Seminar: From Impairment to Empowerment:
Mapping Disability onto European Literature (Pauline Eyre)
Seminar: Disability 2.0:
Investigating Socio-Technical Experiences of Disability in Social Media (Sarah Lewthwaite)
This paper examines the relationship between disability and beauty as a central preoccupation of Toni Morrison’s fictional writing, her critical discourse and her most recent work as a curator. I am interested in how Morrison’s critical writing about race and identity intersects with shifting notions of beauty in her fiction, but also, in turn, how these ideas can provide a conceptual framework for writing about literature and disability in general.
In pursuing its eco-agenda the blockbuster science-fantasy film Avatar draws on various aspects of environmentalism for its ideological coherence. At the same time, the film’s envisioning of an idealised harmonious nature relies on intersecting constructions of difference. Framed by a critique of Avatar as a colonial narrative, this free and open seminar will address the film's engagement with representations of disability from an eco-feminist perspective.
In recent decades the archaeological study of past human remains has offered unique insights into understanding human interactions with the environment, infectious organisms, and wider processes of socio-cultural change in a variety of historical contexts. However, despite the presence of an increasing body of palaeopathological evidence of impairments, relatively little work has engaged with the concept of disability in a sustained manner. This seminar will consider why archaeology has so far only made a limited contribution to Disability Studies, and how this might change in the future. Drawing on examples from Roman-period Europe, our guest speaker will demonstrate how archaeological evidence of past iconography, medical artefacts, and the skeletal remains of impaired individuals can provide important perspectives for considering differing attitudes toward disability through history.
David Doat, CCDS Visiting Scholar, works at the intersection of the philosophy of nature and ethical thought. He wonders what makes us human(e) and hypothesises that the most “vulnerable” among our human community have nonetheless played, and continue to play, an important role in our historical collective and personal discovering of humanity. The seminar will consider empirical data that demonstrates that some prehistoric communities of Neanderthals organized their lives so that disabled persons were not marginalised but accepted as central figures. Why was there not abandonment in accordance with the harsh law of evolution? Does the scepticism of scientists on this subject evidence how difficult it is for them to face the apparent contradiction of straightforward Darwinian Theory? To consider these and other such questions, join us at the next CCDS Research Forum.
Seminar: “There was something
very peculiar about Doc”: Disability and Queer Friendship in
Representations of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp
Alex Tankard, University of Chester
Wednesday, December 7th 2011, 2.15pm - 3.45pm, Eden 109
At this CCDS Research Forum, Dr. Tankard will suggest that
queerness and disability converge at crucial points in the story
of Dr. John Henry Holliday and lawman Wyatt Earp, and will
discuss the ways in which representations of Holliday as a
disabled man who loved other men were censored, rewritten and
reimagined by twentieth-century writers and film-makers.
Seminar: Altered Men: War, Body Trauma,
and the Origins of the Cyborg Soldier in American Science
Sue Smith, Centre for American Studies, University of Leicester
Wednesday, November 16th 2011, 2.15pm - 3.45pm, Eden 109
This CCDS Research Forum will host Dr. Sue Smith’s discussion of the emergence of (and fascination with) the altered human male in American Science Fiction. In particular, the focus will be on the reconstruction of the impaired soldier and Science Fiction texts that coincide with major wars and conflicts in western society. Additionally, Dr. Smith will offer analysis of texts and their significance to disability and gender at the time of their publication, and propose the need for further research in relation to more recent representations of the impaired soldier in Science Fiction.
In UK education the dominant discourse about disabled children remains one of “Special Educational Needs.” As such, most universities that provide Initial Teacher Education programmes continue to address the education of disabled children within this tradition. Professional studies curricula are thus broadly based on a medical model of disability, primarily concerned with “fixing” the child that does not fit neatly into the school context. This situation prompts some important questions:
- How do students following Professional Studies and Disability Studies reconcile the fundamentally different constructions of learning difficulties–the medical v social models–that underpin these curricula?
- How do they apply these models to their School-Based Learning experiences?
- What are the implications (and “costs”) of any resistance to traditional, medical model-based practices in school settings?
Laura Waite outlines the processes and outcomes of a small-scale qualitative study that illuminates how students who are participants in both Initial Teacher Education and Disability Studies programmes experience and reconcile competing disability discourses in their curricula and school based learning. Narrative accounts reveal some of the emotional, intellectual, and practical discomforts experienced in attempts to develop effective and coherent teaching and learning practices. The paper concludes with a discussion of ways in which these findings have implications for curriculum design and teacher-educator development in Higher Education and for the development of appropriate school based learning.
A cultural model of disability calls for the insertion of
representations of disability from all manner of sources. Yet
the predominantly Anglophone world of Disability Studies has so
far had little engagement with the literature and culture of
Europe, where English is not the first language. Dr. Pauline
Eyre investigates a novel written in German by a Czech writer,
Libuše Moníková’s Pavane for a Dead Infanta
(1983), and argues that its exploration of life for someone who
uses a wheelchair is of great importance to disability scholars.
Thus far, Moníková’s representation of disabled life has been understood by academics in the field of German Studies as a metaphor for the protagonist’s sense of alienation. Only once has the text been examined through a Disability Studies lens, when it was found to be reductive. Dr. Eyre argues that disability scholars must move beyond an assumption that when disability serves a secondary metaphorical function, then it ipso facto fails to represent the materiality of disabled people’s lives. In contrast, Pavane is read here as a vibrant, phenomenological representation of disabled existence. Indeed, the entire text is understood as the transliteration of a painting, Velázquez’s Las Meninas, which Moníková chose as the frontispiece to the first edition.
Thus, in the same way that Velázquez’s painting portrays a disabled woman with tender accuracy, subverting conventions about disabled people’s place in representation, so Moníková turns the literary spotlight on someone who uses a wheelchair, systematically yet sympathetically exposing the dynamics of disabled experience: Moníková scrutinizes cultural attitudes to disabled people, probing the relationship between impairment and disability and challenging the opposition of normality and disability. Indeed, so subversive is Moníková’s representation of disabled subjectivity that ultimately she unfixes altogether the meaning attached to the term disability.
Seminar: Disability 2.0:
Investigating Socio-Technical Experiences of Disability in Social Media
Sarah Lewthwaite, University of Nottingham
Tuesday, March 8th 2011, 4pm - 6pm, WAREE036 (Powys Lecture Theatre)
For many young people, social networks are an essential part of
the student experience. Sarah Lewthwaite explores disabled
students’ experiences of disability in social networks to
understand how dis/ability difference is ascribed and negotiated
within such networks, and the impact it has on university life.
This research is firmly located within the social sciences,
drawing on the thinking of Foucault to develop understandings of
disability and power relations online. However, its research
object, the socio-technical mediation of disability, is
interdisciplinary, drawing on research territories that are
unfamiliar to many disability studies researchers. Sarah gives a
backstage look at negotiating a path through interdisciplinary
disability studies research, touching on information sciences
and human computer interaction, and the particular problems and
opportunities that this kind of activity presents. She
introduces the notion of ‘bricolage’ as a user-friendly
multi-perspective methodology and research approach that has
enabled her to develop new, technology-enhanced and accessible
research methods, and develop a research lens drawing on
complementary methods from Activity Theory, Phenomenography,
Discourse Analysis and Case Study. It will be an interactive
session aimed at researchers and students, but prior knowledge
of the methods and technologies presented is not necessary.
Following on from an orientation in social media research for
disability studies, Sarah will also talk about the findings of
her research, which consider the ways in which social
technologies reposition disabled people within taxonomies of
identity, enabling some and dis-abling others.
Seminar: “Beings From Another Galaxy”:
Historians, the Nazi “Euthanasia” Programme, and the Question
Emmeline Burdett, University College London
Wednesday, February 23rd 2011, 2.15pm - 3.45pm, Eden 109
Suzanne E. Evans’s book Hitler’s Forgotten Victims: The Holocaust and the Disabled (2004)was written with a number of clear purposes in mind. Among other things, Evans stated that she hoped that the book would “shatter the silence that has surrounded the fate of people with disabilities during the Holocaust” (7). It seems from Evans’s book that the “silence” to which she was referring was one pervading society as a whole, rather than one that affected groups of academics, for example historians of the Nazi era. Nevertheless, it is instructive to consider the ways in which these historians have discussed the Nazi “euthanasia” programme. In this seminar, Emmeline Burdett will argue that the most tenacious attitude taken toward the programme has been that of emphasising the public and Church-led protests against it which supposedly brought it to an end. There is nothing wrong with studying these protests – after all they are important. However, as Burdett will demonstrate, many historians have, over a long period of time, emphasised the importance of the protests in such a way, and to such an extent, that every aspect of the “euthanasia” programme itself is effectively obscured. She will argue that this state of affairs was caused by a failure among the historians concerned to regard the “euthanasia” programme as primarily a question of the mass-murder of innocent human beings; instead they viewed it as a sterile ethical issue. Burdett will be arguing that the situation has improved a lot in recent years, thanks in part to the ground-breaking investigations carried out into the programme in the early 1990s, by such historians as Michael Burleigh, Henry Friedlander and Hugh Gregory Gallagher. The study of the Nazi “euthanasia” programme is also beginning to form an important part of courses in disability history.
Seminar: Inclusive Education and the Cultural Representation of Disability and Disabled People within the English Education System: A Critical Examination of the Mediating Influence of Primary School Textbooks
Alan Hodkinson, Liverpool Hope University
Wednesday, January 26th 2011, 2.15pm - 3.45pm, Eden 109
This paper examines the picture of disability and disabled people portrayed within the textbooks presented to primary-aged pupils in English schools. The study’s analysis of the picture of disability was based upon a sample of 96 textbooks which were published between 1974 and 2005. The study’s findings denote that the sample textbooks contained a limited construct of disability. The paper argues that this construct suggests that there is a cultural dominance of non-disabled people within the textbooks commonly presented to primary-aged children. The paper’s conclusion suggests that if we are to move forward with the important educational policy of inclusion, then, textbooks must be sensitively constructed. It is contended that textbooks should seek to support a culturally responsive pedagogy that observes disabled people being more prominently and more positively located within the materials that support the teaching and learning of pupils.
The 2007 CPS Policy for
Prosecuting cases of Disability Hate Crime states that ‘It is
important to make a distinction between a disability hate crime
and a crime committed against a disabled person because of
his/her perceived vulnerability’ (9).
Under the social model of disability, is this distinction helpful, harmful, or simply meaningless? What is the difference between assaulting a disabled person while making ‘a derogatory or insulting comment about disabled people’ (8), and assaulting a disabled person because social structures and cultural representations have led you to believe that they cannot defend themselves or obtain justice? Should the first be regarded as a politicised crime, and the second as politically neutral?
In 1884, in the Wild West mining camp of Leadville, Colorado, a disabled man shot a nondisabled man and then pleaded self-defence. The details of this obscure and complex case meet none of the criteria outlined by the 2007 Policy, and yet the disabled participant and contemporary press reportage exposed aspects of the judicial system that marginalised and discriminated against citizens with physical impairments.
In this seminar, Dr. Tankard will use the 1884 incident to ask whether the 2007 Policy’s determination to distinguish between ‘hate crimes’ and crimes committed against vulnerable people perpetuates confusion about the real causes and meanings of disability. Dr. Tankard will argue that the most insidious and intractable social injustice may be found not in the open ‘hostility’ and name-calling classed as hate crime, but in the social structures that disable people who have impairments and render them appealing targets for crime of any kind. Ultimately, she will ask whether the CPS’s decision to politicise one set of crimes while depoliticising others illustrates the continuing failure of official and public discourses to comprehend truly the social model of disability.
The CCDS Research Forum is free of charge, but attendees are required to register by sending an email to Heather Barker email@example.com, using “Alex Tankard” as the subject line.
In August, 2009, Liz Crow sat on the Fourth Plinth on a crowded Saturday night in Trafalgar Square as part of Anthony Gormley's One & Other project. She sat on her wheelchair wearing full Nazi regalia to draw attention to a hidden history and the message it holds for us all today.
Selected as one of The Guardian‘s Trafalgar Top Ten, Liz's performance on the plinth was part of a larger film-based project that is touring the UK and internationally. Resistance: which way the future? explores the Nazi programme that targeted disabled people, reflecting on what this history means for us now and inviting audiences to shape things to come.
In this seminar, Liz will talk about her work, screen extracts and discuss what it means to create new cultural representations of disability as a tool for change.
In considering the future of Disability Studies we are met with a number of important questions. Why are literary and other cultural representations relevant to Disability Studies? What is the significance of Disability Studies to Literary Studies, Cultural Studies, Film Studies, Media Studies, and so on? Is there a place for Disability Studies in the Humanities and vice versa?
The discussion will be predicated on extracts from Sharon
Snyder and David Mitchell’s film A World Without Bodies,
and more generally on the T4 programme, the lowest point in the
history of disability.