University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Warrior Mothers and Immunity Moms: Motherhood, Neoliberalism, and Autism. Jigna Desai, April 27, 2015

Warrior Mothers and Immunity Moms:
Motherhood, Neoliberalism, and Autism

Monday, April 27, 2015, at Noon
Northrop — Crosby Seminar Room (240)

A talk by Jigna Desai, Professor of Gender, Women, & Sexuality and Asian American Studies

Download: audio, small video, or original.


Download: audio, small video, or original.

When the measles outbreak in Disneyland led to the infection of dozens of people in more than half a dozen states some people realized it was not the happiest place on earth. With additional cases emerging the US, including a case independent of the Disneyland outbreak at the University of Minnesota recently, the United States has already had more cases of measles in the first month of 2015 than the number that is typically diagnosed in a full year prior to 2014. This follows a year in which the number of cases was several times more than the average since 2000, when the disease was declared eliminated in the United States. There are many assumptions and much animosity about why measles is having a resurgence. Prof. Desai provides some context for understanding the practices of vaccine resistance/hesitance by reading anxieties around measles and fears about autism within the context of neoliberal motherhood.

Autism is understood to be a complex spectrum of neurodevelopmental disabilities that is usually identified in young children and characterized by communication, affect, sensory-motor, and/or social challenges. Neural knowledge is transforming how we identify, understand, and manage personhood and citizenship vis-a-vis conceptions of “normal” and “abnormal” brains. Rose and Novas describe a new kind of citizenship – biological citizenship – that takes shape through biomedicine, genomics, and biotechnology. For Rose and Novas, biological citizenship projects describe the ways that state power and biological knowledge identify, mark, and act upon individuals as part of populations. Similarly, neural citizenship refers to citizenship projects that link neuroscientific knowledge, biopolitics, and state power. This presentation delves into the neoliberal feminism of autism rescue mothers through an analysis of their mobilization of individual misery and insecurity as justification for vaccine resistance within neural and biological citizenship.

Jigna Desai is Professor of Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies and Asian American Studies, with departmental affiliations in American Studies and Asian Languages & Literatures. Her areas of expertise include Asian American literature and media, feminist theory, postcolonial studies, queer/sexuality studies, South Asian diasporas, critical disability studies, autism, and neuronormativity. Her most recent research examines how neural knowledge about autism shapes our social, political, and material worlds nationally and transnationally, and raises questions about the meaning of autism and about the ways neural knowledge and neuro-normativity (e.g., the hegemony of “normal brains and cognition”) increasingly form and inform societies and citizenship in the new millennium.

Prof. Desai has also been interviewed by the Bat of Minerva.

jigna desai warrior mothers

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