Ableism as Abjection

More literary examples:

In June 2020, I described the pervasive ableism of Philip Roth’s 2010 novel Nemesis:

More personal examples

My mom is a retired elementary school teacher. Whenever anyone — especially relatives, her students, or I — would be sick or incontinent in public, she’d reassure the person that “It’s just a part of life” and “Everyone does it.” I’m glad that my family always tried their best to counteract the stigma around bodily functions. Despite their consistently good intentions, the fact that “it happens to everyone” seems beside the point to me as an explanation, in retrospect. No, we’re not all a little bit disabled. Similarly, we all use the bathroom, but not everyone needs accessible restrooms, adaptive equipment, or other assistance. As is often the case with disabled people, something that happens to non-disabled people as well happens to us in a different way or to a greater degree. And therein lies the inaccessibility or ableist, normative separation from non-disabled people.

Pixies Lyrics

The epigraph before this essay comes from the Pixies song “Debaser,” which is itself a reference to the Surrealist, silent film Un Chien Andalou by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. The film is a series of bizarre, disjointed images and suggests a razor slicing a human eye. Especially to today’s audiences, this part looks obviously fake, but it’s still a monumental and disturbing film. The film, the abuse it depicts, and the word debasement sum up the concept of abjection.



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