Call for Papers: Dis/ability and Culture in German-speaking Europe

Katherine  Sorrels's picture

Profound personal and social shame about deviation from the normate has, historically, led to silence about disability, yet representations of disability can nevertheless be found in cultural texts since antiquity. Disability Studies takes a critical perspective on such cultural representations of disability. The field uses a cultural studies-orientated approach to reveal ways in which dis/ability is the product or the effect of discursive structures of power and knowledge. Dis/ability is therefore understood as a cultural construct that is subject to historical transformations. Positioned between discourse-historical, science of history and cultural reconstructions on the one hand and contemporary practice on the other, Disability Studies focuses on definitions and constructions as well as discourses and cultural depictions of disability and abledness. The impact of this approach has been a successful challenge to the intellectual foundations of the “biomedical model of disability,” in which disability is understood as defect, personal tragedy, and collective burden.

In the United States, such a cultural studies-oriented perspective on dis/ability has been established since at least the 1990s. One of the most important studies is Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s Extraordinary Bodies (1997), which analyzes dis/ability in literature and film. In recent years, the category ‘dis/abled’ has also come into focus in the German-speaking context. Particularly noteworthy in this respect is the comprehensive work of Anne Waldschmidt, which is dedicated to a cultural studies perspective on Disability Studies. Other important examples include the study, Imaginationen des Monströsen, (2016) by Urte Helduser, which understands the ‘monster’ as a historical representation of disability, Nina Schmidt’s The Wounded Self (2018), which examines illness and disability in contemporary German-language life writing, and the first German-language introduction to Disability Studies Körper, Kultur und Behinderung (2007) by Markus Dederich.

Engaging with and building on such research on dis/ability in the German-speaking and American contexts, the volume will explore German cultural texts (“texts” conceptualized in the broadest sense) through the lens of Disability Studies. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

Dis/ability and media
History of dis/ability
Body discourses
Political struggle and activism
Dis/ability and medicine
Bioethics Medical humanities
Intersectionality
Deaf Studies
‘Cripping’ culture
Dis/ability and identity

The deadline for abstract submission (250 words max) is January 5, 2020. Full articles will be due 30. April 2020. The language of publication is English, and all proposals will be peer reviewed. We are in discussion with a publisher and plan to publish the peer reviewed volume in 2021. Please submit your abstracts to Linda Leskau, Universität Dortmund (linda.leskau@tu-dortmund.de), Tanja Nusser, University of Cincinnati (tanja.nusser@uc.edu) and Katherine Sorrels, University of Cincinnati (Katherine.sorrels@uc.edu).