Recent Presentations

Society for Disability Studies 2020

Presentation Slides

April 4-5, 2020, Online Only

Panel: Broadening Bodyminds, Remaking Safe Spaces

Presentation Title: “People Make Things Happen” DIY Diabetes Technology as Disability Activism

Abstract: Do-it-yourself artificial pancreas systems (DIY APS) can be characterized as both a set of technologies and a social movement. Sometimes known as hybrid closed loops or automated insulin delivery systems, DIY APS uses continuous glucose monitoring, insulin pumps, smart phone or smart watch technology, and open source algorithms to control insulin delivery (Crabtree, McLay and Wilmot, 2019). Emerging from communities of people with diabetes and their families, DIY APS is a direct response to commercial device manufacturers’ inability or refusal to respond to the needs, design requests, and perspectives of users of these technologies. Currently, more than 1,500 people worldwide have adopted DIY APS, and many more have adopted other related DIY diabetes technologies.

Drawing from a series of qualitative interviews with DIY APS community members and analysis of their open source community documents, I argue that DIY APS is an emergent form of disability activism in its (1) resistance to hegemonic assumptions about medical authority, and (2) privileging of embodied and experiential expertise. In conversation with Goodley’s (2014) neoliberal-ableism and Hamraie and Fritsch’s (2019) crip technoscience, this paper explores both how people with diabetes come to be held accountable for their nonnormative bodyminds while simultaneously having their knowledge claims invalidated by medical and social authorities. DIY APS critically disrupts this paradigm by shifting authority and credibility away from commercial medical device manufacturers and clinicians and onto people with diabetes. Further, the development of a coherent DIY community creates opportunities for alternative cultural imaginings about health, disability, and well-being.

African Studies Association Annual Meeting 2019

Presentation Slides

November 21-23, 2019, Boston, MA, USA.

Panel: Disability Rights in Kenya: Activism and Engagement with Communities

Date: November 22, 8:30

Presentation Title: Prenatal Genetic Testing and Congenital Disability: A Call for East African Perspectives

Abstract: While there is a proliferation of interdisciplinary scholarship on Western experiences of prenatal genetic testing and the social construction of congenital disability, this paper argues crucial insight could be gleaned from considering genetic testing and disability from an East African perspective. Biomedical technologies like genetic testing contribute to producing a medicalized framework for disability, which understands it as a biological characteristic detectable, preventable, or curable through medical intervention. This framework confers authority and credibility to medical experts, delegitimizes the experiential and embodied expertise of individuals with disabilities, their family, and informal carers, and demands personal responsibility from prospective parents to act as “good” citizens by managing and eliminating the social and political burden of disability where possible (Rapp 1999; Paul 1998).  In East Africa, where neither access to safe abortion nor adequate supports for a child with disabilities are guaranteed, prospective parents are faced with a double bind in the pursuit of good parenthood and good citizenship. Further, the colonial history of Western technoscience, in which East Africans were cast as “living laboratories” in pursuit of Western medicine, provides a relevant backdrop to examine the “funneling of social concerns into a genetic prism” exemplified in genetic testing (Graboyes 2015; Bumiller 2009).

National Women’s Studies Association 2019

November 14-17, San Fransisco, CA, USA.

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Panel: Toward a New Body Politic: Alternative Onto-Epistemologies in Birth, Dis/Ability, and Death

Date: Thursday, November 14, 4:10-5:25, Hilton Union Square, Nob Hill 08

Presentation Title: The Obligations of Agency: Biomedical Technologies and Dis/Ability

Abstract: Many biomedical technologies ostensibly serve to provide individuals with new forms of knowledge and agency. From prenatal genetic testing to open-source DIY modifications to insulin pumps, biomedical technologies are increasingly positioned in a rhetoric of individual autonomy. However, the biomedicalization of healthcare and force of neoliberal individual responsibility means the use of these technologies is coupled with a shifting of accountability away from systems and toward individuals. This paper will explore the obligations of ‘empowering’ biomedical apparatuses as well as implications on onto-epistemological formations of dis/ability, exposing spaces for radical reimaginings of technoscientific-enabled futures.

Society for the Social Studies of Science 2019 Annual Meeting

September 4-7, 2019, New Orleans, USA.

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Panel: Creative Misfits II – Creating Categories: Disability, Agency, and Identity

Date: Thursday, September 5, 9:45-11:15, Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Presentation Title: Account/Ability: Disability and Agency in Deep Brain Stimulation

Abstract: Interrogation of the social and material contexts in which biomedical technologies are embedded exposes tensions between personal and social responsibilities, contrasting constructions of disability, and competing models of healthcare. The confluence of the biomedicalization of health care and increasing reliance on emergent biomedical technologies (Clarke et al, 2010), neoliberal individual responsibility (especially as it relates to non-normative, ‘non-productive’ bodies) (Goodley, 2014), and the forceful rhetoric of progress and innovation (Franklin, 1997) produces socio-techno-political environment(s) driven by a curative imaginary (Kafer, 2013) in which bodily and cognitive differences are perceived as deviance and demand intervention. Experiential and embodied expertise can disrupt this imaginary, but are often unacknowledged in healthcare settings and research. Blending critical disability theory and feminist science studies, this presentation will summarize the preliminary findings of an on-going case study into the lived experience of receiving and using deep brain stimulation technologies. Leveraging qualitative interviews, content analysis of user-directed guidance documents, and digital ethnography of user communities, this study explores how biomedical technologies mediate the meaning of dis/ability, how agency and accountability are distributed across the socio-technical apparatus, and how autonomy and personal responsibility are articulated. This paper contributes to a generative and growing literature at the intersection of dis/ability studies and science and technology studies.