Who taught me

The organizing principle of my work is that knowing, making, and right action cannot be disentangled. Sometimes, taken together, when the right conditions are met, they are tools for conjuring justice.

This way of thinking has many genealogies. Here is an incomplete list of the ones that shaped me:

  • Multi-generational, inter-household, gender norm-defying, disability-centric familial formations; parenting as distributed responsibility; cousinhood as a defining (but possibly non-biological) ethical relation; mutual care and solidarity; rituals of escalating hospitality; everyone is an herbalist and every food is medicine; every conversation is comprised of jokes told and translated in multiple languages simultaneously.
  • Decolonial SWANA people helped me understand, amongst other things, the layered impact of imperial conquest, displacement trauma, the Cold War, nuclear waste, the sturgeon, the sea, the mountains, the eryngium, rice, colorism, oil extraction, and liberal models of race on my body.
  • Hacking and tinkering, designing otherwise, a family of designers, collaboratives of MacGyvers taught me that I can maybe try to make that.
  • The hard work of building relationships based in accountability and generosity has taught me that every relationship, whether personal or professional, is designed on its own terms, hopefully through mutual respect. Iterative relationship design is our work in the world.
  • The real and metaphorical seeds that are planted and replanted and saved and shared. The lessons they teach about time and distance.
  • Familial stories of intuition and dreams shaping generation-changing trajectories–intuition as diasporic, refugee survival praxis in the face of displacement and dispossession.
  • Policy debate, and everyone who coached, taught, judged, or partnered with me, and everyone I had the honor of coaching taught me that it can feel good to pay attention. A community that is totally imperfect at accountability and nevertheless driving into it with full force. The trust it takes to argue constantly and share resources while arguing about fairness and accountability. The lab structure as a space of camaraderie and co-mentorship.
  • The genealogy of critical race theory and intersectional feminism as responses to critical legal studies, especially the work of Patricia Williams, Derrick Bell, Kimberle Crenshaw, and Mari Matsuda.
  • For the constant pedagogical work of disruption and rememberance, Black Lives Matter and the Movement for Black Lives.
  • Transformative Justice activists and practitioners, including Miriame Kaba.
  • M. Murphy, especially their work in Sick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty and the Economization of Life. And Seizing the Means of Reproduction, which helped me make sense of the overlaps between scientific and design protocols. Also the ways they model accountability while receiving the Society for Social Studies of Science Fleck Prize in 2019.
  • Bess Williamson shared primary sources that were important for both of our projects, when we were young graduate students working on a very similar topic. She continues to be a model of collaboration and generosity. She introduced me to ANSI A117.1 and Timothy Nugent. Her work on disabled tinkerers and on the history of curb cuts shaped my thinking about crip technoscience.
  • Tanya Titchkosky, Margaret Price, Jay Dolmage, Remi Yergeau, Carrie Sandahl, Robert McRuer, and others taught me about critical access.
  • Corbett O’Toole’s discussion of the Bancroft Library archive’s collections on the disability rights movement shaped my thinking about crip technoscience.
  • The moon, its temporalities, its consistency, its lessons about legibility and illegibility. My grandfather taught me about planting by the moon.
  • The springtime–its consistency and many celebrations.
  • Rosemarie Garland-Thompson, her normate and misfit. Her generosity and consistency. Her introduction to the field of disability studies. She also taught me to write a job letter.
  • Activist responses to the Iraq war, Students and Workers in Solidarity, Occupy, the Nashville Feminist Collective, the Nashville Disability Justice Collective, the Nashville Mutual Aid Collective, and other spaces centered in organizing, strategy, and facilitation as care work taught me that no is a complete sentence and that it is okay to take a break.
  • Trees taught me that there are better ways of doing things.
  • Lichens taught me that I can exist without you, but it’s better when we collaborate.
  • Anson Koch-Rein taught me to eat on a consistent basis. A most life-giving gift.
  • Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge and The Order of Things shaped how I was thinking about “access-knowledge” in Building Access. Before that, Cindi Timmons and Asher Haig helped me read Foucault in high school. Later, Lynne Huffer and Elizabeth Wilson helped me think through epistemology in Foucault. Karen Barad’s concept of onto-epistemology helped me to map out the very noodle-y diagrams in my head and give them some words to live in. I also really benefitted from learning about historical epistemology from Jean-Paul Cauvin and David Peña-Guzman.
  • Deboleena Roy introduced me to feminist technoscience through her mentorship and her graduate courses on “Making Difference” (on race, gender, disability, and science) and Synthetic Biology (a model for art-science-making-doing collaborations). Her project of “asking different questions” shapes everything I do.
  • The Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University let me take summer architectural studio courses as my methods requirement. Ashley Hereen taught me architectural drafting and model-building.
  • Critical Design Lab and the vast webs of collaboration that have formed around it have taught me that carving out spaces for weird work is possible. The idea for a lab came from the lab structure at summer debate camp, and from humanities labs like Jentery Sayers’s MLab and the Humanities Action Lab. It built on experiences working with Deboleena Roy’s pedagogical model of critical theory + pipetting + science-art collaborations. The Critical Design Lab has emerged through the collective efforts of Leah Samples, Kevin Gotkin, Jarah Moesch, Cassandra Hartblay, Kelsie Acton, Josh Halstead, Louise Hickman, Maggie Mang, Rebecca Rahimi, Alesandra Pearson, and Lauren Jones.
  • Alice Wong showed me that archiving disability stories is an anti-eugenic practice.
  • David Serlin taught me how to write a book proposal and edit a special issue.
  • Mia Mingus’s work introduced me to the idea of disability justice. Moya Bailey introduced me to Mingus’s work.
  • Stacey Park Milbern got me thinking about applications of disability justice in space, home, and city.
  • Sara Hendren and Graham Pullin introduced me to the concept/practice of critical design.
  • Mara Mills models generosity and accountability in her work and scholar-activism. She also taught me how to edit a special issue.
  • Kevin Gotkin taught me how to make a podcast and is a constant source of exciting crip design iteration.
  • Starhawk and Charles Williams at Earth Activist Training taught me about permaculture. (Starhawk and Pandora Thomas taught me about social permaculture and alternatives to white dudebro versions of this movement). But the most important writing I have read on permaculture and the problems with it comes from “Whitewashed Hope,” written by 10+ Indigenous leaders and organizations pointing out the flawed approach of regenerative agriculture to the concept of planetary survival.
  • Alice Sheppard taught me that access is an aesthetic.
  • Disability culture taught me the pleasures of crip joy, abundance, generosity, knowledge-sharing, resource redistribution, the willingness to tinker, the willingness to say no, taking care and giving care. Autistic culture taught me that it is okay if all of this makes me exhausted; there are other ways of doing things.
  • Folks with ADHD and the resources of Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity helped me learn how to plan my time effectively.
  • Chronically ill people, folks with chemical injuries, and food-allergic people taught me to measure energy, allocate energy for calling ahead, ask for help, wear a mask, pack my own food, and limit travel.
  • Raquel Velho continues to show me what showing up looks like. She also taught me how to make Pão de Quiejo.
  • Sara Schuster weaves worlds of plants and magic and organizing that I am lucky to be part of on a consistent basis.
  • Ken MacLeish and Laura Stark have shown me the lessons of scaling collaboration based on friendship and interdisciplinary research.
  • Sara Safransky and Tasha Rijke-Epstein teach me about scholarly mutual aid. And cities!
  • Joy Weeber taught me about access activism.
  • Ed Steinfeld, Ronald Mace, and Elaine Ostroff taught me about epistemic activism.
  • Louise Hickman and Shannon Finnegan’s Captioning on Captioning film very clearly demonstrated for me why you need to provide access copies to captioners ahead of an event.
  • Laura Mauldin told me about why “certified Deaf interpreters” are important.
  • Shannon Mattern‘s work has taught me many things, most especially about complexity and experimental form as ways of being in the world.
  • I learned a lot about writing from Eric Hayot’s Elements of Academic Style.
  • Barbara Penner’s observation (in Bathroom) that accessibility guidelines emerged in the Jim Crow era inspired the “All Americans” chapter of Building Access.
  • Beth Thielman continues to remind me that disabled people have been doing the work far longer than anyone has given us credit for.
  • My students remind me several times a week that I need to be more clear in giving directions, and I really appreciate the opportunity to continue practicing asking for what is needed.

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