Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Reflections on Crip Imitations as Cultural Space-Making

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2021), 15, (4), 383–399.


The article reflects on the complexities of deploying imitation as a performance theme within disability arts. The authors are animated by disability arts curator Amanda Cachia’s 2019 exhibition, Automatisme Ambulatoire: Hysteria, Imitation, and Performance, which showcased disabled and nondisabled artists exploring the cultural dynamics of imitation through the performing arts. The article begins by considering how imitation enacts proximal familiarity with difference by discussing disability simulation activities, actor training systems, and forms of cultural appropriation. A disability studies framework is employed to consider how artists engage imitation as an element of disability aesthetics. The analysis is developed in conversation with four examples of disability performance—Helen Dowling’s Breaker, Claire Cunningham’s tributary, Sins Invalid’s performance An Unshamed Claim to Beauty, and Jess Thom’s rendition of Samuel Beckett’s Not I. The article posits that by enacting imitation as a performance theme, disabled artists resist notions that imitation is reserved for bodies read as “neutral,” and attend to how imitation brings disability artists into a complex dynamic of political relationality.

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Author details

Chandler, Eliza

Johnson, Megan