “we are all ill and confined to the bed,” engaged in a collective dynamic of care, vulnerability and dependence that might undo the productive motor of capitalism.


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