Pace and place: disability politics at desert speeds

Pace and place: disability politics at desert speeds

An interview with Naomi Ortiz

“From belly button to umbilical cord to roots, Naomi Ortiz traces the relationships between body and place in her work. In the opening of Sustaining Spirit, Ortiz asks: “¿y donde esta tu ombligo? Where are you centered or rooted? How does your body connect with where you are right now?”[1] She asks readers to conceive of themselves as interconnected with their communities and their material world. Ortiz herself is rooted in the desert and in the disability justice community. Having been the director of the national Kids As Self Advocates project and the Southern Arizona chapter of Help Increase the Peace, among many others, she highlights the relationship between acts of self-care, acts of community care, and the ecologies these acts take place in.[2]

As a site-specific author, Ortiz writes from her connection to the desert of Arizona. She describes how where she is shapes what she writes. Her method is one “about … sitting and developing relationships with the spot of land that I am on. There’s so much that the desert gives me through attention and observation. It’s reciprocal. I think that it appreciates being seen.”[3] While popular nature writers have historically emphasized Man against the elements narratives, Ortiz’s take on nature writing is impacted by access to trails her scooter can travel down and is situated near people (whether she wants them around or not). She says of herself as a nature writer, “my relationship with nature … it’s not going to be taking a four-day hike, backpacking in the middle of nowhere. It’ll be sitting in the parking lot at a trail head, trying to find a spot that doesn’t have a lot of people.”[4] Ortiz’s nature is not a space separate from questions of politics; rather, it is entwined with them. “

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