Arseli Dokumaci: Abstract and Biography

Arseli Dokumaci

Abstract: “Misfires that Matter: Disabled Ways of Affording the Everyday”

In his concept of the “absent body,” Drew Leder (1990) argues that people barely pay attention to the movements of their limbs or to the surfaces and textures that they are in contact with throughout their habituated ways of moving through the everyday. But when they suddenly hit something and fall onto the ground, a feeling of acute pain strikes. It becomes impossible to be unaware of the weight of one’s bones, the vulnerability of one’s skin or the stiffness of the concrete.

This presentation addresses a similar kind of awareness that arises when disability disrupts the harmony between the body and its environment. It involves a series of video clips and testimonies in which individuals with various kinds of visible and invisible disabilities perform or talk about mundane activities of the everyday. Drawing on James Gibson’s “theory of affordances” (1986), I invite the audience to think about how disabled individuals might challenge the invisible norms of the everyday by inventing new tactics and action possibilities within which their bodily differences and physical suffering are welcomed and recognized. Deploying the theory of affordances from a performance perspective, I claim that these improvisations are performances as affordance creations where the actions of the body become a tool to reshape the relationship between its inside and outside and create new ways of doing bodies in the everyday.

Biography: Arseli Dokumaci is a Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture (FQRSC) postdoctoral fellow at McGill University’s Department of Social Studies of Medicine. She received her PhD in performance studies at Aberystwyth University and completed postdoctoral research at Concordia University’s Mobile Media Lab, where she still works as a research associate. Her work focuses on the intersections of disability and performance, with an emphasis on everyday life performances, visual ethnography and measurements of disability in medicine. Arseli is also a video-maker and has created several videos, including “Misfires that Matter: Invisible Disabilities and Performances of the Everyday” (2012), “Misfire, ‘Mis’perform, Manifest: Disability and Everyday life” (2014) and “Blindness, Techno-affordances and Participation in Everyday Life” (2014). Her research has appeared in Performance Research; Wi: Journal of Mobile Media; MISperformance: Essays in Shifting Perspectives (Maska, 2014) and Disability in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Palgrave, 2011). Arseli is the co-convener of Performing Disability/Enabling Performance Work Group at Encuentro and the Chair of Constituency Groups at Performance Studies international.

Read an interview with Arseli Dokumaci about Radical Affordances here.

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