Lecture by Jacqueline Kool: Utility in the Eye of the Beholder

29Mar2017 12:30 - 13:15


This lecture is part of the ASCA Workshop on Uselessness and open to the public.

“When something turns out to be useless, it has failed intrinsically” the organizers of this workshop stated at the website. In my presentation I will dwell upon useful and useless from the perspective of disability studies and the disability experience.

People who have been labeled as disabled often find the label useless or of less value stuck to their diagnosis. In a world that is organized by the concepts of usefulness and control, disabled people might feel this ‘intrinsic failure’ weighing upon them.

In reverse people seek a way out of this in different routes. For some people proving the world wrong by achieving the atmost or impossible is a way of coping. Others seek a way out in finding a sort of counter-usefulness in the considered uselessness, by proving the intrinsic value of persons with disability or even of the disability itself. Or by criticizing and deconstructing the whole idea of usefulness as being mostly a construct led by commercial purposes.

In my presentation we will investigate those different routes by wondering through body images, disability survival tours, participation goals, ‘inspiration porn’ and abandoned places and objects, to find that what seems naturally useful in our world, such as stairs, written text and spoken language, may seem useless from the disability perspective and vice versa.

Is there freedom in being outside the realm of usefulness? Or is there value in being at ease with things just as they are? As Adele B. McCollum once stated very zen-like: “A broken teacup is not a flawed example of a teacup, but a perfect example of a broken teacup.”

Jacqueline Kool

is the knowledge manager and co-founder of the Centre for Disability Studies in the Netherlands (DSiN). She is particularly interested in the image formation of disabled people and recently published the book Eros in de Kreukels on sexuality and disability.

Bushuis, room E 0.02 (VOC-zaal)

  • Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis

    Kloveniersburgwal 48 | 1012 CX Amsterdam
    +31 (0)20 525 2258

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Published by  ASCA