Diminished Faculties: A Political Phenomenology of Impairment
In Diminished Faculties Jonathan Sterne offers a sweeping cultural study and theorization of impairment. Drawing on his personal history with thyroid cancer and a paralyzed vocal cord, Sterne undertakes a political phenomenology of impairment in which experience is understood from the standpoint of a subject that is not fully able to account for itself. He conceives of impairment as a fundamental dimension of human experience, examining it as both political and physical. While some impairments are enshrined as normal in international standards, others are treated as causes or effects of illness or disability. Alongside his fractured account of experience, Sterne provides a tour of alternative vocal technologies and practices; a study of "normal" hearing loss as a cultural practice rather than a medical problem; and an intertwined history and phenomenology of fatigue that follows the concept as it careens from people to materials science to industrial management to spoons. Sterne demonstrates how impairment is a problem, opportunity, and occasion for approaching larger questions about disability, subjectivity, power, technology, and experience in new ways. Diminished Faculties ends with a practical user's guide to impairment theory.
About the Author
Jonathan Sterne is James McGill Professor, Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University, and author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format and The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, both also published by Duke University Press, and is editor of The Sound Studies Reader. He also makes music and other audio works. Visit his website at https: //sterneworks.org