CFP: Special Issue of the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, ‘Shapes and Sites of Transinstititionalization’

Deadline: 1st July 2018

In the parts of Turtle Island now known also as Canada, current discourses of transinstitutionalization impact Mad, Deaf[1], and Disabled peoples in different ways and in different contexts. For many, the practice of institutionalizing Mad, Deaf, and/or Disabled people is too often assumed to be obsolete; a past “treatment” approach rooted in outdated understandings of medical care and body/mind difference. Indeed many institutions that once confined Mad, Deaf, and/or Disabled people in Canada are closing or closed, organized around shorter-term stays. Yet, disabled people still experience institutionalization and institutional-style conditions in their daily lives. The persistence of these conditions in the lives of Mad, Deaf, and/or Disabled people is often referred to by Disability Studies scholars as transinstitutionalization.

Within Canadian disability scholarship, the precise definition of transinstitutionalization shifts in relation to time period, geography, and community. Loosely, there are three ways in which transinstitutionalization is mobilized. First is the transfer of Mad, Deaf, and Disabled people from large state-run institutions to, and between, prisons, rooming houses and hospitals over the last sixty years (e.g. Simmons, 1990; Ignagni, 2011; Fabris and Aubrecht, 2014). Second, transinstitutionalization refers to the making of institutional-like conditions in spaces of “community-based” care such as day centers, boarding homes, and schools (e.g. Spagnuolo, 2016). The third use of the term is less straightforward, but equally rich: the elusive ways in which the institution lingers through, and is written out on, Mad, Deaf, and Disabled bodies outside of the existing edifices of confinement and control (e.g. Fabris, 2011; Haley, 2017).

This third mobilization of transinstitutionalization captures the nebulous arrangements of neoliberal social service policies and practices spread across the state, market, and non-profit sector, and embodied in lived experiences. As with other aspects of transinstitutionalization, the dense, knotted arrangement of social services is confining and controlling bodies labelled as “disabled,” shaping how we live, play, work, study, and travel; how we speak/sign and identify; how family lives are constructed; and, how we form our subjectivities and communicate these to ourselves and others. Entwined within this web of structures and experiences of transinstitutionalization are colonialism (settler and/or otherwise), racism, cisheteropatriarchy, gendered violence, socioeconomic poverty, and anti-immigration sentiments.

We recognize that discourses of transinstitutionalization can impact deaf people in negative ways. Deaf institutions of learning were and continue to be sites of linguistic and cultural production enabling deaf people to exercise their own forms of resistance within and beyond the institutions in which they are educated. The dismantling of schools for the deaf and the focus on integrating deaf people into hearing institutions results in the removal of the opportunity for the very biosociality (Foucault, 1988; Friedner, 2010) which undergirds the development of language and collectivist culture. With a view to enabling deaf people to be fully active participants in society (Emery, 2009; Ladd, 2011), transinstitutionalization concerns the ways in which the social relational model of deaf childhood (Snoddon & Underwood, 2014) is enacted in community spaces. Hence, the focus is on how deaf spaces are created within or limited by the processes and practices of transinstitutionalization.

We propose that scholars and activists are observing, and accounting for, unexpected aspects of transinstitutionalization across Canada. To date, this literature has not been gathered in one place thus frustrating our understanding of transinstitutionalization and foreclosing some opportunities for intra-national solidarities, learning, and resistances.

This special issue of the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies aims to contribute to the creative and intellectual processes of mapping contemporary landscapes of transinstitutionalization across the bounded territory of Canada. We invite scholars, activists, self-advocates, community members, artists, and designers to draw attention to their own engagements with transinstitutionalization in relation to the themes below, or other themes not listed.

We welcome articles (6,000 words max) and shorter commentaries including, but not limited to, current topics interventions (e.g. policy commentary, news story commentary), creative writing and personal reflections (3000 words max) as well as artistic representations such as poetry, artwork, photography, and other new, subversive forms.

Possible themes to consider include:

  • Histories of transinstitutionalization
  • Transinstitutionalization as an ongoing colonial practice, settler and/or otherwise
  • Immigration, migration, and transinstitutionalization (e.g. detention, denying disabled applicants, limited access to supports for immigrants and migrants labelled disabled by the state)
  • Income support programs, policies, and practices as extensions/mechanisms of institutional control (e.g. workfare, “impairment” verification)
  • Intimate life (e.g. sex, romance, biological reproduction, adoption, parenting etc.) as it is experienced under surveillance
  • Educational systems as transinstitutionalizing (mandatory leave policies in post-secondary institutions, academic streaming in public schools etc.)
  • Substitute decision making processes
  • Child apprehension and/or policed parenting
  • ASL/LSQ access barriers as an extension of oralism and its infrastructure
  • Dominant recovery discourses as transinstitutionalizing
  • Supportive housing and other domestic interventions such as hospitalization, transitional housing, and others
  • Carceral interventions including policing, imprisonment, institutionalization, and community treatment orders
  • The location of Mad, Deaf, and Disabled peoples within in the structures of paid and unpaid work under capitalism
  • Research ethics considerations in institutional contexts (e.g. accounts of university/college based research)
  • Transitions from institutionalization to transinstitutionalization (e.g. from institutions to community-based housing)
  • Narrative and poetic responses, and first-person accounts of transinstitutionalization
  • Activist, self-advocacy, and user-led responses to transinstitutionalization

We encourage contributors to document on-going transinstitutional practices/experiences and to engage with possibilities for change.

Important information for potential contributors

Scope of journal

The Canadian Journal of Disability Studies embraces a wide range of methodologies and perspectives, values collaborative and cross-disciplinary work, community partnership, and creative approaches to scholarship.

Research in the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies will be of interest to scholars and students from across all academic disciplines, as well as anyone involved in disability arts, advocacy, community organization or policy.  The journal foregrounds a critical disability studies perspective, committed to disability rights.

Language and access

We are accepting submissions in English, French, ASL, and LSQ. All submissions that are not text-based must be made accessible (eg: videos and vlogs must be captioned, artwork must include audio description which can be embedded as alt-text, etc). Text based submissions with tables, pictures, graphs etc. (any visual representation) must be accompanied by a narrative description. Please contact the editors if you have any questions about this or any access needs related to submissions.

Format for submissions

Articles must be no longer than 6000 words (excluding references, notes, and tables) and commentaries, personal reflections and creative writing no longer than 3000 words. Work submitted must be original, not under consideration or published elsewhere in print or electronic media.

Submissions must include a cover page with authors’ names, titles, institutional affiliations (if applicable), and full contact information, but authors’ names cannot otherwise appear anywhere in the manuscript. Authors must also provide a 250-word abstract and 4-10 keywords. Please read further for CJDS submission guidelines:

Artistic submissions may include poetry, creative writing, photography, video, mixed media, as well as digital renderings of works on paper or sculpture. Artwork must take a form that can be submitted and viewed/heard electronically. For visual imagery, digital files may be sent as jpgs in an e-mail attachment. Emailed image files must be no larger than 640 x 480 ppi (72 dpi) and must be numbered and named to correspond with a text-based list describing images.

Due date

Submissions are due 1st July 2018. Please submit electronically in Microsoft Word format (or, if sending images, according to the specifications outlined above) as an email attachment to the special issue’s guest editors Tobin LeBlanc Haley and Chelsea Temple Jones at can be sent to

Thank you,

Tobin LeBlanc Haley and Chelsea Temple Jones

School of Disability Studies, Ryerson University

[1] In the original CFP we used the term “d/Deaf”.  In conversation with our colleagues Kristin Snoddon and Joanne Weber, we have taken their recommendation to use the terms “Deaf” in cases where we speak of Mad and Disabled people, or in other cases, “deaf” as proposed by deaf anthropologists (Friedner & Kusters, 2015). This change is meant to reflect a more inclusive and less polarizing term than the binary “d/Deaf” distinction assigned to various ideological positions regarding language and cultural affiliations.  This change, as well as the others here, emerge from a consultation process with these two deaf scholars and educators. We appreciate their willingness to share their time and expertise.

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