Amateur filmmaking and the practice of neuroqueer refusal at the intersection of queer learning disability

  • Jenna Allsopp

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Broadly this thesis seeks to investigate the radical potential of amateur filmmaking as a practice of neuroqueer refusal. More specifically it examines the work of two queer learning-disabled filmmakers, Mattie Kennedy (Glasgow) and Matthew Hellett (Brighton), whose work I argue produces new queer ways of seeing learning disability; two identity categories which have not had the space to be combined until recently. Through the visual and textual analysis of their films, and the contexts in which they are produced and shared, I make a case that their work transforms the image of learning disability through the production of new (neuro)queer visual narratives.

Inspired by Bonnie Honig's (2021) A Feminist Theory of Refusal, this thesis explores Kennedy and Hellett's work as a gesture of refusal by analysing how they (i) recontextualise cinematic techniques of 'looking' to both interrogate a heteroableist gaze and encourage looking on their own terms, (ii) contribute to the building of a neuroqueer community through their association and collaboration with the Oska Bright Film Festival, and (iii) use film to assert themselves as performative subjects of self-representation. I conclude by arguing that while amateurism as a practice and an aesthetic is something imposed upon Kennedy and Hellett for various socio economic reasons, it is also something they both embrace as a deliberate gesture of refusal that challenges traditional politics of queer/disability visibility and inclusion.

By additionally analysing the conditions of the production and circulation of their films, a key research finding is that Kennedy and Hellett’s critical intervention into the politics of representation goes beyond the screen by their nurturing of community through film curation and archiving. Further, this research identifies and theorises refusal as a political-aesthetic practice which imagines a neuroqueer gaze and produces neuroqueer sensibilities. My research identified several forms of refusal which I have interpreted and theorised as modes of visual activism.
Date of AwardOct 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorOlu Jenzen (Supervisor), Louise Fitzgerald (Supervisor), Cheryl Buckley (Supervisor) & Paul Jobling (Supervisor)

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