The following excerpt is from “Nothing Without Us: Simi Linton Delivers the 2016 Rudin Lecture” by Cody Gambino, which appeared in The Monitor:
Simi Linton gave her lecture in The Theresa Lang Theatre to an overflowing audience of students, faculty, staff, and community members. Linton’s lecture was presented in what she called five chapters: Waking Up, Deploying the bodies we have in the service of art (Insider Art), Disability History, RAMPS, and Theatre. Her first chapter, Waking Up, began with a video of President-Elect Donald J. Trump mocking a disabled journalist, Serge Kovaleski who suffers from anthrogryposis. It also featured videos like Lauren and Chris Glaros, parents of a disabled child in an ad paid for by a Democratic Super PAC reacting to Trump, disabilities rights activist Anastasia Samoza, and lawyer Dynah Haubert, who works for a disability rights organization. The video shows Haubert at the Democratic National Convention saying, “As a disabled person, I became a lawyer to advocate that disability is not a problem to be cured, but a part of our identity and diversity. And that’s why on the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I’m with her.”
With chapter one of her lecture, Linton set the tone of her discussion, explaining that there is a disconnect between what the general public thinks about disabilities and what disabled people want, need, and think. She reinforced this by shortening the slogan of the Disability Rights Movement from “Nothing About Us Without Us” to “Nothing Without Us.” She then continued through her four other chapters, discussing how disabled artists engage their bodies in their art. She talked about performance artist Cerebral Pussy, who uses her body and movements to create art that highlights the subject position of the disabled body in an ableist society. Linton offered numerous other examples of artists, dancers, and theatrical productions that raise important questions within the disabled community and society at large.
On the wake of an election that has been very divisive, there is an importance to events like the Rudin Lecture. Conversations on diversity and inclusivity become all the more important in an environment where specific voices and people are told they belong in the margin. Simi Linton’s words and optimism reflect the culture of the College and the hope of its future.
About Simi Linton: Simi Linton is an author, filmmaker, and arts consultant. Her writings include Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity, My Body Politic, and the essay “Cultural Territories of Disability” in Disability. Dance. Artistry., published by Dance/NYC.She is the subject of the documentary film Invitation to Dance, which she and Christian von Tippelskirch directed and produced. Linton’s consultancy practice, Disability/Arts, works to shape the presentation of disability in the arts. Projects include events at the Public Theater, Writers’ Guild of America, HBO headquarters, the Smithsonian, Margaret Mead Film Festival, as well as ongoing advisor to Inclusion in the Arts (2006-present), and DanceNYC [2015-present]. Linton holds an undergraduate degree from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from New York University. She was a Mary E. Switzer Distinguished Fellow, US Department of Education (1995-1996), Co-Director of the University Seminar in Disability Studies at Columbia University (2003-2007), and Presidential Visiting Scholar at Hofstra University (2006). Linton was on faculty at CUNY from 1985-1998. She received the 2015 Barnard College Medal of Distinction, an honorary Doctor of Arts from Middlebury College (2016), and was recently appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to New York City’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission.
About the The Jack and Lewis Rudin Distinguished Visiting Scholars Program: This program was established at Marymount Manhattan College in 2000 through a grant from The Rudin Foundation, Inc. Both Jack Rudin and the late Lewis Rudin have been well known throughout New York for the extraordinary contributions they have made to enhance the quality of living and working in New York City, and for their generous support of education, health, the arts and other civic, religious and cultural causes. Marymount Manhattan is honored to be the recipient of this special grant. This lecture builds upon the College’s commitment to academic excellence and its distinctive undergraduate programs in the liberal arts.