Whales, Water, and Disability. Towards a Blue Cultural Disability Studies

Katarzyna Ojrzyńska


The article explores possible intersections between cultural disability studies and the blue humanities. It opens with a discussion of cultural representations of atypical aquatic mammals and fish. Yet, the main focus is placed on various contemporary literary texts (Mateusz Pakuła’s Wieloryb: The Globe, John Wilson’sFrom the Depths, and Kaite O’Reilly’s In Water I’m Weightless), which were written either by or for artists with disabilities. As will be shown, all of them allude to water or/and marine environment in order to comment on disability, its social constructedness and context dependence, and the conservation of biological and cultural diversity. In doing so, these texts challenge the fixedness of the disabled/non-disabled binary and subtly hint at a possibility of transgressing the traditional opposition between a human and an animal. This in turn points to the potential of applying the oceanic perspective, or what Philip Steinberg and Kimberley Peters call ‘wet’ and ‘more-than-wet’ ontologies, in disability studies.

Słowa kluczowe: the blue humanities, cultural disability studies, aquatic imagery, wet ontologies, more-than-wet ontologies, disability and marine life, Mateusz Pakuła, John Wilson, Kaite O’Reilly