'The Last Dance': Pain, Disability, and the Case of Jerika Bolen

Alyson Patsavas
2019 Czech Sociological Review  
In the summer of 2016, black, disabled, and gay 14yearold Jerika Bolen announced her decision to die. The public conversation surrounding Bolen's decision, launched through a series of newspaper articles announcing a 'last dance' prom, offers a casestudy through which to explore how pain frustrates an analysis of the biopolitical formations that shape both rightto die discussions and decisions. In doing so, this article offers two interven tions. It reveals how dominant views of pain and
more » ... of pain and disability shape and limit how we make sense of Jerika's life and death. It also highlights the analytical leverage that this critical approach offers by reading Bolen's death as a form of what critical theorist Lauren Berlant calls 'slow death' or the gradual wearing out of populations. In this way, I extend conversations within critical theory that seek to trace the slower and more sustained impacts of structural oppres sion. In looking at the convergence of the biopolitics and necropolitics of dis ability, race, class, gender, and sexuality, I suggest Bolen's death and the 'last dance' that launched an international public conversation about it function as a celebration of slow death facilitated, in part, by dominant views of pain and disability.
doi:10.13060/00380288.2019.55.5.480 fatcat:qxgwehi4bndofoa2gflem725fu