Edges

For me this space of radical openness is a margin a profound edge. Locating oneself there is difficult yet necessary. It is not a “safe” place. One is always at risk. One needs a community of resistance.

Living as we did on the edge we developed a particular way of seeing reality. We looked both from the outside in and from the inside out. We focused our attention on the centre as well as on the margin. We understood both.

Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness, bell hooks

Disabled and neurodivergent people are always edge cases, and edge cases are stress cases.

For me this space of radical openness is a margin a profound edge. Locating oneself there is difficult yet necessary. It is not a “safe” place. One is always at risk. One needs a community of resistance.

Living as we did on the edge we developed a particular way of seeing reality. We looked both from the outside in and from the inside out. We focused our attention on the centre as well as on the margin. We understood both. This mode of seeing reminded us of the existence of a whole universe, a main body made up of both margin and centre. Our survival depended on an ongoing public awareness of the separation between margin and centre and an ongoing private acknowledgement that we were a necessary, vital part of that whole. This sense of wholeness, impressed upon our consciousness by the structure of our daily lives, provided us with an oppositional world view a mode of seeing unknown to most of our oppressors, that sustained us, aided us in our struggle to transcend poverty and despair, strengthened our sense of self and our solidarity.

Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness, bell hooks

Our designs, our societies, and the boundaries of our compassion are tested at the edges, where the truths told are of bias, inequality, injustice, and thoughtlessness.

What Lorde and other black feminists … realized was that the more dehumanized groups a person belongs to, the more their experience forces them to understand about the way society is structured: what and who it takes for granted, the truths about itself it chooses to ignore, who is doing the truly essential work.

Letters To My Weird Sisters: On Autism and Feminism

Though incomplete I was working in these statements to identify marginality as much more than a site of deprivation, in fact I was saying just the opposite: that it is also the site of radical possibility, a space of resistance. It was this marginality that I was naming as a central location for the production of a counter hegemonic discourse that is not just found in words but in habits of being and the way one lives. As such I was not speaking of a marginality one wishes to lose to give up or surrender as part of moving into the centre but rather as a site one stays in, clings to even because it nourishes one’s capacity to resist. It offers to one the possibility of radical perspective from which to see and create, to imagine alternatives, new worlds.

I am waiting for them to stop talking about the “other”, to stop even describing how important it is to be able to speak about difference. It is not just important what we speak about but how and why we speak. Often this speech about the “other” is also a mask, an oppressive talk hiding gaps, absences, that space where our words would be if we were speaking, if there was silence, if we were there. This “we” is that us in the margins, that “we” who inhabit marginal space that is not a site of domination but a place of resistance. Enter that space. Often this speech about the “other” annihilates, erases. No need to hear your voice when I can talk about you better than you can speak about yourself. No need to hear your voice. Only tell me about your pain. I want to know your story. And then I will tell it back to you in a new way. Tell it back to you in such a way that it has become mine, my own. Re-writing you I write myself a new. I am still author, authority. I am still the coloniser, the speaking subject and you are now at the centre of my talk. We greet you as liberators. This “we” is that us in the margins, that “we” who inhabit marginal space that is not a site of domination but a place of resistance. Enter that space. This is an intervention. I am writing to you. I am speaking from a place in the margins where I am different, where I see things differently. I am talking about what I see.

Speaking from margins. Speaking in resistance. I open a book. There are words on the back cover NEVER IN THE SHADOWS AGAIN. A book which suggests the possibility of speaking as liberators. Only who is speaking and who is silent. Only who stands in the shadows — the shadow in a doorway, the space where images of black women are represented voiceless, the space where our words are invoked to serve and support, the space of our absence.

Silenced. We fear those who speak about us who do not speak to us and with us. We know what it is like to be silenced. We know that the forces that silence us because they never want us to speak differ from the forces that say speak, tell me your story. Only do not speak in the voice of resistance. Only speak from that space in the margin that is a sign of deprivation, a wound, an unfulfilled longing. Only speak your pain.

This is an intervention. A message from that space in the margin that is a site of creativity and power, that inclusive space where we recover ourselves, where we move in solidarity to erase the category colonised/coloniser. Marginality as site of resistance. Enter that space. Let us meet there. Enter that space. We greet you as liberators.

I am located in the margin. I make a definite distinction between that marginality which is imposed by oppressive structures and that marginality one chooses as site of resistance as location of radical openness and possibility. This site of resistance is continually formed in that segregated culture of opposition that is our critical response to domination. We come to this space through suffering and pain, through struggle. We know struggle to be that which is difficult, challenging, hard and we know struggle to be that which pleasures, delights, and fulfills desire. We are transformed, individually, collectively, as we make radical creative space which affirms and sustains our subjectivity, which gives us a new location from which to articulate our sense of the world.

Spaces can be real and imagined. Spaces can tell stories and unfold histories. Spaces can be interrupted, appropriated and transformed through artistic and literary practice.

Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness, bell hooks

Learn more about margins and edges in our essay, “Choosing the Margin: Design is Tested at the Edges“.

I think it’s about time we start listening to women.

I think it’s about time we start listening to people of color.

I think it’s about time we start listening to Queer folk.

When they get the radical idea that maybe they can take their own matters into their own hands.

Can you imagine?

This is a song about that.

Finding out if you’re flesh and you’re bone.

Sammy Rae & The Friends “Flesh & Bone” (Live at the Sinclair-2/8/20) – YouTube

Further reading,

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic parent and retired tech worker. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they

Navigating Stimpunks

Need financial aid to pay for bills or medical equipment? Visit our guide to requesting aid.

 

Need funds for your art, advocacy, or research? Visit our guide to requesting creator grants.

 

Want to volunteer? Visit our guide to volunteering.

 

Need a table of contents and a guide to our information rich website? Visit our map.