Talk Title: Targeting the Busy Body: A Hyper-embodied Embrace of Mortality

Abstract: Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock reveals the ‘ability bridge’ that human bodies move back and forth along throughout our lives.  Each of us is suspended in our flesh somewhere between “gold-medal Olympic athlete” and “dead,” with the potential for our identities to shift positions from moment to moment. Through personal story-telling and insights of living in a diagnosed cerebral palsied body, she confronts the fear of mortality. She asserts that we reject, restrict, and perpetuate falsehoods about bodies deemed ‘disabled’ because they remind of the inescapable vulnerability of our mortal embodiments.  The creation of an artificial binary between able and disabled bodies allows bodies deemed healthy to ignore their own mortality through tacking their discomfort to bodies marked as ‘disabled.’  She redefines and reclaims the term “hyper-embodiment” to describe the mindful embracing of the inescapable susceptibility of our bodies to change.  In exchange, she offers hope for an inclusive, adaptable culture that moves with us long the ability bridge.  She explains culture is created through human being’s ongoing interactions.  As a result, shared hyper-embodied consciousness allows humans to create an inclusive culture that eases our fears surrounding our mortality and breaks down the artificial binary between able/well and disabled/sick bodies.  A hyper-embodied culture consciously draws upon concepts of universal design to build infrastructure, arranges schedules, and constructs work environments that flex around our changing bodies rather than cutting them off from valued cultural spaces and roles when they are deemed to ‘sick’ or ‘disabled’ to be fully and meaningful included.

Bio: Julie-Ann is a professor of Communication Studies at UNC-Wilmington with specialization in storytelling, performance and stigmatized identity.  She is the recipient of the UNCW Distinguished Professorship, the Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence, Distinguished Scholar and Public Service award, Wilma Magazine’s woman to watch in education and the YWCA’s woman of achievement in education.  In addition her book ‘Embodied Performance as Applied art and pedagogy’ received the 2018 book of the year in Ethnography from the National Communication Association. As a disabled woman, her storytelling research focuses on how we can learn to embrace our mortality and accept our movement across the unstable “bridge of ability” throughout our lifetimes. Embracing instead of fearing our embodied vulnerability can lead to empathy, human connection and social justice. Her book explores this topic, using the term “hyper-embodiment” to describe the body they embraced rather than the fears of their mortality.  It seeks to create a culture that adapts with our changing embodiments.