Disability studies scholars call disability the “master trope of human disqualification,” emphasizing its ubiquity and relevance across space and time. Most of us will be disabled at some point in our lives, scholars rightly point out, and we can all expect to become permanently impaired if we live long enough. These claims are politically and intellectually useful—perhaps even necessary. However, they also rely on largely ahistorical assumptions about health, ability, bodies, and labor.
This special issue of Early American Literature seeks to identify the contributions that early American scholars can make to the field of disability studies, and to consider how critical attention to disability reframes our relationship to early America and the Atlantic World. We invite contributors to consider how historically nuanced perspectives—and early American perspectives in particular—alter our perceptions of impairments and/or broader categories of exclusion. How, for example, disabled, impaired, or unabled bodies register categories of race, class, gender, nation, and indigeneity. How plantation-based models of economy, militarized and domestic spaces, or exploration and captivity genres account for and narrativize differently abled bodies. Likewise, contributors might ask what defines disability in the early era, and how its modes of visibility (or invisibility) are constituted. What rhetorics and representational practices of disability were particular to an early American or Atlantic-world context? What issues are particular to the early American study of disability? What role did disability play in early American communities? In their politics, law, commerce, and medicine? In their poetry, prose, or art? We seek a constellation of diverse and expansive essays to generate a broad discussion in an under-explored area of inquiry.
We encourage submissions that approach any aspect of this topic, broadly conceived, from pre-contact through the early national period. We welcome submissions from historians, literary critics, art historians, musicologists, and other early American scholars and are interested in submissions that treat particular topics in early American disability. We are especially interested in submissions that also theorize disability in early America.
Send proposals (and enquiries) of 250-500 words to Sari Altschuler firstname.lastname@example.org and Cristobal Silvacs2889@columbia.edu by June 1, 2013. Essays will be due March 31, 2014. All submissions will go through EAL’s peer-review process before publication.