Normative and Crip Time
From exam formats, working patterns, pedestrian crossings at traffic lights, to lifecourse ‘milestones’ such as getting married and having children, conceptualisations of time are dominated by heteronormative and able-bodied/minded narratives. This force often weighs heavily in queer and crip people’s lives, who may find themselves pushed out-of-place and out-of-time (for example, see James Todds’ Exhausting Temporalities).
Crip theory can be positioned as a response to the disciplinary power of normative time. Crip Theory brings together disability, crip, queer, and feminist activism to critique the production of ‘compulsory ablebodiedness’ under capitalism, making crip theory both political and social (see McRuer’s Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability). The purpose of crip theory is to spark a re-imagination of what time and space could look like, away from ‘ideal’ and ‘average’ bodies and minds.
Feminist, Queer, Crip is a must read, particularly for those interested in challenging engrained ideas about time and the future. Alison Kafer’s work establishes crip theory as intrinsically feminist, bringing together matters of care, justice, and solidarity. Kafer carefully unpicks the multiple threads which make up what is referred to as ‘crip time’; defining it as a reorientation of time, ‘not just expanded but exploded’ (p.27). Crip time not only broadens ideas about ‘how long things take’, but also disrupts normative expectations around pace and productivity.
Crip imaginations of the future, also referred to as ‘crip futures’ (see Kafer), are far different from current curative ones where people seek to fix and eradicate sick and Disabled bodies. Instead, crip futures encapsulate the beauty and messiness that comes with difference, and appreciate the power of collectiveness, interdependence, and care. The process of cripping normative time starts with an intense reconsideration of what is possible. In this sense, cripping time is in itself, resistive practice.
Centring the voices of Disabled and/or chronically ill people is vital when discussing the resistive power of crip time. In Six Ways of Looking at Crip Time, Ellen Samuels journeys through her own experiences of crip time. Each of the six ways are worthy of deeper exploration, but for this piece I focus on the framing of ‘crip time as broken time’. According to Samuels, living with impairment and illness ‘requires us to break in our bodies and minds to new rhythms, new patterns of thinking and feeling and moving through the world’ (p.no page).
Samuels points to the embodied nature of crip temporalities and how pain, fatigue, and illness reshapes understandings of time due to the exclusionary principles of dominant temporal structures. Crip time as broken and reoriented time is further encapsulated in Lauren White’s paper Like Clockwork, which applies crip theory to explore the complex temporalities of living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS); demonstrating the (un)predictable daily rhythms of living with bowel related illness.
Research with young people living with an ostomy
In my ongoing research with young people living with an ileostomy or colostomy, participants shared intimate details about their everyday encounters, relationships, and practices. Simply put, ileostomy and colostomy surgery exteriorises a portion of the small or large intestine to divert poo outside of the body. The bowel on the exterior of the body is called an ostomy, also known as a stoma.
The participants’ personal experiences connect through themes of temporality, such as their hopes for the future; decisions about temporary vs permanent surgery; and their conceptualisations of ‘pre-stoma’ and ‘post-stoma’ life as distinct time-spaces. Throughout the research it became evident that young people living with, or who previously lived with, an ileostomy or colostomy were subject to the disciplinary power of normative time, with many talking about their relationship with time as exploded, broken, and endured.
For example, some participants found it difficult to meet the demands of full-time employment due to fluctuating symptoms; identifying as ‘time poor’ because of the number of hospital and toilet visits; as well as sharing how their stoma and diagnosis has, and will, (re)shape their reproductive futures. For example Sophie (pseudonyms used), who had previously undergone ‘reversal’ surgery but was waiting for her stoma to be reformed, explained: