Monday, September 17, 2012

CFP: Disability and the American Counterculture

Spotted on DS-HUM:

Special issue CFP: Disability and the American Counterculture

Guest edited by Stella Bolaki and Chris Gair

The American Counterculture has a complex relationship with disability. At
its heart is the reinvention of the term freak that serves as an early
example of empowering, though not unproblematic, appropriation of what had
previously been a derogatory term. Freak Out!, the debut album by The
Mothers of Invention—labelled a “monstrosity” by Frank Zappa—is a prime
example of the association of freakery with the forms of avant-garde
experimentation representative of one form of countercultural practice. In
addition, representations of disability and illness occur repeatedly in
countercultural work: the asylum and hospital become central tropes for
examinations of the relationship between sanity and madness in Allen
Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, while
canonical Beat/countercultural novels such as Jack Kerouac’s Desolation
and Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America and movies such as
Richard Rush’s Psych-Out feature disabled characters not only to derive
rhetorical force in their critique of hegemonic culture, but also to
question core countercultural ideologies. In terms of aesthetics, William
Burroughs’ experimental “cut-up technique” has been discussed in the
context of his interest in virology and Andy Warhol’s work of trauma,
injury and violence alongside what Tobin Siebers has called “disability
aesthetics”. More recent work, such as E.L. Doctorow’s novel Homer and
, the Hollywood film Forrest Gump and Simi Linton’s memoir My Body
, examines the connection between disability and the counterculture
through different lenses and with various aims.

What do perspectives informed by disability studies have to offer to
typical readings of the American counterculture and its fundamental ideals
of movement (both geographical and ideological), youth and vitality? In
what ways did the American counterculture and the disability movement
approach notions of the “normal” and the “abnormal” body? Beat and
countercultural writers and artists have been criticised for their
romanticised view of other cultures and for appropriating and shedding
roles and personas from various marginalised groups at a dizzying pace. How
different was the appropriation of disability to the American
counterculture’s interest in other cultures (Eastern, African American,
Native American) and their potential for constructing a subversive
identity? What are the legacies of the American counterculture and its
various discourses and styles of liberation for contemporary disability
life writing, arts and activism? With such questions in mind, the co-
editors invite proposals on an array of topics which include (but are not
limited to) the following:

•perspectives from disability studies/theory on iconic as well as
understudied Beat texts and countercultural ideals more broadly
•challenges to “normalcy” from disability movements and the American
counterculture (comparative perspectives/debates)
•disability as theme and/or aesthetic in countercultural writing, art, film
and music or in more recent works that reference the American counterculture
•appropriation and reinvention of the term “freak” by the counterculture
•approaches to spectacle, the stare, the performative, and fashion in
American counterculture and disability cultures/arts
•disability in the sixties-era communes and communal living groups
•feminist disability studies and the counterculture
•crip perspectives on the American counterculture
•legacies of the American counterculture and countercultural ideals,
practices and styles for disability writing, arts, and activism

Discussions of specific literary and cultural texts are invited, but
preference will be given to projects that use individual texts as vehicles
to address broader cultural debates and theoretical inquiries related to
disability studies and the American counterculture. A one-page proposal and
a one-page curriculum vitae should be emailed to and by the end of July 2013. Finalists will be
selected by 1st October 2013, and full drafts of articles will be due on
1st March 2014.

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