Sunday, May 01, 2016

BADD 2016: Nerys Johnson's "every atom of concentration"

Okay, I'm here for BADD 2016, because how could I break our eleven-year streak of participation? I couldn't.  I'm not so much of a blogger these days, but I'm willing to add my bit to the big event.  For our past ten appearances in the series: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006. (For the record, the 2007 and 2008 entries are two of my favorite blog posts I've ever written, on any blog, or any topic.  BADD has been good for me.)
And.... I'm still on a Wikipedia kick. Just finished "Awaken the Dragon," a month-long event by WikiProject Wales, to improve Wikipedia content about Wales and Welsh people. I had fun looking for relevant biographies that needed an article, and as of today I've worked on 37 new articles since April 1, and improved ("destubbed") 7 others.

Were there any disabled people? Of course there were! Because there always are. I actually wrote the entry on physically-disabled surgeon Hugh Morriston Davies (1879-1965) after finding a note about him that I'd written here, at DSTU, almost six years ago.  Rev. Daniel Davies (1797-1876) was a blind preacher noted for his erudition; I first found him when the National Library of Wales uploaded some photographs of him to Flickr Commons. Aristocrat Olive Talbot (1842-1894) was an example of a nineteenth-century "invalid"--she rarely left home because her physical issues made it difficult, but she corresponded with interesting friends, and spent her inheritance funding church renovation projects in Wales.

And then there's artist Nerys Johnson (1946-2001) (pictured at left, a middle-aged white woman seated in a colorful smock, holding a paint brush in her right hand.)  Johnson had rheumatoid arthritis from childhood; she was also a painter and a curator in the north of England, noted for her bold works and original exhibit ideas.  And she had a thing or two to say about the disablism of well-meaning admirers.

"I am not an artist because of my disabilities. I am appalled when people see my painting as a hobby, and comment how relaxing it must be. If they just knew how it takes every ounce of energy I've got, every atom of concentration." 

(from this 2000 interview)

If you're ever even tempted to compliment someone on a hobby that's really a vocation, because they're disabled--that might be disablism. If you want to comment "oh, that must be such good therapy" to someone who creates for joy or for a living, but definitely not as therapy--that might be disablism too.

When I woke up this morning, Nerys Johnson didn't have a Wikipedia article; now she does. Happy BADD! 

Go here to read all the other BADD 2016 contributions.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

CFP: Disability, Work and Representation: New Perspectives (DSQ Fall 2017)

Call for Papers
Disability, Work and Representation: New Perspectives
Special Issue: Disability Studies Quarterly (Fall 2017)
Editors: David Turner, Kirsti Bohata, Steven Thompson, Swansea University

In/ability to work plays a critical role in definitions of dis/ability, but the complexities of the relationship between people with disabilities and the world of work have only recently started to gain scholarly attention.  Contributions are sought for a special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly
that will showcase new interdisciplinary perspectives on disability, work and its representation in both contemporary and historical perspective. The issue will take a long and interdisciplinary view of the relationship between disability and work and encourages contributions that explore
different national experiences and impairment perspectives. We aim to foster critical thinking about how dis/ability has been defined in relation to work and about how factors such as changing hiring processes, legislation and working environments have impacted upon participation. Contributions are
also sought that will explore ways in which disability has been represented in relation to work culturally and artistically, or the impact of literary, artistic or media representations on policy. Contributors are invited to think about work broadly, to include paid and unpaid employment, emotional and intellectual as well as physical labor. Subjects might include, but are
not limited to:

•       Changing historical experiences of disability and work
•       Dis/ability and the aesthetics of work
•       The impact of age, gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity on experiences and employment prospects of workers with disabilities
•       The role of economic systems in the inclusion or exclusion of workers with disabilities
•       The relationship between work and citizenship
•       Cultural representations of disability and un/employment
•       Disability and employment laws
•       Disability and unpaid work
•       Disability and occupational health/medicine
•       Rehabilitation and returning to work
•       Disability and labor relations
•       Current and historical perspectives on welfare and work

Please send an abstract (max 200 words) and a short biography (100 words) to Professor David Turner ( by July 1st 2016. The final deadline for submission for articles selected for inclusion in the Special Issue (max. 8000 words) will be January 31st 2017 with publication scheduled for September 2017. Final acceptance of manuscripts is subject to peer review.

Friday, February 05, 2016

For Stacey

Stacey asked me to keep a lookout for historical people who had muscular dystrophy--and I said "sure!" because that's right up my alley.  So I started poking around on Wikipedia, of course. Some stories that caught my attention this morning are below, in chronological order by date of birth. As usual, it isn't the most diverse list; there's definitely room for a wider array of stories on Wikipedia. Suggested additions are most welcome! (I'm only counting deceased people as "historical"--just to have some kind of cutoff.)

Richard Lindsay Batten (1920-1974) was a British orthopaedic surgeon who established the first blood bank in Nigeria, and advocated effectively for motorcycle helmets in the UK. He had myotonic dystrophy, a progressive form of muscular dystrophy that affected him more in his later life.

Mel Powell (1923-1998) was an American jazz pianist and composer who worked with Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Django Reinhardt, among other greats. He began using a wheelchair (sometimes a cane) in his twenties, and focused on composition when he needed to stop touring. He was the founding dean of the school of music at California Institute of the Arts.  He won the Pulitzer Prize in Composition in 1990. (You've probably heard music by Mel Powell if you've watched enough old Tom and Jerry cartoons--he composed for those, in addition to his more serious work.)

Quentin Crewe (1926-1998) was an English travel writer and restaurant critic whose New York Times obituary carried the remarkable headline "Quentin Crewe, 72, Bon Vivant Who Was Unfazed by Disability", with the further explanation that he had "not so much suffered from, as gloried in" his muscular dystrophy. He traveled in his customized wheelchair -- including two years crossing the Sahara, and two years living in Kyoto -- and wrote his books by typing one-handed. He wrote a gossipy memoir, Well, I Forget the Rest: The Autobiography of an Optimist (1991), of his adventures.

Alfredino Ferrari
Alfredo "Dino" Ferrari (1932-1956), yes, from that Ferrari family.  Alfredo was the son of company founder Enzo Ferrari, and an automotive engineer too, before he died at 24, from complications of his Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The "Dino" car series was named in his honor. There's also a Formula One racing venue named for him and for his father.

Sister Mary Louise St. John (1943-2003) was an American Catholic gay rights activist and a Benedictine nun who used a wheelchair from her youth. She studied world literature and psychology at Skidmore College before entering her religious order. At a conference in 1989, she declared, 'To alienate my lesbian identity from the identity of the Godness within me would be to dismember myself.'' At the same event, she spoke about the challenge of claiming her sexuality as a wheelchair user. She was cofounder of the Womynspace coffeehouse in Erie, and spoke at that city's first gay rights rally in 1998. Sister Mary Louise served as a business manager, tutor, and retreat guide at her motherhouse. She was also on the board of the local Community Resources for Independence.  Here's her obituary in the Erie Gay News, with a small blurry photo of her using a power wheelchair.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

CFP: Voices of Madness, Voices of Mental Ill-Health (15-16 September 2016)

from Steven Taylor:

Voices of Madness, Voices of Mental ill-health
Centre for Health Histories, University of Huddersfield
15th- 16th Sept 2016

In the thirty years since Roy Porter called on historians to lower their gaze so that they might better understand patient-doctor roles in the past, historians have sought to place the voices of previously, silent, marginalised and disenfranchised individuals at the heart of their analyses.

Contemporaneously, the development of service user groups and patient consultations have become an important feature of the debates and planning related to current approaches to prevention, care and treatment. The aim of this conference is to further explore and reveal how the voices of those living with and treating mental illness have been recorded and expressed.  We hope to consider recent developments in these areas with a view to facilitating an interdisciplinary discourse around historical perspectives of mental health and illness.

The organisers invite proposals for 20 minutes on the themes of voices of madness and mental ill health under headings including but not limited to:

Oral history and testimony

Mental ill-health and community care

Mental ill-health and institutional histories

The role of informal carers

The growth of the mental health professions

Mental ill health and the voice(s) of adolescentsand children

Museums and the ‘heritage’ of mental ill health

The literature (fiction and non-fiction) of mental ill health

Language of madness (if not covered by ‘heritage’)

Dissenting voices

Appropriation of voices

Absent voices

Voices and art

Voices and stigma

The voices of mental ill-health on TV and radio

Individual, activist and social media

For more information contact Dr Rob Ellis (, Dr Sarah Kendal ( or Dr Steven Taylor ( To submit a paper proposal (250 words maximum) or express an interest, please contact Steve Taylor by 14 March 2015.

We hope to offer some bursaries for postgraduate and early career researchers.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

CFP: Disability and Deafness in Literature for Young People (Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies special issue)

CFP: Disability and Deafness in Literature for Young People (Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies special issue)

Guest editors: Chloƫ Hughes and Elizabeth A. Wheeler

This special issue of the JLCDS aims to bring together an international and  multidisciplinary base of readers and writers who explore disability in  literature published for young people.

While disability and deafness have often featured in literature for young people, their most usual role has been as a “narrative prosthesis” supporting the storyline. Disability and Deaf literature for young readers has boomed in the twenty-first century, including bestsellers like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Fault in Our Stars, Wonder, Wonderstruck, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and Out of My Mind, as well as a growing collection of texts written in or with Blissymbolics, Braille, Sign Language, or in tactile, textile, interactive, and digital formats. This special issue reconsiders the history and current urgency of disability and deafness in literature for young readers in light of this twenty-first century publishing boom.

Children are often on the front lines of the struggle over the meanings of disability. For young people both with and without disabilities, the works they encounter provide long-lasting frames of reference for understanding bodymind diversity. It is especially important that scholars well versed in disability and Deaf justice, theory, and lived experience critique this canon.

We seek articles on a wide variety of genres, including fantasy, dystopias, science fiction, graphic memoirs and novels, biography, digital forms like blogs and vlogs, “misfit romance,” “sick lit,” and superhero stories. Disabilities that only exist in fictional worlds are fair game. The guest editors are interested in submissions that cross-examine race, class, gender, and sexuality as well as disability and deafness and represent a wide cross-section of international literatures and ethnic groups. We welcome proposals from disability and Deaf studies scholars (especially those who may not have previously written about literature for young people), but also encourage submissions from scholars of other disciplines who might lend their perspectives on using literature for young people with representations of disability to explore bodymind diversity with children and adolescents. We are also interested in intergenerational dialogues, interviews with authors and illustrators who have included protagonists with disabilities or published books for young people in accessible formats, as well as reviews of recently published young adult literature that features protagonists with disabilities. We particularly encourage submissions from scholars with the same disability as the protagonist.

Examples of content foci for this special issue of the JLCDS include, but are not limited to:
• Disabled and Deaf characters challenging normalcy
• Fantastic Freaks and Critical Crips in countercultural texts for young people
• Aesthetic/artistic representations of disability in picturebooks
• Literature for young people by Disabled or Deaf authors and illustrators
• Beyond “narrative prosthesis”
• Children’s and Young Adult Literature in accessible formats
• The role /aesthetics of disability accommodations in texts for young people
• Visibility or invisibility of Disability Rights in literature for young people
• Intersectionality: race, gender, class, sexual orientation, gender identity
• Representations of chronic illness and mental health
• Biographical writing for young people—what is / is not included?
• Critiques of didactic texts for young people on disability
• Interviews of authors/ illustrators
• Reviews of recently published children’s and young adult literature with representations of disability

April 15, 2016: submission of a 500 word proposal for articles or 150 word proposal for reviews and a one-page curriculum vitae to guest editors at and
May 15, 2016: prospective authors notified of proposal status.
November 1, 2016: final versions of selected papers due to editors.
February 1, 2017: finalists selected. Decisions and revisions on submissions sent to authors.
May 1, 2017: final, revised papers due from finalists.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

DHA Outstanding Book Award

From the DHA:

The Disability History Association promotes the relevance of disability to
broader historical enquiry and facilitates research, conference travel, and
publication for scholars engaged in any field of disability history.

The Disability History Association is excited to announce its 5th Annual
Outstanding Publication Award
. The award alternates between books and
peer-reviewed articles or book chapters.

In 2016 the award committee will accept book submissions. Submissions are
welcome from scholars in all fields who engage in work relating to the
history of disability. Book submissions may have one or multiple authors
and may be a single monograph, or an edited collection, provided the latter
contains new and original scholarship.

Although the award is open to all authors covering all geographic areas and
time periods, the publication must be in English, and must have a
publication date within the two years preceding the submission date (i.e.
1/1/2014 – 5/1/2016). If your book was published in 2014 or 2015, or it
will be published in the first four months of 2016, your book is eligible
for the prize.

The amount of the award is $600.

All submissions should be sent to the award committee care of Michael
Rembis no later than May 1, 2016.

Authors should arrange for five (5) copies of the book to be sent directly
to the award committee at: Michael Rembis, Department of History,
University at Buffalo, 552 Park Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260-4130. Submissions
should also be sent in a format compatible with screen reading software,
such as a .doc file or a text-based .pdf to

In the interest of modeling best practices in the field of disability
studies, we require that the publisher/author provide an electronic copy in
text-based .pdf or .doc file format for the review committee. We understand
that copyright rules apply, and we will only use the electronic copy for
the purposes of the DHA Outstanding Publication Award.  Manuscripts not
provided in accessible electronic formats for screen reading software in a
timely manner will not be considered for the prize.

The Disability History Association board will announce the recipient of the
DHA Outstanding Publication Award in September 2016.