Israel Rodríguez-Giralt

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya


Radicalising through Presence: Disability Activism in the Age of Austerity

The aim of this presentation is to point out a shift within disability activism. I will base my analysis on a comparative study between Spain and the UK. In both cases, I will show, there have been important innovations in the modes of protest, discourses and identities traditionally associated to disability activism. In both countries, these transformations are very much connected to the austerity programmes promoted by Spanish and UK Governments as a way to tackle their budget deficits in the context of a global financial crisis. In Spain, disability activism has been deeply influenced by the so-called 15M, a movement started in 2011 to protest against the Spanish two-party political system, unemployment, welfare cuts and political corruption. In the UK, the resurgence of activism is connected to the creation of new campaigning groups, such as Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), which aim to locate themselves within the mainstream anti-cuts movement. Although there are significant differences among them, both processes share an explicit concern to go beyond traditional identity politics and avoid targeting experts and professionals as the main interlocutors. In both cases, these (re)politicisations are build upon “spatial” forms of protest (Sbicca & Purdue, 2013). Be it camping in the Spanish Squares or organising direct actions in the streets of London, both movements use “presence” and “public space” as means to share and mutualise affects and experiences. This allows them to articulate a new plane of relation -“a fairy dust event” (Pignarre & Stengers, 2011)-, through which they share and unfold new problems, create new rights and “radicalise” a wider and more pluralistic approach to disability.