Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Language of Disability

As an interdisciplinary field of study, Disability Studies explores concepts of disability from many perspectives, seeking to identify social, cultural, historical, political, and economic factors that influence how disability is conceptualized and how people respond to it. This inquiry also involves examining the words and symbols that are commonly used to describe disability, and rhetorical methods are well suited to such an analysis. For those who may be interested in contributing to the discourse in this way, I'm reposting a call for papers addressing the topic of disability and rhetoric:

Call for Papers for a Special Issue of the Disability Studies Quarterly: Disability and Rhetoric

The profound insight of Disability Studies is its conception of disability as a representational system rather than as a medical problem, a deficit, or a personal tragedy (Thomson, 1997). In this view, disability is regarded not as a settled physical or cognitive fact but rather as a discourse, a collection of figures and narratives, tropes and topoi, speakers and audiences that suggest identities and positions in the world to those participating in the discourse. The analysis of disability, then, necessarily goes beyond medical and psychological perspectives to consider how words and other symbols may be used, recalling Kenneth Burke (1969), by human agents, “to form attitudes or to induce actions in other human agents” (41). Disability, to say it another way, is inherently rhetorical and may best be understood through methods of rhetorical inquiry and analysis.

To that end, a special issue of the Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ) will address the topic of rhetoric and disability. While Disability Studies has revealed the essentially discursive nature of disability, rhetorical theory and analysis promise to further the discussion by contributing a unique set of methods, terms, and concepts. Rhetorical method is a particularly important concern, and we are especially interested in essays that illustrate diverse methods and modes of rhetorical analysis as these relate to disability. Essays may analyze the workings of rhetoric in printed works about disability but also in other media, including film, music, web-texts, graphic novels, and other forms of sound and image.

We define “disability” broadly to include physical, cognitive, and intellectual difference. The ideal essays will enrich understandings of the relationship of rhetoric and disability, but will also serve as models for future scholarship in studies of symbolic representations of disability. Potential issues or topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

- Disability as, in, or and rhetoric
- Disability and or as trope
- Disability rhetorics in the media
- Disability rhetorics in the classroom, workplace, or home
- Disability rhetorics and narrative
- Disability and digital rhetorics
- Activism and rhetoric
- Disability and audience
- Disability and rhetorical appeals, the rhetorical canons, and/or the rhetorical triangle
- Disability and legal/governmental rhetorics
- Rhetorics of accessibility
- Rhetorical constructions of disabled identity

Queries or abstracts sent by February 1, 2010
Full submissions due July 1, 2010
Final revisions due November 31, 2010
Publication in the Winter 2011 issue of DSQ.

Submission guidelines
Manuscripts must be in the form of a Word document and:

- Have a cover page that includes the author's name, institutional affiliation, and contact information
- Have an abstract of 100-150 words
- Be between 3,000-6,000 words in length (approximately 10-20 double-spaced pages)
- Provide full references for all citations
- Include a brief biography of the author (50-100 words)
- Follow DSQ guidelines: http://www.dsq-sds.org/about/submissions#authorGuidelines

Please send queries and submissions to John Duffy (jduffy@nd.edu) and Melanie Yergeau (yergeau.1@osu.edu).

Burke, K. (1969). A rhetoric of motives. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Thomson, R. G. (1997). Disability, identity, and representation: An introduction. In R.G. Thomson, Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 5-18.

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  • I think I'll be submitting something. I'm thinking perhaps on the rhetoric utilized to de-legitimize disability rights positions in policy and public conversations about bioethics, eugenics and euthanasia. Should be a fascinating topic to explore.

    By Blogger Ari Ne'eman, at 4:41 PM  

  • I'm looking forward to reading it. That certainly is a topic in need of more discussion.

    By Blogger abfh, at 4:55 PM  

  • Is this call specific for students/graduates of Disability Studies or does it apply to people within other disciplines as well?

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 6:43 PM  

  • @Stephanie: Other disciplines as well. Ari Ne'eman is studying public policy.

    By Blogger abfh, at 7:00 PM  

  • THis sounds like a very interesting opportunity. I've done a lot of thinking about disability in media and fiction ( specifically, comic books ) on my blog, so it would be great to write something up for this.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 10:55 PM  

  • I would assume that providing one writes something germane to the topic and properly academically cited (which is a pain) it would suffice.

    It pays to do a bit of background reading.

    By Blogger Larry Arnold PhD FRSA, at 11:27 AM  

  • This is certainly a challenging and intriguing opportunity. I think I will send a query, and leave it to the editors to determine whether my qualifications and ideas have merit for the proposed purpose.

    Thanks for the tip!

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 5:00 PM  

  • Just discovered your blog and am really loving it. I especially loved your post on Feb. 15, 2007 about joy--and the way so many parents think of their kids in terms of consumerism--only valuable if they bring happiness to my life. Reminds me of something I was writing about as I was recovering from ppd. The longer post is here, (http://musings-musings-musings.blogspot.com/2008/07/joy-and-meaning.html), but this is the relevant excerpt: I will never (to the best of my ability) foist upon my daughter the responsibility for making me happy or making life meaningful. That is not her job. That is not her function. That is not what she brings to my life. She brings herself to my life, and that is so much more complex and beautiful and terrifying and difficult than happiness. The burden of finding happiness or meaning or fulfillment is mine alone to bear, and learning to do so has been a terrible, awful, painful, beautiful, joyful process.

    Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. I find it so valuable.

    By Blogger Muser Grace, at 11:05 PM  

  • @The Muser: Much appreciated -- thanks for taking the time to comment!

    By Blogger abfh, at 9:35 AM  

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