Each day over the next week I’ll post up an abstract for a paper being presented by a member of the Critical Physiotherapy Network at the In Sickness and In Health conference in Mallorca in June 2015. (You can find more information on the conference here.)
Mobilizing Desire: A Deleuzian re-formation of movement
By Barbara Gibson & David Nicholls
In the field of rehabilitation medicine, enabling mobility is a primary focus of intervention. Mobilities establish one’s place in the world both in terms of material location and through the meanings assigned to different bodily movements and configurations. For example, wheelchairs and walkers allow access to the world but also mark the body as ‘other’. Our intent in this presentation is to surface the normative meanings of mobilities in the practice physical rehabilitation, and the possibilities for a reconfigured approach. To do so we draw on Deleuze’s notion of desire-as-movement. Desire in the Deleuzian sense radically differs from the notion of ‘wanting’ conceived as a compulsion to address a lack. Instead desire is a force of production, a fundamental flow of energy that moves towards something new, to connect and reconnect, to move and experiment. Movements are everywhere in rehabilitation and act on, with, and between body-subjects. Moving bodies are reconfigured from moment to moment through various temporary attachments that enact action. Some reconfigurations are socially valorized (‘enhancements’), others are stigmatized (‘dependencies’) but all are re-formations of self. Rehabilitation risks reproducing the normative body through promoting or discouraging different forms of mobility, but it could also be a key site for change. Drawing on three mobility examples – amputee mobilities, crawling mobilities, and wheelchair mobilities – we will suggest that rehabilitation practices oriented to helping disabled people look and move like others can limit creative innovation. We will explore the possibilities for freeing up ‘desire’ through a reimagined rehabilitation that asks: What can a body do? Such a move abandons the categories of disabled/nondisabled, normal/abnormal because they are no longer helpful in enabling human flourishing. Reimagining the ontology of the body-subject creates opportunities for new and contingent ways of doing-in-the-world that do not rely on preconceived ways of moving or uses of technologies. The project for rehabilitation becomes one of unleashing desire, that is, analyzing which movements and connections produce what effects, and sorting through how to maximize potentially fruitful attachments. Dispensing with the moral ordering of right and wrong ways to move opens up desire’s potential for pleasure, possibility and opportunity.