On the last episode The Verso Podcast before the new year, Eleanor Penny is joined by Lynne Segal and Loree Erickson to discuss the myth of total independence, disability as a social construct, and the politics of care. In a conversation that ranges from the gendering, racialisation, and devaluation of caring labour, to abolitionism and disability activism, Loree and Lynne unpack the deep connections between autonomy and dependence, whilst suggesting ways to reimagine care outside of institutions that want to make it all about control.
In Tennessee Williams’ renowned play, A Streetcar Named Desire, a stricken southern belle, Blanche Dubois, is forced to throw herself on the mercy of her poorer sister and her husband. As a nearly-catatonic Blanche is ushered off by doctors, she speaks the famous last line - “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” The line is presented as tragic - after all, capitalism demands that we be independent above all things. The ideal subject of modernity should be self reliant, go-getting, an individual capable of providing for their own needs without troubling other people - except perhaps in competition.
But why should this be so, when the reality of human existence - and indeed the reality of our economy - is far messier, far more interconnected, far more interdependent than that story will admit. So what if we embraced that fact? What if we started to build a politics of care founded on the assumption that everywhere, people need people. Where illness, disability, parenthood, ageing, and mutual vulnerability were not seen as exceptions to be shoved to the margins of society. Lynne and Loree have spent decades writing about what this future might look like - and organising to make it happen.
Loree Erickson is the Ethel Louise Armstrong postdoctoral fellow at Ryerson’s School of Disability Studies. She is the creator of want, an internationally award-winning queercrip porn film, and a community organiser. She has worked with 81 Reasons, Prisoner Justice Action Coalition, Queers Crash the Beat and was a founding member of DAMN 2025, and Acsexxxible.
Lynne Segal is Anniversary Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck College. Her books include Is the Future Female? Troubled Thoughts on Contemporary Feminism, Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men, and Straight Sex: Rethinking the Politics of Pleasure. Her latest title Lean On Me: A Politics of Radical Care was published this November by Verso Books
This will be the last episode in this second season of the newly relaunched Verso Podcast. We’ll be back with a third run of new and exciting shows in 2024 - bringing you even more of the world’s leading activists, academics, thinkers, and authors. Happy holidays, and see you in the new year.
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