CFP: Precarious Positions: Encounters with Normalcy

Event: 4th Annual International Conference, Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane

Date/Place: 3rd – 4th September 2013, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Hosted by: Dept. of Education, Childhood and Inclusion and Disability Research Forum, Sheffield Hallam University in association with University of Chester, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Sheffield.[1]

Title: Precarious Positions: Encounters with Normalcy

Call For Papers:

Addressing normalcy, addressing Mr Reasonable: ‘You are the Reasonable Teacher with your reasonable rules, reasonable exams and reasonable lesson plans. The teacher that believes it is only reasonable to stratify and separate children out from the moment they enter the school grounds; punishing those whom refuse to conform (Davis and Watson, 2001). You are the Reasonable Careers Advisor whose lecture I left […] when she asserted that if we did not ‘speak properly’, dared to utter an ‘erm’ or an ‘um’ in a job interview, we would remain unemployed. You are the Reasonable Academic who told me this was ‘just the way it is’ when I pointed out the ableism of that careers advice.  You are the Reasonable Boss that told my Mum she needed to “man up and grow some balls” in order to survive work in the public sector: the workplace will not change to accommodate you, so you must change to accommodate it.  You are the Reasonable Landlord, the Reasonable Councillor and the Reasonable Politician that live dogmatically by the reasonable, bureaucratic rules of Western neoliberal individualism (Titchkosky, 2011).’

(Slater 2013: 11)

Normalcy imagines – ‘sees’ – no other possibility of human life than itself, and thus, ironically, does not ‘see’ itself.  The centre understands itself as the only legitimate space of human habitation and, like all spaces, the centre has its causalities.

(Titchkosky and Michalko, 2009:7)


In 2010, the UK’s Equality Act gave protection, under civic law, to nine ‘protected characteristics’ (age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion and belief; sex; sexual orientation).  While the Act remains in place, in 2012, as part of the coalition’s Red Tape Challenge, it became the focus of a series of consultations and reviews which aim to ‘simplify’ the legislation.

It is, surely, not a coincidence that this comes at a time when, due to global economic uncertainties, much of the world is witnessing rising levels of austerity and, with them, rising levels of fear and concern.  Tolerance, it seems, only lasts as long as there is enough room and resources for difference to be accommodated.  As soon as room and resources are scarce, similitude re-stakes its claim.  Suddenly, being anything other than ‘neoliberally normal’ places you in extremely precarious positions.  Whether you are on the sharp end of welfare reforms or face budgets cuts to your local services/provision, being (or at least, passing as) healthy, wealthy and wise seems to be your best bet to survive.  However, how sure are we that ‘normal’ offers the protection it promises? Importantly, amongst all the ‘doom and gloom’ can encounters with abnormality and non-normativity offers us a chance of hope and wonder?

This conference offers spaces to discuss and explore the precarious positions ‘normal’, and its operating system ‘normalcy’, create, present us with and, more often than not, force us into.  Furthermore, it seeks to ‘imagine otherwise’ by learning from and through increasingly precarious positions of marginality and non-normativity.

We welcome activists, undergraduate/postgraduate students, practitioners and academics to join us and call for papers which ponder on the following:

  • in what ways do ‘normal’ and ‘normalcy’ present clear and present dangers to our individual and collective futures?
  • in what ways does safeguarding a set of characteristics ensure the continued protection of ‘normal’? as begrudging tolerance turns to indifference or fear, is normalcy under threat?
  • what can (everyday) encounters with intersectionality, liminality and/or marginalisation reveal about the limits of normalcy?
  • is it time we challenged the ‘normalcy taboos’?  what do the persistence of ‘natural’ unquestionable norms (e.g. romantic love; bond between mother and child; healthy eating) tell us about the ubitiquity and robustness of normalcy?
  • are categorisations (e.g. disabled, vulnerable, hardest hit, scroungers, takers and makers) bring used to the fight to define and defend ‘normal’ ways of life?
  • are categorisations (e.g. autism, ADHD, depression) being used (and abused) in the race to export ‘normal’ Western ways of being?
  • multi-nationalism; multi-culturalism; multi-faith; multi-lingual – why does pluralism present such a challenge?
  • is contextualising ‘normal’ (historically, culturally, spatiality) the best (the only?) way to reveal its illusionary nature?  what do we gain by doing this, and where do we go from here?
  • what is to be gained by interrogating the intersections and attending to the margins? where are the spaces of hope, wonder and possibility to be found?
  • what is the role of individual (sometimes inadvertent, often mundane) acts of activism against normalcy? and what are the costs (financial, emotional, etc) to individuals who encounter and/or take on normalcy?
  • what ways are there to explore this within and across wider communities? what is the role of academia (learning, teaching and research)?

Conference Details:

Abstracts of no more than 200 words (with a short bio) should be submitted by 22nd April 2013 to the conference email address below.

Presenters will be informed of acceptance by 10th May 2013.  To secure a place in the conference programme, presenters should have booked a place by 31st July 2013. Please inform conference organisers of any accessibility requirements by 21st August 2013 via the conference email address below.

In the spirit of an eco-friendly conference, registered delegates will be sent information electronically.  Details of accommodation near the venue will also be sent to delegates.

As the conference is FREE, lunch and refreshments will be available for purchase at the University, if you wish.  Please let us know if you have any dietary requirements so we can make the catering team aware of delegate requirements.

For further information please contact

To book a place please visit

Keynotes will be announced via the conference page on the Disability Research Forum (DRF) blog:

Keep up to date and join the debate on twitter #normalcy2013

[1] Conference committee includes: Dan Goodley (UoS); Nick Hodge (SHU); Rebecca Mallett (SHU); Cassie Ogden (Univ of Chester); Katherine Runswick-Cole (MMU); Jenny Slater (SHU).

Summer School, King’s College London, ‘The Boundaries of Illness’

King’s College London are now accepting applications for their medical humanities summer school:


Applications are now open for the summer school on ‘The Boundaries of Illness‘, King’s College London, July 22-August 9, 2013. For those studying and pursuing careers in medicine, public health, health and social policy and planning, as well as humanities disciplines, this course offers an invaluable insight into medicine from a new perspective – using literature, art, history, film and philosophy to explore concepts of illness, health and disease.

Introducing students to the medical humanities, this course will allow you to understand the medical humanities as a discipline and how it can be used in relation to healthcare, engage with the philosophical concepts behind health and disease, and develop a foundation understanding of the broad philosophical and cultural forces underpinning psychiatry. The course is taught by researchers who are at the forefront of their field, and King’s expertise in the medical humanities means that this is a subject which is not available at this level anywhere else in the UK.

The course will include also visits to the Hunterian museum, the Gordon museum, the Freud museum, the Florence Nightingale museum and the Wellcome Collection. You can read more about the course details here.

The course starts on July 22nd and runs for three weeks, Monday to Thursday, from 9 am to 5 pm.

You can apply for the course here.

AHRC Funded PhD Studentship: ‘In-visible Difference; Dance, Disability and Law’

Please note that the deadline for this award has been extended to 11 February 2013, with interviews taking place on 7 March 2013 in Exeter. The studentship will start on 1 April 2013.

We are looking for a candidate who is interested in combining legal academic research with a genuine interest in the broad area of dance and disability. This is a fully funded place for 3 years of PHD study in Exeter.

The key question for exploration in the doctoral thesis in law is as to whether we have the optimum copyright framework for the protection and exploitation of disabled dance both now and into the future. By optimum, we mean a framework that supports the fullest possible performance, exploitation and preservation of disabled dance and its possibilities for the benefit of the participants and society. Within that we include both commercial and non-commercial interests. In seeking to address this question the thesis will explore the relevant legal copyright framework and its theoretical underpinnings. This will be supplemented with empirical research through the student’s involvement in the multi disciplinary research grouping established by the Project. Through engaging with disabled dance artists the research will seek to map the copyright framework on to what the dancers actually do and how they perceive their place in relation to the copyright framework by reference to such questions as ‘who authors the dance’?; ‘who owns the dance’?; and ‘to what extent does the creation of the new dance draw upon what has come before’?. Through close engagement with the PhD in dance, crossovers and disconnections between observations and interpretations will be identified and debated, to further understanding of discipline-specific perspectives.

The successful candidate will join a vibrant research environment, participating in a range of research events. S/he will also develop a working relationship with a doctoral candidate based at the University of Coventry, whose focus will be on the dance aspects of the project. Both students will take an active role in the dissemination processes, including using social media to gain valuable information and to establish a dialogue with the wider dance community.

We are looking for a candidate who is interested in combining legal academic research with a genuine interest in the broad area of dance and disability. Applicants must have a good first or Master’s degree in law or a closely related subject. Other professional experience relevant to the scope of the project would be advantageous. Applicants must also meet the AHRC’s criteria for residency and be able to demonstrate the potential to develop advanced research. The project involves working with a range of stakeholders including dance artists with disabilities so experience of working in this field is advantageous.



Application deadline: 11th February 2013
Number of awards: 1
Value: Fully Funded
Duration of award: per year
Contact: SSIS Graduate Research School team

How to apply

In order to apply you will need to complete an online web form where you must submit some personal details and upload the following documents by 11.59pm on 11 February 2013:

  • CV
  • Covering letter – outlining your academic interests, any prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project
  • A 1000 word statement outlining what you see as the particular opportunities and challenges of this research project – please upload this in the research proposal section
  • Transcript of your highest qualification to date or an interim transcript if you are still studying
  • IELTS/TOEFL certificate – where applicable
  • 2 references – if your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to the email address given above.

Please note that if you are successful in being awarded funding you will then be asked to apply for a study place in addition to formalise the funding offer.

Selection Process: All shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview and will be required to give a 10 minute presentation. The interviews will take place on Thursday 7 March in Exeter.

For more information on how to apply, visit 


CFP: Disability and Illness Memoir as Embodied Knowledge, MLA 2014

Rachel Adams and Helen Deutch are circulating the following message:

Please consider submitting to our panel for the 2014 MLA, to be held in Chicago, January 9-12

Illness and Disability Memoir as Embodied Knowledge

Sponsored by  MLA Committee on Disability Issues in the Profession

Life writing about illness and disability as a form of theoretical knowledge.  New ways of conceiving the relationship of memoir to embodiment, environment, and community. 500 word abstracts by 8 March 2013; Rachel Adams ( and Helen Deutsch (

“Discursive Constructions of Autism: Boundaries and Borderlands”, 2014 RSA Conference

Rhetoric Society of America Conference, 22nd-26th May 2014

Adam Pacton (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee),

As autism receives increasing popular, political, medical, and rhetorical attention, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve any sort of consensus on what “autism” actually is. Is it a purely medical or psychological designator? Is it an impairment, a disability, both, neither? Is it simply another way of being-in-the-world that though different is not deficient?

These questions and ones like them locate autism at the confluence of multiple, often competing, discourses. The purpose of this panel is to explore, trace, and problematize the discursive borders that seek to define and delimit “autism” and try to understand in some small way what we can learn about how and why these discourses crash together in sometimes explosive ways.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • Asperger’s Syndrome and its disappearance in the DSM-V
  • Representations of prevalence rates
  • Autism as disability, impairment, and embodied/enacted identity
  • Medical vs. psychological vs. rhetorical constructions of autism
  • Competing medical discourses (Defeat Autism Now vs. American Medical Association)
  • Diagnosis (medical, personal, social)
  • “Autistic writing”
  • The limits of the “neurotypical”
  • Inclusion and accommodation
  • Mindblindness and affect
  • “Severe” and “high-functioning” autism

To be considered for this panel, please submit the following to Adam Pacton at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by April 30th:

  • a proposal of 500 words or less
  • a brief (2-4 sentence) scholarly bio

Rhetoric of the Wisewoman and the Madwoman: SAMLA 2013

Perspectives on Confined Women Throughout History


Courtney Polidori, SAMLA,

From wisewomen, witches and warriors, to madwomen and monsters, confined females have been represented through a variety of rhetorical strategies that mask the complexities of their characters. This panel seeks papers that look beyond the rhetoric to the nuances of imprisoned women in fiction and non-fiction, such as “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Anne Frank’s diary, to Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and prisoners’ memoirs. Women’s prison literature is the focus of the panel, and papers by women prisoners and their teachers will be welcomed enthusiastically, but papers on male prisoners are also invited.

Consider the following topics:

  • How do women make meaning in confined spaces?
  • Prisons as mental institutions
  • Angela Davis’ notion of the “hyperinvisibility of women prisoners”
  • Kathryn Watterson’s image of the “concrete womb”
  • Judith Scheffler’s notion of “the female dispossessed”
  • (Dis)embodiment: the female body in prison
  • Coming of age: incarceration of children and parents
  • Confinement in fairy tales
  • Forced bed rest
  • Prisoner-heroes (Jean Valjean)
  • Film depictions of confined spaces
  • Women prisoners as “doubly marginalized”
  • Writers that worked with prisoners, such as Christina Rossetti
  • Red tents, quarantines, illness, and plague
  • Teaching in prison
  • Food and drink
  • Communities/ sisterhoods
  • Spirituality
  • Serving time for the cause: political prisoners, civil rights activists, suffragists
  • Reforms and the history of women’s prisons
  • Salem witch trials
  • The gaze
  • Prison as social control
  • The criminality of drug laws
  • Poverty and the economic basis of women’s crime
  • Race
  • Prisoners as slave labor
  • Angela Davis’ notion of the “prison industrial complex”
  • Barbara Owen’s notion of the “imprisonment binge”
  • PEN American Center

Please submit a proposal of 500 words, CV, and 350-word bio to Courtney Polidori, The College of New Jersey, by May 17, 2013 at

Body Knowledge: Medicine and the Humanities in Conversation Conference

Body Knowledge: Medicine and the Humanities in Conversations

2-4 September 2013

Medical Humanities Research Group at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Conference Organizers: Dr Catherine Burns and Dr Ashlee Neser

In South Africa (and indeed on the African continent as a whole) there is not a single Centre for Medical Humanities. Although there are a number of scholars in South African universities whose research interests could be gathered under a Medical Humanities rubric, the absence of institutionalised interdisciplinary dialogue between the humanities and medicine here is perplexing, particularly given the enormously politicised and iniquitous history of South African health and medicine through the 20th century, the legacy of which continues in various forms into the present. This conference aims to place Medical Humanities as a vibrant field of enquiry firmly onto the scholarly agenda in South Africa. To this end, we hope to draw local scholars and practitioners working in this area into conversation with one another and with international colleagues whose research is located within established medical humanities projects.

The Medical Humanities research group at WiSER invites abstracts of up to 500 words for papers that speak to our broad, inclusive theme of ‘Body Knowledge’. We welcome submissions from scholars and practitioners in a wide variety of disciplines, including the arts, literature, film, sociology, anthropology, history, medicine, philosophy, ethics, and psychology. In addition to panel sessions, we are planning a public event which will draw in a wider Johannesburg audience, as well as an art exhibition and film screening.

20-minute scholarly papers might address, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Themes of embodiment and the body as a site of knowledge
  • Body parts in culture, history, art and literature (including organs, skin, skulls, bones, tissues and blood)
  • Metaphors and representations of health and illness
  • Politics and power relations in medicine and health research
  • Medical plurality: the coexistence of indigenous pre-colonial systems of healing, their modern shifting forms, their conversations with biomedicine, and the links between these and religious practices of the body
  • Medicine as an art: as a fusion of practical scientific knowledge, tactics and performance Medical genres (case histories; medical memoir etc.)
  • Theoretical paradigms through which the humanities ‘reads’ biomedicine

Abstracts of up to 500 words, together with a brief biography of 250 words, should be submitted to Ashlee Neser by Friday 1 March 2013. Queries may be directed to eitherAshlee Neser or Catherine Burns. Please see the WiSER website for more information about our Institute at Wits.

PhD Studentship in Disability History/Medical Humanities

Collaborative PhD studentship funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council

University of Leeds, Faculty of Arts, School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science

Project title: “Transforming Communications for the UK’s Hearing Loss Community: From Auditory Barrier to Technological Assistance”

Applications from students of disability history are especially welcome for this studentship, the second to be advertised for this project.

The student would work in partnership with Action on Hearing Loss (formerly the R.N.I.D), BT Archives, and the Thackray Museum in Leeds. Studentship starts from 1 October 2013.

Application deadline: Friday 1st March 2013. According to AHRC rules this studentship is available to UK residents and EU nationals only.

Further information is available from and by contacting Graeme Gooday at the email address below:

Graeme Gooday,
Professor of the History of Science and Technology
Acting Head of School
School of Philosophy, Religion  and History of Science
Woodhouse Lane
University of Leeds
United Kingdom

Phone: 0113 343 3274
FAX: 0113 343 3265