This article proposes a new theory of affordances that is developed through a critical disability and performance lens. Through parallels to be drawn between the creative space of aesthetic performance and the performance of everyday life lived with disability, this new theory situates affordances in the improvisatory space of performance, and introduces the notion of “micro-activist affordances” as a way to understand mundane acts of world-building that could emerge from encounters with a world of “disorienting affordances.” Experiencing disability is inherently disorienting. The environment, as years of disability activism have shown us, is built with a very limited conception of the human being in mind. But the environment can also be disorienting when experiencing bodily pain and chronic disease. I argue that disability, in all of its various manifestations, is experienced as the shrinking of the environment, and its readily available affordances. But, as I shall also argue, precisely at such moments of shrinking, something else happens. When the environment is narrowed down in its offerings, I propose that it is the creative space of performance (on or offstage) that opens up to make it afford otherwise. This very potential to invent affordances is precisely how I conceptualize everyday lives lived with disability as being analogous to the reimagined space of aesthetic performance and its reorientations.
A Theory of Microactivist Affordances: Disability, Disorientations, and Improvisations
Arseli Dokumacı is an assistant professor of critical disability studies and media technologies in the Communication Studies Department at Concordia University. Her research focuses on disability, performance, and media, with an emphasis on activism, affordance theory, visual ethnography, and anthropology of disability. Dokumacı’s research has appeared (or is forthcoming) in journals including Disability Studies Quarterly, Performance Research, RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, Theatre Research in Canada, the AMA Journal of Ethics, and History of the Human Sciences. Dokumacı is a media practitioner and video maker, and her research-creation works have been featured at various international exhibitions and festivals. She is currently working on her monograph, “Microactivist Affordances: An Ecological Approach to Disability and Performance.”
Arseli Dokumacı; A Theory of Microactivist Affordances: Disability, Disorientations, and Improvisations. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2019; 118 (3): 491–519. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-7616127
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