INTIMATE ASSEMBLAGES: DISABILITY, INTERCORPOREALITY, AND THE LABOUR OF ATTENDANT CARE

Kelly Fritsch

Abstract


Attendant care provides an opening to consider the social and political implications of a relational ethics of intercorporeality and exposes the problematic foundation of independent living models that assert a normative encounter between autonomous and sovereign selves. In relation, both the disabled person and the attendant experience a leaking of their identities, a mingling of their sexualities, and multiple intimate slippages of selves as the attendant participates in the daily work of feeding, bathing, shopping, facilitating sex, and numerous other activities. The assemblages formed in such interactions have ethical implications for how we come to understand bodies, labour, and care. This article explores some aspects of the disabled- abled intimate care assemblage to discern its inventive and productive contributions to how we think through and with care. I argue that such an approach to the care assemblage complicates the usual ways in which the attendant is considered an employee. Drawing from the life experiences of disabled lesbian Connie Panzarino and through the example of attendant facilitated sex, I argue that independent living models, in their push for autonomy and independence, and in their formal approaches to employment and care, cannot lead to substantive emancipation for disabled people or others. Instead, I posit that it is through a relational ethics of intercorporeality that we can conceptualize care in a way that benefits disabled people and their attendants. Finally, I draw out the tensions involved in this assemblage to tend to the contradictions and quandaries that the desiring and labouring body faces when intimate care is put to work.

Keywords: disability, assemblage, attendant care, labour, intercorporeality

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