Social Text 148
Drawing together feminist- and queer-of-color critique with disability theory, this essay offers a literary-cultural reframing of the welfare queen in light of critical discourses of disability. It does so by taking up the discourse of dependency that casts racialized, low-income, and disabled populations as drains on the state, reframing this discourse as a potential site of coalition among antiracist, anticapitalist, and feminist disability politics. Whereas antiwelfare policy cast independence as a national ideal, this analysis of the welfare mother elaborates a version of disability and women-of-color feminism that not only takes dependency as a given but also mines the figure of the welfare mother for its transformative potential. To imagine the welfare mother as a site for reenvisioning dependency, this essay draws on the “ruptural possibilities” of minority literary texts, to use Roderick A. Ferguson’s coinage, and places Sapphire's 1996 novel Push in conversation with Jesmyn Ward's 2011 novel Salvage the Bones. Both novels depict young Black mothers grappling with the disabling context of public infrastructural abandonment, in which the basic support systems for maintaining life—schools, hospitals, social services—have become increasingly compromised. As such, these novels enable an elaboration of a critical disability politic centered on welfare queen mythology and its attendant structures of state neglect, one that overwrites the punitive logics of public resource distribution. This disability politic, which the author terms crip-of-color critique, foregrounds the utility of disability studies for feminist-of-color theories of gendered and sexual state regulation and ushers racialized reproduction and state violence to the forefront of disability analysis.
disability, queer-of-color critique, women-of-color feminisms, welfare, mother, care
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Kim, Jina B., "Cripping the Welfare Queen: The Radical Potential of Disability Politics" (2021). English Language and Literature: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.