Avoidance and the Academy: International Conference on Disability, Culture and Education

11th-12th September 2013.

Centre for Culture and Disability Studies

Liverpool Hope University, United Kingdom

It has been nearly two decades since Lennard Davis, in Enforcing Normalcy (1995), remarked that when he talked about culturally engaged topics like the novel or the body he could count on a full house of spectators, but if he included the term disability in the title of his session the numbers would drop radically (xi). Things have certainly improved since then, as is demonstrable in Sharon Snyder, Brenda Brueggemann, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s key work on how the humanities can be enabled by disability studies (2002). Progress, however, is frequently obstructed by bigoted and dated notions about disability.  Accordingly, Stuart Murray’s “From Virginia’s Sister to Friday’s Silence” (2012) recognises the persistence of disability in contemporary writing, but David Bolt’s chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Disability Studies (2012) argues that the academy is still dragged down by critical avoidance.

The time has come to recognise that the academic avoidance of disability studies and disability theory is indicative of social prejudice. In the academy we are becoming increasingly appreciative of access requirements, which is all well and good, but recognising the foundational achievements, ideas, knowledge, influence, experience, and/or authority of disabled people can prove profoundly difficult for some non-disabled people, as though a fundamental order would be disrupted. This reluctance becomes manifest when disability studies and disability theory are dismissed as irrelevant.

Bringing together work in the humanities, education, and the social sciences more generally, the purpose of this project is to aid curricular reform by exploring and demonstrating ways in which we can and do make explicit the interdisciplinary significance of disability studies and disability theory. In the spirit of Snyder, Brueggemann, and Garland-Thomson’s work of a decade ago, we want to enable not just the humanities but the academy more broadly, to reveal and address avoidance at all levels. For example, the Special Educational Needs discourse thrives as a central focus in Initial Teacher Education and as an area for specific attention from Ofsted, but critical pedagogical approaches are not engaged with disability. The problematic pathologies evident in the discourse and the subsequent erasure of the individual constitute an act of avoidance.

The project will take the form of a conference, scheduled for September 2013, and a book edited by David Bolt and Claire Penketh in which Routledge has expressed an interest.  If you would like to contribute by presenting your take on the theme at the conference and thus being considered for the proposed book, please send a 200 word proposal to David Bolt (boltd@hope.ac.uk) and Claire Penketh (penketc@hope.ac.uk).  The deadline is 1 April, 2013.

Dr. David Bolt

Director, Centre for Culture & Disability Studies, www.ccds.hope.ac.uk

Email: boltd@hope.ac.uk


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