Up The Ramp, But Not In The Door

A work-in-progress ethnographic performance by Cassandra Hartblay
April 30, 2012
in Renee Alexander Craft’s Fieldwork Methods in Performance Ethnography Seminar

This work experiments with potential performative presentation styles for life history interviews conducted with women who are disability rights activists in contemporary Russia. Encouraging critical thinking about both the origins of able-bodiedism as a prejudice, and about the stereotypes about Russia that circulate in American popular discourse, the work is pitched to American university students, educated general audiences, as well as fellow scholars. In this iteration, the ethnographer embodies and performs excerpts from life history interviews, interspersed with critical commentary. Here the real names of the women represented are replaced with psuedonyms. 

I.Slides and Bodies
a critical commentary
II. Elena Konstantinovna: An Empty Building
Elena, a youthful 42, is the co-director of a non-profit organization lobbying for rights of people with disabilities in Ulan Ude, the capital city of Buryatia. When I interviewed her, she had recently been elected to the city council. She uses a wheelchair, unable to use her legs following a car accident in her late twenties.  She is fluent in Russian and French, and earned a degree in Women’s Studies at Montreal university.
III. Unstacking Stereotypes
a critical commentary
IV. Nina Anatolevna: Up the Ramp, but Not in the Door
Nina is an English language teacher at the city’s premiere foreign language high school. She is the mother of a 22-year-old daughter, Sveta, with Cerebral Palsy, who uses a wheelchair. Nina fought throughout the difficult years of the 1990s to raise her daughter, going against medical advice to keep Sveta out of an institution and to make sure that she received an education.