CFP: Embodied and socially constructed?:  Dis/ability in media, law, and history

While the timing doesn’t work out for me, this call looks fantastic–I hope lots of folks apply! Deadline is in a month.

Call for Papers

Embodied and socially constructed?:  Dis/ability in media, law, and history

We invite proposals for papers to be included in a symposium and an edited book entitled, Embodied andsocially constructed?:  Dis/ability in media, law, and history. The symposium will be held at Suffolk University, Boston, from July 29-31, 2020.  We anticipate the anthology will publish at the beginning of 2021.

Whereas the older medical model of dis/ability saw people as physically, mentally, or otherwise lacking in ways that could be calculated as deficits, dis/abilities scholars now more broadly explore the variety of human bodies and their interactions with the social world.  The strong version of the social construction approach would say that bodily attributes are basically irrelevant, as their meanings will be determined entirely by ideologies.[1]  A strong version of embodiment theory, while not ignoring ideology, grounds its analysis almost entirely in the bodily senses and corporeality.[2]  Despite their shared rejection of the medical model, proponents of constructivist and embodiment theories have frequently disagreed on how to understand the relationship between bodies and society.  

The fields of Media Studies, Critical Legal Studies, and History have been at the vanguard in exploring the intersectionality[3] of race, gender, class, etc., but, with notable exceptions, have not significantly theorized dis/ability.  For example, media studies scholars highlight subjectivity and affects, but have not considered how both are embodied experiences; legal scholars currently focus on whether dis/ability laws can or should be used to help solve problems related to supposedly distinct identities, such as race; while history has focused on dis/ability but without engaging meaningfully with Critical Disability Studies.  This symposium and book will bring together interdisciplinary and intersectional scholarship on the simultaneous social construction and embodiment of dis/abilities.  We will thus ask how Media Studies, Critical Legal Studies, and History can interrogate dis/abilities at the nexus of corporeality and meaning making. Using the term “dis/ability” highlights the spectrum of disabilities and abilities and rejects the assumption that abilities are the norm.[4]  Moreover, it acknowledges what a person can do rather than what one cannot.  Lastly, it sees dis/abilities as processes rather than permanent states.

We will accept novel arguments from one or more of the fields of Media Studies, Critical Legal Studies, and History that approach dis/ability within the framework of the debate between embodiment and social constructivist perspectives. Authors are especially encouraged to consider the intersectionality of dis/abilities with both other identities and other structures of power.  Some questions that papers might ask include the following:

  • How, when, and where do people realize they have dis/abilities?
  • How do dis/abilities function as lenses of experiences?
  • How does (or does not) dis/ability shape identity/selfhood?
  • How do social/civic institutions shape experiences of dis/ability?
  • To what extent do dis/abilities compare and contrast with race, gender, class, and so on, as categories or vantage points of analysis?
  • How is the representation and treatment of people with neurodiversity similar or dissimilar to that of persons with non-normative physical abilities? 
  • How do cultural anxieties produced by the visibly disabled, people having imperceptible dis/abilities, and dis/ability as a concept compare and contrast with one another?
  • What are the costs and/or benefits for people with dis/abilities of drawing attention to non-normative bodily and mental attributes in their campaigns for equitable treatment?
  • Does considering pain to be both a physical experience and a site of meaning-making make it a particularly useful point of departure for analysis of dis/ability?

Regardless of an author’s topic, the editors will review all proposals and make selections based on quality and relevance to the project’s underlying themes.  Both veterans of DisCrit theory and emerging scholars are encouraged to submit proposals.  Authors of accepted proposals will be expected to participate in the “Embodied and socially constructed?:  Dis/ability in media, law, and history” symposium.  Symposium participants will provide a high-quality draft paper at the symposium, which will be read in advance by other attendees and thus not formally presented; provide constructive feedback on others’ papers during the symposium; and finalize polished book chapters shortly thereafter.  Participants in the symposium are rebuttably presumed to be accepted into the published book.

Interested contributors should note the following deadlines:

  1. Friday, January 17th, 2020:  Send a 250-750-word abstract with a working title, biography or CV, and contact information to, placing “Symposium” in the header;
  2. Friday, February 28th 2020:  The editors will notify contributors of their acceptance into the symposium;
  3. Wednesday, July 8th, 2020: Final deadline to submit a 5,000-7,500-word paper for peer review among symposium participants;
  1. Thursday, July 9th-Tuesday, 28th, 2020: Read three to five drafts of other participants’ papers and prepare oral feedback;
  1. Wednesday, July 29th-Friday, July 31st, 2020: Symposium in Boston: Make a brief (5 minutes) presentation at the symposium then receive feedback from other participants and also discuss others’ drafts;
  1. Monday, August 3, 2020:  Editors will confirm that papers have been accepted for publication;
  1. Monday, August 24th, 2020:  Submit final 5,000-7,500-word book chapter for editing and publication.

Send inquiries and proposal submissions to Micky Lee,


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