Scholar Fierce: Deciding what to do in Geneva

My trip is mostly business (3 academic conferences, you see) and there’s a bit of pleasure mixed in. Between Black Portraitures and the African Literature Association, I decided to see Geneva, Switzerland. I had a few days and so, why not?

Now, I know that Switzerland is known for watches, chocolate, particle physics, boarding schools, the United Nations, and Roger Federer. Seeing as I was more interested in watches and chocolate, I thought that I would see, at least, the Patek Phillippe Museum, and taste some chocolate. Deciding what to do otherwise was not that difficult since everyone says that a trip to Geneva is not complete without seeing the Jet d’Eau.

During my stay, I made sure that I saw the Jet d’Eau and took a turn (in a boat) around Lake Geneva. I also went to the Museé Barbier-Mueller for an exhibit on Nigeria (which was actually quite well done) and hung out in the park at the Wall of Reformers. There are actually large chessboards in that same park. I had fun taking pictures, standing in the position of the black queen. I also saw the CERN. No exhibits were open so I couldn’t go on a tour, but I was there. The best part though was linking up with two women who work as US Ambassadors. We had an excellent Senegalese dinner.

I spent much of my time walking and taking the train around Geneva because I was feeling well enough to do so. Yet, passing for disabled means others view you as non-disabled, not that your body is somehow magically well or that you stop noticing things.

For instance, the Patek Phillippe Museum opens at 2 pm, so that meant that I had to wait a little in the hot sun before going in. I was a bit tired. I did not appreciate that there were two steps to get in and no signs for the handicapped entrance. I did not appreciate that there was a flight of stairs to get to the receptionist’s desk. I did not appreciate that the receptionist told me that I had to go downstairs to put my belongings in a locker. I did not appreciate being told after I asked that there was no elevator to the downstairs area. I did not appreciate that once I reemerged from downstairs asking about accommodations for disabled patrons I was told that there was an elevator and it was reserved for people in wheelchairs. I did not appreciate the “oh, well” and shrug I received when I pointed out that not everyone who is disabled uses a chair. I did not appreciate the dirty looks I was given as I used the elevator to get to each floor. I did not appreciate the fact that the story told on each floor assumed that one began the journey through the museum upon alighting from the stairs. I did not appreciate being interrogated by the guard when I said I needed to use the elevator to get to my belongings. I did not appreciate having to put my hands on my hips and say “Je suis handicapped” really loudly. I did not appreciate that he walked a mile a minute. I did not appreciate that he showed concern when I nearly fainted from the exertion I did not appreciate the offers for help.

I was not grateful. I therefore could not appreciate the art.

For a museum concerned with the intricate, luxurious details of how something works, there is a complete and utter failure to function well. The ghost in the machine is disabled. She will dutty whine, whine loud, and wind you up until she gets her way. Horologists are not ready.

About TAPPhD

Therí A. Pickens received her undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature from Princeton University (P'05) and her PhD in Comparative Literature from UCLA (2010). Her research focuses on Arab American and African American literatures and cultures, Disability Studies, philosophy, and literary theory. She recently published her first book, New Body Politics (Routledge, 2014), which investigates the role of the material body in constructing social and political critique. Her critical work has appeared in Disability Studies Quarterly, Al-Jadid, Journal of Canadian Literature, Al-Raida, and, the ground-breaking collection, Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of English at Bates College. She is also a creative writer. Her poetry has appeared in Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, Save the Date, and Disability Studies Quarterly. Her drama has been performed at the NJ State Theater. She offers courses on Arab American and African American literature. In her introductory courses, she seeks to provide students with information and skills that will enable and empower them to critically and constructively engage difficult topics like race, sexuality, gender, disability, and class. In her upper division courses, she pushes students to synthesize their knowledge from other classes and expand their critical thinking repertoires.
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