A plastic bag swirls underwater. Light shines through the ripples, making the viewer feel as if they are trapped beneath the surface of the ocean, striving upwards towards a plastic boundary.

HIVES Thematic Announcement for AY 2022-2023

flows in and between neurodivergence, madness, and disability

The HIVES community continues to converge, diverge, and pour into basins and estuaries. Last year, HIVES held writing and pedagogy workshops, film screenings, and evenings of performance, poetry, and essays. As we wound between these banks, currents led us to questions about environmental racism, disability, and the waters, from dirty rivers to polluted aquifers to irradiated oceans, which produce disability in humans and animals and are themselves disabled by humans. This year, HIVES welcomes Ames Loji as guest co-coordinator as we wade into the flows in and between neurodivergence, madness, and disability.

Do you have HIVES yet? From swimmer’s itch? From being stung by a bee while wading into the buzzing conversations happening on the shores of the Red Cedar River?  HIVES is capitalized not because it’s an acronym, but rather as a gesture toward the material reaction of bumps on skin and the physical space of a beehive. This research workshop reimagines the communities flowing through estuaries of disability, madness, and neurodivergence. This year, HIVES leans and limps into these ebbs and flows to contemplate the oceanic scale of disability through a tidalectic framework. In Tidalectics, Stephanie Hessler posits that this approach “allows us to think of hybridity, cross-cultural syncretism, incompleteness, and fragmentation. It holds a flexible approach to geography that accounts for land forming in volcanic eruptions and islands disappearing over time due to climate change and other processes that remain forever unresolved” (Hessler 34). Thinking across these scales in oh-so-partial ways, HIVES attends to our interdependent relationships with bodies of water that lap into disability, madness, and neurodiversity. 

In her work on “Disabled Ecologies,” Sunaura Taylor, who herself was disabled by an aquifer polluted by the US military, creates space to hold her disability alongside disabled ecosystems. She “imagine[s] the geological formation, sediments, and ancient water that make up the aquifer as a sort of 19th century invalid, sensitive to its environment, to external influences” as she learns to “hate the military but love [her] body” and love the water that changed her (Taylor). HIVES lingers with this example as we bring together material conversations across disability communities, human and nonhuman alike. In doing so, we think through the fragmented and fragmenting relationships between waterways and people. In Animacies, Mel Y. Chen writes of attending to the affinities that emerge when people who are pejoratively compared to non-living things attend to the kinships made possible by the comparison. They write “taking in animacy in this way [in which communing and transmogrification among unlikely kinds is not exceptional, but normal and unsurprising] also suggests an alternative means, outside of the strictly political or strictly emotional, to identify cross-affiliations –affinities–among groups as diverse as environmentalists, people with autism, social justice activists, feminists, religious believers in nature’s stewardship, and antiracists” (236). This year, we seek such sprawling, incomplete, fragmentary, yet growing conversations.

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