Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

“Oh say can you ___ ”: Race and Mental Disability in Performances of Citizenship

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2016), 10, (1), 87–102.

Abstract

In light of the US Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to eliminate key components of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a law intended to defuse racist exclusions in democratic practices, a discussion of the ways in which we understand and represent fit citizenship is more urgent than ever. To interrogate the systematic practices of exclusion inherent in US democracy, the article explores how mental disability is visually constituted in media and performance, and how this visual rhetoric directly influences who is deemed civically fit. The article begins with the politically themed performances curated by disc jockey and television star Howard Stern and concludes by invoking the court testimony of Rachel Jeantel in the 2013 murder trial of George Zimmerman. Rather than simply critiquing the exclusion of people of color and people with disabilities in terms of democratic ideals, the article uses these test cases to argue that the imbricated issues of race and disability fundamentally challenge the fantasy of democratic citizenship.

Access Token
£25.00
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Adams, Rachel. Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2001. Print. Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination Google Scholar

Adelson, Betty M. “Dwarfs: The Changing Lives of Archetypal ‘Curiosities’ — and Echoes of the Past.” Disability Studies Quarterly 25.3 (2005). Web. 1 May 2011. Dwarfs: The Changing Lives of Archetypal ‘Curiosities’ — and Echoes of the Past Disability Studies Quarterly 25.3 Google Scholar

Ahmed, Sarah. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print. The Cultural Politics of Emotion Google Scholar

Baynton, Douglas. “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History.” The New Disability History: American Perspectives. New York: New York UP, 2001. Print. Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History The New Disability History: American Perspectives Google Scholar

Bell, Christopher M. “Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal.” The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Davis, Lennard J. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2006. 275–82. Print. Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal The Disability Studies Reader 275 82 Google Scholar

Bell, Christopher M. “Doing Representational Detective Work.” Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions. Ed. Christopher M. Bell. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State P, 2011. 1–7. Print. Doing Representational Detective Work Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions 1 7 Google Scholar

Bérubé, Michael. “Citizenship and Disability.” AlterNet.org. 1 May 2003. Web. 4 May 2014. Citizenship and Disability Google Scholar

Bogdan, Robert. Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit. U of Chicago P, 1990. Print. Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit Google Scholar

Brooks, Daphne. Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850–1910. Duke UP, 2006. Print. Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850–1910 Google Scholar

Brown, Jayna. Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern. Duke UP, 2008. Print. Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern Google Scholar

Burch, Susan, and Hannah Joyner. Unspeakable: The Life of Junius Wilson. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2007. Unspeakable: The Life of Junius Wilson Google Scholar

Caldwell, Kate, Sarah Parker Harris, and Maija Renko. “The Potential of Social Entrepreneurship: Conceptual Tools for Applying Citizenship Theory to Policy and Practice.” Intellectual and Development Disabilities 50.6 (2012): 505–18. Print. The Potential of Social Entrepreneurship: Conceptual Tools for Applying Citizenship Theory to Policy and Practice Intellectual and Development Disabilities 50.6 505 18 Google Scholar

Carey, Allison. On the Margins of Citizenship: Intellectual Disability and Civil Rights in Twentieth-Century America. Philadelphia, PA: Temple UP, 2009. Print. On the Margins of Citizenship: Intellectual Disability and Civil Rights in Twentieth-Century America Google Scholar

Carlson, Licia, and Eva Feder Kittay. “Introduction: Rethinking Philosophical Presumptions in Light of Cognitive Disability.” Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy. Chichester, West Sussex, and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 1–25. Print. Introduction: Rethinking Philosophical Presumptions in Light of Cognitive Disability Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy 1 25 Google Scholar

Cobb, Jelani. “Rachel Jeantel on Trial.” Newyorker.com. 27 Jun. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. Rachel Jeantel on Trial Google Scholar

Dilts, Andrew. “Incurable Blackness: Criminal Disenfranchisement, Mental Disability, and the White Citizen.” Disability Studies Quarterly 32.3 (2012): Web. 6 Nov. 2013. Incurable Blackness: Criminal Disenfranchisement, Mental Disability, and the White Citizen Disability Studies Quarterly 32.3 Google Scholar

Dolmage, Jay. “From Retrofit to Universal Design, from Collapse to Occupation: Neo-Liberal Spaces of Disability.” Society for Disability Studies. Jun. 2012. Conference presentation. From Retrofit to Universal Design, from Collapse to Occupation: Neo-Liberal Spaces of Disability Google Scholar

Erevelles, Nirmala. Disability and Difference in Global Contexts: Enabling a Transformative Body Politic. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print. Disability and Difference in Global Contexts: Enabling a Transformative Body Politic Google Scholar

Erevelles, Nirmala, and Andrea Minear. “Unspeakable Offenses: Untangling Race and Disability Discourses of Intersectionality.” Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies 4.2 (2010): 127–45. Print. Unspeakable Offenses: Untangling Race and Disability Discourses of Intersectionality Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies 4.2 127 45 Google Scholar

Fleetwood, Nicole R. Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2011. Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New York: New York UP, 1996. Print. Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. 1st ed. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Print. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson. Staring: How We Look. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print. Staring: How We Look Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson. “Why Disability? Or, Who Should and Should Not Inhabit the World?” City University of New York. Elebash Recital Hall, New York. 23 Mar. 2012. Keynote Address. Why Disability? Or, Who Should and Should Not Inhabit the World? Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

Henderson, Bruce, and Noam Ostrander (eds). Understanding Disability Studies and Performance Studies. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print. Understanding Disability Studies and Performance Studies Google Scholar

Hilton, Leon. “Presence, Rhetoric, Difference: Jérôme Bel and Theater HORA’s Disabled Theater.” TDR: The Drama Review 58.3 (2014): 156–62. Print. Presence, Rhetoric, Difference: Jérôme Bel and Theater HORA’s Disabled Theater TDR: The Drama Review 58.3 156 62 Google Scholar

James, Jennifer. “Gwendolyn Brooks, World War II, and the Politics of Rehabilitation.” Feminist Disability Studies. Ed. Kim Q. Hall. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 2011. 136–58. Print. Gwendolyn Brooks, World War II, and the Politics of Rehabilitation Feminist Disability Studies 136 58 Google Scholar

Jarman, Michelle. “Dismembering the Lynch Mob: Intersecting Narratives of Disability, Race, and Sexual Menace.” Sex and Disability. Ed. Anna Mollow and Robert McRuer. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2012. 89–107. Print. Dismembering the Lynch Mob: Intersecting Narratives of Disability, Race, and Sexual Menace Sex and Disability 89 107 Google Scholar

Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University. “Alabama Literacy Test.” Alabama Literacy Test. Web. 6 Nov. 2013. Alabama Literacy Test Alabama Literacy Test Google Scholar

Kittay, Eva Feder. “When Caring Is Just and Justice Is Caring: Justice and Mental Retardation.” Public Culture 13.3 (2001): 557–79. Print. When Caring Is Just and Justice Is Caring: Justice and Mental Retardation Public Culture 13.3 557 79 Google Scholar

Kuppers, Petra. Disability and Contemporary Performance: Bodies on the Edge. 1st ed. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print. Disability and Contemporary Performance: Bodies on the Edge Google Scholar

Kuppers, Petra. “Outsider Histories, Insider Artists, Cross-Cultural Ensembles: Visiting with Disability Presences in Contemporary Art Environments.” TDR: The Drama Review 58.2 (2014): 33–50. Print. Outsider Histories, Insider Artists, Cross-Cultural Ensembles: Visiting with Disability Presences in Contemporary Art Environments TDR: The Drama Review 58.2 33 50 Google Scholar

Lewiecki-Wilson, Cynthia. “Rethinking Rhetoric through Mental Disabilities.” Rhetoric Review 22.2 (2003): 156–67. Print. Rethinking Rhetoric through Mental Disabilities Rhetoric Review 22.2 156 67 Google Scholar

Lukin, Joshua. “Black Disability Studies.” The Disability Studies Reader, 4th ed. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York and London: Routledge, 2013. 308–15. Print. Black Disability Studies The Disability Studies Reader 308 15 Google Scholar

Mahmood, Saba. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005. Print. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject Google Scholar

McRuer, Robert. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability. New York: New York UP, 2006. Print. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability Google Scholar

Minich, Julie. Accessible Citizenships: Disability, Nation, and the Cultural Politics of Greater Mexico. Philadelphia, PA: Temple UP, 2013. Print. Accessible Citizenships: Disability, Nation, and the Cultural Politics of Greater Mexico Google Scholar

Muñoz, José Esteban. Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. U of Minnesota P, 1999. Print. Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics Google Scholar

Nussbaum, Martha. “The Capabilities of People with Cognitive Disabilities.” Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy. Chichester, West Sussex, and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 74–95. Print. The Capabilities of People with Cognitive Disabilities Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy 74 95 Google Scholar

Pan, Deanna. “Protecting the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities.” Mother Jones. 5 Nov. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2013. Protecting the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities Mother Jones Google Scholar

Pickens, Therí. “‘It’s a Jungle Out There’: Blackness and Disability in Monk.” Disability Studies Quarterly 33.3 (2012). Web. 6 Nov. 2013. ‘It’s a Jungle Out There’: Blackness and Disability in Monk Disability Studies Quarterly 33.3 Google Scholar

Prendergast, Catherine. “On the Rhetorics of Mental Disability.” Embodied Rhetorics: Disability in Language and Culture. Ed. James C. Wilson and Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2001. 45–60. Print. On the Rhetorics of Mental Disability Embodied Rhetorics: Disability in Language and Culture 45 60 Google Scholar

Price, Margaret. “Defining Mental Disability.” The Disability Studies Reader, 4th ed. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York and London: Routledge, 2013. 292–99. Print. Defining Mental Disability The Disability Studies Reader 292 99 Google Scholar

Rosenbaum, Stephen A. “Hammerin’ Hank: The Right to Be Raunchy or FM Freak Show?” Disability Studies Quarterly 23.3/4 (2003): Web. 21 Nov. 2013. Hammerin’ Hank: The Right to Be Raunchy or FM Freak Show? Disability Studies Quarterly 23.3/4 Google Scholar

Russell, Emily. Reading Embodied Citizenship: Disability, Narrative, and the Body Politic. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2012. Print. Reading Embodied Citizenship: Disability, Narrative, and the Body Politic Google Scholar

Samuels, Ellen. “Examining Millie and Christine McKoy: Where Enslavement and Enfreakment Meet.” Signs 37.1 (2011): 53–81. Print. Examining Millie and Christine McKoy: Where Enslavement and Enfreakment Meet Signs 37.1 53 81 Google Scholar

Schalk, Sami. “Coming to Claim Crip: Disidentification with/in Disability Studies.” Disability Studies Quarterly 33.2 (2013). Web. 6 Nov. 2013. Coming to Claim Crip: Disidentification with/in Disability Studies Disability Studies Quarterly 33.2 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

Stern, Howard. “Beetlejuice going crazy fighting.” Online video clip. YouTube. 22 Oct. 2008. Web. 1 May 2011. Beetlejuice going crazy fighting YouTube Google Scholar

Stern, Howard. “Beetlejuice threatens to kill himself (part 1/2).” Online video clip. YouTube. 26 Jun. 2009. Web. 1 May 2011. Beetlejuice threatens to kill himself (part 1/2) YouTube Google Scholar

Stern, Howard. “Beetlejuice threatens to kill himself (part 2/2).” Online video clip. YouTube. 26 Jun. 2009. Web. 1 May 2011. Beetlejuice threatens to kill himself (part 2/2) YouTube Google Scholar

Stern, Howard. “Uncle Beetlejuice.” Online video clip. YouTube. 27 Aug. 2009. Web. 1 May 2011. Uncle Beetlejuice YouTube Google Scholar

Stern, Howard. “Beetlejuice and Gilbert Gottfried.” Online video clip. YouTube. 16 Jul. 2013. Web. 12 Aug. 2013. Beetlejuice and Gilbert Gottfried YouTube Google Scholar

Stern, Howard. Howard TV On Demand. This is Beetle. Online video clip. Howardstern.com. Web. 1 May 2011. This is Beetle Google Scholar

Stevenson, Roger E., and Judith G. Hall. Human Malformations and Related Anomalies. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print. Human Malformations and Related Anomalies Google Scholar

Stubblefield, Anna. “The Entanglement of Race and Cognitive Dis/ability.” Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy. Chichester, West Sussex, and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 293–313. Print. The Entanglement of Race and Cognitive Dis/ability Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy 293 313 Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Waggoner, Jess