by Erez Ben-Akiva
Crip Theory is a subset of critical disability theory. However, the field itself specifically highlights the influence of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s definition of intersectionality and how it has permeated all different kinds of theory. Namely, Crip Theory is the combination of queer theory and disability theory. To be clear, disability theory analyzes disability as a phenomenon with cultural, historical, social, and political ramifications. Nevertheless, while crip theory is derived from disability theory, it in fact utilizes queer theory in developing new analyses.
Indeed, there is signifigant overlap between queer theory and critical disability theory, thus making the intersection of the two a deeply interesting form of analysis. For instance, queer theory and critical disability theory both possess long histories of challenging standard medical practices. The AIDS epidemic might serve as a prominent example of how these two fields of theory work with and off each other. Moreover, both queer theorists and disability theorists discuss social obstacles (like passing and coming out), fully demonstrating the value of the intersectional Crip Theory. Crip theorists, such as Robert McRuer, insist that disability theory requires queer theory and is thus inherently intersectional. For example, the study of able-bodiedness is entirely relevant to the study of heterosexuality, and in fact, sexuality represents a large portion of crip theorists’ analyses and discussions.
There is also contextual history behind the emergence of Crip Theory. That is, the first generation of disability theorists were largely white, middle-class, disabled Americans. Perhaps influenced by Crenshaw’s original call for intersectionality, a second generation of critical disability theorists made a noticeable effort to discuss the intersection of disability with gender, queerness, race, and class among other things. Additionally, disability literature from this generation of theorists became far more diverse and globalized.
Some examples of the specific discussions crip theorists present might better illuminate this intersectional field. Eli Clare, for one, has written on the intersection of the queer and disabled experience in both a personal and political context. Lydia X. Z. Brown, for another example, has theorized the autistic perspective of sexuality and relationships. Michael Gill has discussed intellectual disability and its relationship with sexual agency, abuse, and consent. So, while Kimberlé Crenshaw first coined the term “intersectionality” strictly in relation to Black Feminism, the concept has clearly had an impact on all theory as a whole.
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Gill, Michael. “Rethinking Sexual Abuse, Questions of Consent, and Intellectual Disability.” Sexuality Research and Social Policy, vol. 7, no. 3, 2010, p. 201-213. Accessed 24 Mar. 2021.
McRuer, Robert. "As Good As It Gets: Queer Theory and Critical Disability." GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, vol. 9 no. 1, 2003, p. 79-105. Project MUSE muse.jhu.edu/article/40800. Accessed 24 Mar. 2021.
Davis, Lennard, and Carlos Clarke Drazen. "Disability Studies and Cultural Studies." The Encyclopedia of Literary and Cultural Theory, Ed. Michael Ryan, Wiley, 1st edition, 2011. Credo Reference, http://libproxy.union.edu/login?auth=shibboleth&url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/wileylitcul/disability_studies_and_cultural_studies/0?institutionId=5120. Accessed 24 Mar. 2021.
Hall, Melinda C., "Critical Disability Theory", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2019/entries/disability-critical/. Accessed 24 Mar. 2021.
Löfgren-Mårtenson, L. “Hip to be Crip?” About Crip Theory, Sexuality and People with Intellectual Disabilities.” Sex Disabil 31,2013, p. 413–424. Accessed 24 Mar. 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11195-013-9287-7.