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Enduring Rehabilitation and Addressing Alterity: Interventions in American Cultures of Care and Cure

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My dissertation, “Enduring Rehabilitation and Addressing Alterity: Interventions within American Cultures of Care and Cure,” investigates how various discourses of rehabilitation signal American investments in normality: heteronormativity, ability or able-bodiedness, whiteness, and middle- to upper-class status, all of which become obscured by the rehabilitative demand for recovery. Providing background for my project, scholars such as Henri-Jacques Stiker (2000), Ruth O’Brien (2001), Alison Kafer (2013), Eli Clare (2017), and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (2018) have explored disability and its relation to rehabilitative processes of recovery, modes of curative healing, and care, which I extend to argue that rehabilitation centers the ableist insistence on cure in not just a medicalized sense, but also as a socialized conception of cure. David Serlin (2004) has addressed rehabilitation in relation to medical technologies used for rehabilitation in postwar America, framing rehabilitation through lenses of medicalization, normalization, and the relation between the individual and the collective, while Robert McRuer (2006) has connected HIV/AIDS and rehabilitation for queer, disabled, or crip identities, which contributes to my thinking on rehabilitation as enacting processes of normalization and as functioning for assimilation and (re)integration. Finally, Mariana Valverde (1998), Angela Garcia (2010), Kane Race (2009), and Paul Preciado (2013) have examined alcohol, drugs, addiction, and substance use in relation to the will, pathology, pleasure, sexuality, and understandings of identity and forms of social and cultural belonging, allowing me to think more deeply about the individual who undergoes rehabilitation, and the ways in which they are differentially framed as addicts, patients, or prisoners. I unite and extend this work to argue that rehabilitation, emerging from and activating the contexts of disability, queerness, addiction, pathology, medicalization, and criminology, problematically forwards an uncontested relation between recovery, normality, and integration. I critique rehabilitation for its logic of governmentality, sustained through a range of rehabilitative sites, programs, and practices, which I argue are oriented around a fantasized American conception that healing and health is available and accessible for all. In making visible the inequities within rehabilitation as well as the normalizing impulse of the rehabilitation system, I advocate for new modes of healthcare that recognize the social constructedness of identity and the systemic forms of discrimination, racism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia, and nativist and anti-immigrant sentiment, all of which contribute to conditions that seem to require rehabilitative healing. Additionally, I examine rehabilitation to reveal how its modes of healing reflect and reproduce problematic, discriminatory, racist, and violent ways of administering care, which operate in alignment with persistent investments in normality and in response to capitalist and necropolitical distributions of death and life. Each chapter presents a case study of rehabilitation and rehabilitative discourse from the 1940s to our contemporary moment, moving from a state-sanctioned site for the reintegration of veterans as citizens, to a private program attempting to integrate addicts with the land, to a set of collective, activist projects to transform the culture in which ill and addicted people live.

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This item is under embargo until June 21, 2027.