Traversing the Corporeal Borders Between the “Half-Breed” and The Ice Cream Soda
A Disability Studies Critique of Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil by Mark Schwartz
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 7, 2013 @ 11am in GMCS 333 on the SDSU Main Campus
“Traversing the Corporeal Borders Between the ‘Half-Breed’ and The Ice Cream Soda” examines how Orson Welles’s film noir masterwork Touch of Evil (1958) embodies several major tensions in disability studies critical discourses. Schwartz provides a brief primer on eugenics and disability history, and shows how they relate to Welles’ film. Welles managed to jam a litany of challenging and still timely ideas into one narrative: drug culture in border towns, racial stereotypes, subjugation of the disempowered through abuse of power. It is a thick and textured work that yields great fodder for critical analysis. As the film noir genre frequently offers an antagonistic view to the norms of the community, Touch of Evil functions to disturb notions of class, gender, and race. While Welles may not have had eugenics on his mind when he rendered this tale of corruption and murder, he certainly plays with some central ideas in disability critical theory, like how the hegemonic role of the middle class helps to reinforce perceptions of normalcy, and how those with different bodies are often relegated to the margins. Welles offers a complex view of the border, unsettling how the viewer thinks about citizenship, power and the body.
Mark Schwartz has worked for over twenty years in the disability services field in New York City and earned a Master of Arts in Disability Studies from the City University of New York’s School for Professional Studies. He currently works as the assistant director of the Clinic Program for the Shield Institute, an outpatient clinic that serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities. He has written extensively about complex and frequently deleterious representations of disability in culture and language, and how these representations often reinforce dangerously reductive and demeaning notions about disability. He has also produced videos exploring these themes that have been used as training material within his field.
A Fall 2013 Feature Lecture from MALAS! The Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences @ SDSU