Contemporary social thought frequently posits sociopolitical exclusion as marginalization. This article argues that marginalization relies on a spatial metaphor that conceptualizes social exclusion as always already configured in relation to center and periphery. Suggesting that this reliance on marginalization as a way of understanding sociopolitical exclusion limits political thought, this article calls for a renewed attention to actual material configurations of social exclusion. Considering ethnographic research with adults with mobility and speech disabilities in Petrozavodsk, Russia, and representation of disability in contemporary Russian film, the concept of marginalization is demonstrated to be insufficient to analyze the actual spatial segregation of people with disabilities in contemporary Russia in the digital era. The spatial metaphor of marginalization fails to describe the way that interlocutors with mobility impairments are at once segregated and included in sociopolitical life in the digital era, when civic life unfolds in cyberspace. Drawing on ethnographic interviews and observation, this article proposes pixelization as a descriptor of the specific spatial pattern of sociopolitical exclusion of people with mobility and speech impairments in Petrozavodsk, characterized by material segregation in family apartments combined with intricate enabling connection to various publics via digital networks. Spatial metaphors for social difference matter for the kinds of alternate presents and futures that might be envisioned, challenging the presumption that ableism’s power comes from limiting political participation in public space defined by a liberal democratic agora.
After Marginalization: Pixelization, Disability, and Social Difference in Digital Russia
Cassandra Hartblay is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, and in the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society at the University’s Scarborough campus. She holds an affiliate appointment with the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (CERES).
Cassandra Hartblay; After Marginalization: Pixelization, Disability, and Social Difference in Digital Russia. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2019; 118 (3): 543–572. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-7616151
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