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This essay argues that the engagement of social difference from the standpoint of disability could prove to be especially provocative within critical ethnic studies. Building on the work of Hortense Spillers, the essay questions the assumption that the acquisition of a disabled identity always occurs outside historical context. In the specific historical context of slavery, the attribution of disability to the female captive body, for instance, enabled this body to become a site where the flesh became the prime commodity of exchange in the violent conflation of profit and pleasure. The essay situates disability as the condition not of being but of becoming, and this becoming is a historical event. Furthermore it is this material context that is critical in the theorizing of disabled bodies and subjectivities.

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