Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies – Special Issue CFP

Call for Papers: Disability and Visual Culture


Guest Editors: Dr Alice Hall (University of York) and Professor Tobin Siebers (University of Michigan)


In the last two decades, there has been an unprecedented explosion in visual culture. If we live in the ‘age of the image’, what does this mean for disability studies? From the Venus de Milo to Marc Quinn’sAlison Lapper Pregnant (2005), or Diane Arbus’s photographs to the media representations of the London 2012 Paralympians, visual representations of disability call into question notions of normalcy, aesthetic value and beauty.

This special issue aims to bring together writing from an international base of scholars working on the intersection between disability studies and visual culture. The issue will consider whether the representation of disability changes the presuppositions underlying theories of visual culture. How is disability made a part of visual culture? When is it visible, invisible? Is it confined to one aesthetic register, the ugly, for example? Does disability need to be representational to enter visual culture? Are there codes for the visual recognition of disability? The issue will also consider the exchange between different kinds of visual and verbal ‘texts’ in relation to the representation of disability. What does it mean to ‘read’ a visual representation of disability and, conversely, how does the language and theory of visual studies shift our understanding of literary writing about disability? We define ‘visual culture’ broadly to encompass film, theatre, sculpture, photography, painting, advertisements and digital media. Contributions that consider the relationship between literary writing and visual culture are also welcomed.


Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Disability aesthetics
  • Discourses of ‘enfreakment’
  • Representations of visible and invisible disabilities
  • Embodied forms of visual perception
  • Staring, the gaze and dialectical relationships of looking
  • Disability and aesthetic judgement: beauty, the sublime or the ugly
  • The skin as a signifying surface
  • Notions of the invisibility / hyper-visibility of disabled bodies
  • Spectacle, performance and disability
  • (Medical) portraiture
  • The role of assistive technologies in reconfiguring approaches to sensory perception


A one page proposal should be emailed to by the end of July 2013. Contributors will be selected and notified by 1st October 2013. (Full drafts of the selected articles will be due on 1stMarch 2014). Questions about prospective submissions should also be directed to Dr. Alice Hall.

Dr. David Bolt

Director, Centre for Culture & Disability Studies


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