A Book Review of Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Care Work: Dreaming of Disability Justice
Care Work (2018) is a remarkable treasure. Combining narrative with critique, it presents an illuminating vision of disability justice by activist educator Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.
Human rights are violated when people are discriminated against on the basis of disability or perceived disability. Leah calls for the elimination of this discrimination while also calling for the acknowledgement that disability affects different people in different ways in relation to factors such as race, gender, class, gender expression, and relations to colonization.
Self-identifying as a queer, disabled, femme writer and artist of Burgher/Tamil and Irish/Roma ascent, Leah shares in this book vital lived experience and knowledge in order to confront oppressive relations such White supremacy and to remind us to imagine possible futures and turn dreams into action and liberation.
Care Work builds upon what activists such as Patty Berne and Sins Invalid addressed as the Ten Principles of Disability Justice. The first of these principles is about intersectionality, which is about how all people carry out multiple identities, how each of these identities can be a site of privilege or oppression, and how understanding disability experience is shaped by factors such as race, gender, class, gender expression, and colonization. Additional principles of disability justice are about promoting leadership of the most affected, challenging capitalism, recognizing the dignity of people and interdependence, and building solidarity and sustainability.
In addition to vivid narrative about creating collective access, building care webs, using social media, and boycotting inaccessible events, a vital contribution of Care Work is to add to discussions about emotional intelligence. Leah emphasizes that to have emotional intelligence is to ask and not assume, to give others the benefit of the doubt, to understand isolation, and to not take everything personally. Their emphasis is also to share resources and to show up, to not shame people and to not offer miracle cures, to understand difficulty, and to ask to help, offer help, and keep offering.
Care Work is a complex text with high aspirations. A reoccurring theme is about collective care. In the words of Leah, “It’s not about self-care - it’s about collective care.” The book advances a much needed vision of community and cooperation based on working together and caring together. In contrast to the dominance of forms of extreme selfishness and cruelty, Care Work presents multiple lessons that many would benefit greatly from.
The book can be obtained via http://brownstargirl.org/care-work-dreaming-disability-justice/
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. (2018). Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press.
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