I return to Patricia J. Williams’s essay “On Being the Object of Property” (1988) and her work more generally to explore how she imagines justice alchemically through the articulation of a rhetoricity of rights and of vulnerability. Put another way, I read Williams’s work as providing an early model for doing critical race and legal studies with critical disability studies. Although Williams does not use the term disability in her early work, I argue that her preoccupation with thinking vulnerability and rights together indicates an attempt to account for forms of disablement, including racism, in and across the spaces and performances of the law, academia, and medicine. I explore the condition of being rhetorically disabled in different institutional situations and show how certain practices—of relation, pedagogy, and care— can interfere with this condition, creating passageways between rights and needs, reason and unreason, and race and disability. I draw on both the content and formal and methodological innovation of Williams’s work on race and rights in order to explore the conjunctures and disjunctures—or what I call a structural and structuring double bind—between a rhetoricity of rights and a rhetoricity of vulnerability. I argue that the double bind as disorientation device helps us to generate transcultural analysis and create new forms of relation, pedagogy, and care.

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