Cripples, Idiots, Lepers, and Freaks: Extraordinary Bodies / Extraordinary Minds

(Not about me nor Pearlsky. Things have been tough, really trying to get back to the blog. Stick with me, please.)

Thursday, March 22 – Friday, March 23, 2012

The Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Could disability be, as Susan Wendell writes, “valued for itself, or for the different knowledge, perspective, and experience of life” it gives rise to? This conference seeks to continue—and to expand—conversations about the cultural meanings and possibilities of impairment, as well as the ways that the disabled body becomes a locus for uneasy collaborations and tensions between the social and the scientific. What critical and theoretical perspectives can be brought to bear on human variations that are, or have been, subject to medical authority or understood as requiring intervention? Emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach to “disability,” we seek papers from graduate students across the humanities (English, art history, music, etc.), social sciences (history, sociology, political science, etc.), and applied fields (law, education, medicine, etc.). We welcome papers on topics ranging from the aesthetics of illness in medieval literature to the politics of disability in South Park, from the cultural fascination with autistic savants to race, impairment, and spectatorship in freak shows.

Possible paper topics include:
Genre, Aesthetics, and Disability: poetics; visual art, photography, and spectatorship; life writing and illness narratives; metaphors and representations of disability; disability and performance; “outsider art”; impairment and artistic production; comedy and disability

Pedagogy and Disability: teaching disabled authors; writing the body; student embodiments, teacher embodiments; “coming out” and “passing”; disability and composition studies; “special” education

Sexuality, Desire, and Disability: pleasure and the extraordinary body; voyeurism; fetishism; freak shows; sexual practices; queering disability

Epistemology, Subjectivity, and Disability: genius and savantism; the body in pain; affect; “terminal” illnesses; acquired impairments, congenital impairments; stigma and otherness; autistic minds; mental “illness” / mental “health”; trauma, violence, and disability

Intersections of Identity: masculinity and disability; femininity and disability; pregnancy, motherhood, and impairment; race and disability; class and disability; queer identities and disability

History of/and Disability: historicizing disability; historically specific impairments (e.g. hysteria); period-specific studies of disability (e.g. early modern); eugenics; race and/as impairment; evolution and “degeneration”; taxonomy and natural history

Medicine, Science, and Impairment: medicalizations of race, class, sex, body size; addiction and disability; medical and scientific discourse; doctor / patient interactions; concepts and problems of the “cure”; diagnostic manuals and other taxonomies; the human / animal divide

Disability Activism / (Bio)politics: rhetorics of “disability”; activist art; reproductive rights; genetics and eugenics; euthanasia; healthcare; war, disability, and the making of populations; impairment-specific campaigns and organizations

Technology and the Impaired Body: technologies of reproduction; cyborgs; prosthesis; body augmentation / body modification

Please submit 250- to 500-word abstracts to <> by December 5, 2011.

* * *

The conference, sponsored by the English Student Association of the CUNY Graduate Center, will feature concurrent graduate panels on the afternoon of Thursday, March 22, and all day on Friday, March 23.

The keynote address on Friday evening will be delivered by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, and on Thursday evening a plenary panel will discuss the present and future of Disability Studies. Plenary panel members include CUNY scholars Sarah Chinn (English, Hunter College), Ruth O’Brien (political science, the Graduate Center), Victoria Pitts-Taylor (sociology, Queens College and the Graduate Center), Talia Schaffer (English, Queens College and the Graduate Center), and Joseph Straus (music, the Graduate Center).

All conference events will take place at the CUNY Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan.

Please visit the conference website ( for more information. If you have any questions, please email the conference co-chairs, Marissa Brostoff, Andrew Lucchesi, and Emily B. Stanback at <>.

No comment from me.


  1. By Barbara


  2. Reply

  3. By Debs515


  4. By Claire


  5. Reply

  6. By Lila


  7. By Emily


  8. By Emily


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *