Misfits in the World: Crip Futurities and World-making in Disability Arts

May 28, 2022

Canada (northern Turtle Island)


Dr. Eliza Chandler, Dr. Carla Rice, Lisa East


Dr. Rana El Kadi

In this talk, the speakers speculate upon the anti-assimilationist politics of crip cultural practices within the disability arts sector in northern Turtle Island (Canada). We discuss the ethical and practical complexities of “cripping” our research methodologies and gesturing towards decolonization while collaborating with disability community members.

This talk draws on the speakers’ ongoing participation in Deaf, disability, and mad arts, specifically in North America (Turtle Island), while referring to their conference paper entitled “Misfits in the World: Responding to Cultural Breaks Through Disability Arts” (Chandler, Rice, East, and El Kadi) presented at the Society for Disability Studies 2022 conference.

The speakers introduce and explore the concept of “crip cultural practices,” that is, arts and cultural practices which centre disabled people and their anti-assimilationist politics. They will invite us to consider how, in its beginning, the COVID-19 pandemic served as a cultural disruptor that challenged us all to think about how we gather together in arts and culture. The speakers provide a few key examples of “crip cultural practices” to outline how arts and cultural organizations in Canada have adjusted their practices in response to COVID-19 public health measures. 

The talk was followed by a discussion led by Dr. Rana El Kadi, where EFC members will explore how arts and cultural organizations may transform their pandemic practices into crip cultural practices by seeking out “crip wisdom” (Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, 2016) from disabled artists and curators. We contextualize the speakers’ work within the discourse of “crip futurity” (Alison Kafer 2013), the disruptive, future-oriented politics of disability arts (Sean Lee 2020), and the iterative praxis of “critical access” (Aimi Hamraie 2017). Specifically, we speculate upon anti-assimilationist politics and cultural practices that can help build a new world, or return to old worlds, that centre disability and difference. We further discuss the ethical and practical complexities of “cripping” our research methodologies and gesturing towards decolonization while collaborating with disability community members with intersectional identities and conflicting access needs.

Image based on:

A photo by Michelle Peek Photography capturing Erin Ball’s performance in Crip Shorts at the Cripping the Arts symposium (courtesy of Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology & Access to Life, Re•Vision: The Centre for Art & Social Justice at the University of Guelph)


Dr. Eliza Chandler is an Associate Professor in the School of Disability Studies at Toronto Metropolitan University where she teaches and researches in the areas of disability arts, critical access studies, social movements, and crip necropolitics. Earning her PhD in Social Justice and Education from the University of Toronto in 2014, she leads a research program that centres disability arts. This research interest came into focus when, from 2014-16, she was the Artistic Director of Tangled Art + Disability, an organization in Toronto dedicated to showcasing disability arts and advancing accessible curatorial practice. Chandler co-directs the SSHRC-funded partnership project, Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology, and Access to Life and directs the SSHRC-funded insight development project, Accessing the Arts: Centring Disability Perspectives in Accessibility Initiatives. She regularly gives lectures on disability arts, accessible curatorial practices, and disability politics in Canada. She is also a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars.

Dr. Carla Rice is the Tier I Canada Research Chair in Feminist Studies and Social Practice in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences at the University of Guelph. She is an internationally known feminist scholar whose scholarship focuses on non-normative embodiments, feminist and intersectionality studies, and arts-based research methodologies. Since coming to the University of Guelph in 2011, Dr. Rice founded Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice and the Revisioning Differences Media Arts Laboratory (REDLAB), a cutting-edge community-embedded research creation centre and a state-of-the-art medialab, which seek to explore how communities can mobilize the arts to deepen public dialogue and advance social justice.

Lisa East is a researcher, visual artist and documentarian of European ancestry living as a settler on the traditional dish with one spoon wampum and treaty 13 lands of the Anishnaabe, Haudenonsaunee, Mississaugas of the Credit, the Métis, Inuit and the many First Nations peoples in Tkaronto (Toronto). Earning an MFA in Documentary Media, her interests include counter and community-based archival practices, feminist experimental ethnography and critical disability studies. She works closely with Dr. Eliza Chandler at the School of Disability Studies (Toronto Metropolitan University) as a Research Assistant, most recently on the SSHRC-funded insight development project, Accessing the Arts: Centring Disability Perspectives in Accessibility Initiatives.

Dr. Rana El Kadi is Co-Founder and Curator at Emergent Futures CoLab (EFC), as well as a Research Associate with the School of Disability Studies (Toronto Metropolitan University). She held the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Scholarship during her PhD program in Ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta. As an immigrant settler woman of colour with an invisible disability, Rana has been working alongside communities with lived experience of disability and difference to amplify their voices and co-design arts programs and practices. Her current research interests lie in critical disability studies, disability arts and access, performance and imaginative ethnography, and participatory design. She is a Collaborator on a SSHRC Insight Development Grant entitled “Accessing the Arts: Centring Disability Perspectives in Accessibility Initiatives.” Her publications have appeared in Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies, Popular Music Society, and the edited volume Playing for Keeps: Improvisation in the Aftermath of Crisis.

Talk Citation:

El Kadi, R., Chandler, E., Rice, C., & East, L. (2022). Misfits in the world: Crip futurities and world-making in disability arts. “Talking Uncertainty” podcast, Emergent Futures CoLab, May. https://www.urgentemergent.org/talking-uncertainty/misfitsintheworld

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