Matt Malia

Discourses of Dis-Ability and Direct Action

By, Matt Malia


Discourses of direct action often tend to valorize a particular understanding and spectacle of the image of heroic nighttime animal liberations and daring individual risk takers who intervene in ecological destruction, but at what potential cost? My presentation will explore the rhetoric of direct action, and use of what I call kinetic politics, to explore the ways we discursively are unable to understand how dis-abled animal activists are also able to “put their bodies on the line” in the service of animal liberation and ecological protection. Drawing from personal experience as both an agent of direct action and the brother of an intellectually dis-abled young woman, I wish to illuminate examples of alternate modes of being and cohabiting that are politically driven and consistent with animal liberation, despite not being immediately focused on kinetic action. Demonstrating that “kinetic action” is merely a subset of, rather than a synonym for, “direct action” should assist in opening the field of animal liberation politics to new and previously excluded participants in order to strengthen our political community. Further, by demonstrating that animal liberation advocates are sensitive to and interested in learning more about the unique issues faced by dis-abled members of our community we may be able to construct bridges between the intellectual studies of both issues that may inform us of further, more complex ways to strengthen coalitions between the animal and dis-ability advocacy movements. At a time when dis-abled humans are increasingly faced with opportunities to embrace emerging new technological “cures” for dis-abled conditions, many of which rely on animal exploitation, it is more important than ever for us to seek ways that our political communities can live and do our political work together.


Matthew P. Malia is the Director of Debate at Edgemont High School in Scarsdale, NY and a 2008 BA graduate of Binghamton University. He has been the older brother of a mentally retarded sister for 18 years and a proactive member of the animal and ecological liberation movement for 10 years.


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