Le concept de misfits, avec Garland-Thomson

The concept of misfit emphasizes the particularity of varying lived embodiments and avoids a theoretical generic disabled body; the concept of misfit clarifies the current feminist critical conversation about universal vulnerability and dependence; the concept of misfitting as a shifting spatial and perpetually temporal relationship confers agency and value on disabled subjects.

Dans ce texte, Garland-Thomson propose le processus de fitting and misfitting (qu’on pourrait traduire par accordage et dés-accordage, par adapté et inadapté, ou encore par adéquation et inadéquation — à ma connaissance, il n’y a pas de traduction officielle en français) comme permettant de comprendre toute la variété des expériences “incarnées.”

Fitting and misfitting denote an encounter in which two things come together in either harmony or disjunction. When the shape and substance of these two things correspond in their union, they fit. A misfit , conversely, describes an incongruent relationship between two things: a square peg in a round hole. The problem with a misfit, then, inheres not in either of the two things but rather in their juxtaposition, the awkward attempt to fit them together. When the spatial and temporal context shifts, so does the fit, and with it meanings and consequences. Misfit emphasizes context over essence, relation over isolation, mediation over origination. Misfits are inherently unstable rather than fixed, yet they are very real because they are material rather than linguistic constructions. (…)
The concept of misfitting allows identity theory to consider the particularities of embodiment because it does not rely on generic figures delineated by identity categories.

Ce concept permet de comprendre l’expérience du corps de manière dynamique, évoluant en fonction des situations. Situations qui vont de très difficiles à accessibles. L’article propose de comprendre le handicap comme une diversité humaine, plus que comme un problème ou une limitation fonctionnels.

Misfits can also be agents of recognition who by the very act of misfitting engage in challenging and rearranging environments to accommodate their entrance to and participation in public life as equal citizens.

L’article souligne les ressources et la créativité des personnes en situation de handicap, comme des savoirs alternatifs qui peuvent contribuer à la vie des personnes qui ne sont pas dans cette situation.

Acquiring or being born with the traits we call disabilities fosters an adaptability and resourcefulness that often is underdeveloped in those whose bodies fit smoothly into the prevailing, sustaining environment. This epistemic status fosters a resourcefulness that can extend to the nondisabled and not yet disabled as they relate to and live with people with disabilities.

Pour Garland-Thomson, c’est donc une manière de dépasser les limites du modèle social qui n’est finalement adapté qu’à un type de corps dit handicapé. Et de comprendre ces expériences comme “relationnelles plutôt qu’essentielles” (ce qui rejoint les recherches sur le care).


Garland-Thomson R., Misfits: A Feminist Materialist Disability Concept, Hypatia, vol. 26, no. 3 (Summer, 2011)