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The girl in the bubble: an essay on containment

Mulvin, Dylan ORCID: 0000-0002-8925-2460 and McKinney, Cait (2023) The girl in the bubble: an essay on containment. Catalyst, 9 (1). ISSN 2380-3312

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Identification Number: 10.28968/cftt.v9i1.38131


In this essay, we offer a prehistory of contemporary bubbles used in the mitigation of viruses, told through the late 1980s case of Eliana Martínez, an HIV-positive (HIV+) and developmentally disabled Puerto Rican child who was ordered to be confined to a glass chamber within her Florida classroom. Eliana’s mother, Rosa, challenged the use of this chamber as a reasonable disability accommodation in a high-profile lawsuit. We draw on disability studies, critical access studies, and a postcolonial critique to put forward a theory of the bubble as a “structure-within-a-structure”—a zone of limited, restricted, or filtered interaction with the broader social world. Eliana’s bubble demonstrates how institutional practices of accommodation can easily transform into techniques of containment, sanctioned to manage the “infectious subject” within institutions and systems. The bubble is a gathering of social forces and bodily relations. In Eliana’s case, it gathers the necropolitical arrangements of different populations, the coloniality of Puerto Rico, the innocence of childhood, the fatality of an AIDS diagnosis, and the politics of design and disability.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s).
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2023 12:36
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 17:33

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