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I wouldn't want to be anyone else: disabled girlhood and post-ADA structures of feeling

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Spotlighting the figure of the exceptional disabled girl as she circulates in the contemporary mediascape, this dissertation traces how this figure shapes the contours of a post-Americans with Disabilities Act

Spotlighting the figure of the exceptional disabled girl as she circulates in the contemporary mediascape, this dissertation traces how this figure shapes the contours of a post-Americans with Disabilities Act structure of feeling. I contend that the figure of the exceptional disabled girl operates as a reparative future girl. As a reparative figure, she is deployed as a sign of the triumph of U.S. benevolence, as well as a stand-in for the continuing fantasy and potential of the promise of the American dream, or the good life. Affectively managing the fraying of the good life through a shoring up of ablenationalism, the figure of the exceptional disabled girl rehabilitates the nation from a place of ignorance to understanding, from a place of nervous anxiety to one of hopeful promise, and from a precarious present to a not-so-bleak-looking future.

Placing feminist cultural studies theories of affect in conversation with feminist disability studies and girlhood studies, this dissertation maps evocations of disabled girlhood. It traces how certain affective states as an intersubjective glue stick to specific disabled girls’ bodies and how these intersubjective attachments generate an emergent affective atmosphere that attempts to repair the fraying fantasy of the good life. Utilizing affect as methodology and object of analysis, this dissertation interrogates ambivalent visual artifacts: ranging from the “real” figure of the disabled girl through YouTubers, Charisse Living with Cerebral Palsy and Rikki Poynter, to a fictional disabled girl in Degrassi: Next Class; spanning from physically disabled beauty pageant contestants to autistic girls learning how to dance; and, finally, looking to a black disabled girl in her life and death, Jerika Bolen. I contend that through their roles as disability educators, shared objects of happiness and optimism, and pedagogues of death, exceptional disabled girls have been deployed as guides on a new roadmap to ideal, affective post-ADA citizenhood.

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  • 2016

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Getting to be seen: visibility as erasure in media economies of transgender youth

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There is currently a proliferation of images of transgender youth in popular discourse, many of which reflect the threat to capitalist heteronormativity that transgender young people pose to contemporary U.S.

There is currently a proliferation of images of transgender youth in popular discourse, many of which reflect the threat to capitalist heteronormativity that transgender young people pose to contemporary U.S. society. This veritable explosion in media visibility of transgender youth must be critically examined. This dissertation explores media economies of transgender youth visibility by examining media and self-represented narratives by and about transgender young people in contemporary U.S. popular discourse to uncover where, and how, certain young transgender bodies become endowed with value in the service of the neoliberal multicultural U.S. nation-state. As normative transgender youth become increasingly visible as signifiers of the progress of the tolerant U.S. nation, transgender youth who are positioned further from the intelligible field of U.S. citizenship are erased.

Utilizing frameworks from critical transgender studies, youth studies, and media studies, this project illustrates how value is distributed, and at the expense of whom this process of assigning value occurs, in media economies of transgender youth visibility. Discursive analyses of online self-representations, as well as of online representations of media narratives, facilitate this investigation into how transgender youth negotiate the terms of those narratives circulating about them in U.S. contemporary media. This project demonstrates that increases in visibility do not always translate into political power; at best, they distract from the need for political interventions for marginalized groups, and at worst, they erase those stories already far from view in popular discourse: of non-normative transgender youth who are already positioned outside the realm of intelligibility to a national body structured by a heteronormative binary gender system.

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  • 2016