Mel Y. Chen is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies and Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. They are the author of
Agitation as a Chemical Way of Being
Chapter 2 begins by assessing “agitation”’s contemporary spread within many modern domains: child development, political agency, psychopharmacology, and the muscular everyday for many, whether marked as disabled or racialized. Thinking alongside several scenarios – considerations of state racial and anti-Black violence and the gestural logics of the disabled comical as well as the cautionary note of the January 6 white supremacist insurrection’s gestural chemicalities, the chapter argues both against the exclusion of disabled gesture from the domain of the political, or the use of agitation’s chemicality as an evacuation of its legitimacy - as well as for the reimagining of how to understand the political away from ableist virtuosic articulation. It ends with a consideration of the agitative “nonhuman” in the form of wildfire ash and artist Fiona Foley’s uncompromising installation in the Brisbane Magistrates Court that engages genocidal and environmental histories with spectacular ash.