Call for Abstracts for Edited Volume - Cripping the Archive: Disability, Power, and History

Jen Barclay Announcement
Subject Fields
Archival Science, Ethnic History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Women's & Gender History / Studies, World History / Studies

Cripping the Archive: Disability, Power, and History
(Edited by Jenifer Barclay and Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy)

“The archive” writes Cameroonian scholar Achilles Mbembe, “is fundamentally a matter of discrimination and of selection, which, in the end, results in the granting of a privileged status to certain written documents, and the refusal of that same status to others, thereby judged 'unarchivable'. The archive is, therefore, not a piece of data, but a status.” In recent years, historians have paid increasing attention to the archives not simply as sites of knowledge but as sites of power and inequality. Their work has brought renewed visibility to the fact that not all pasts are deemed worthy of being documented, archived, retrieved, and written about in the present. This is perhaps especially true for people with disabilities who are paradoxically hypervisible and invisible in the archive. Although disabled people appear in the archive in a variety of familiar sources – from curiosity cabinets to medical records – their voices are often marginalized or silenced. Even in historical scholarship, disabled individuals remain under-explored in spite of the expansion of disability history.

This collection will explore the relationship between disability and the archive. We envision essays that collectively challenge “compulsory able-bodiedness”/able-mindedness (McRuer, 2006) - the ubiquitous beliefs and practices that center able-bodiedness in service of normativity. We invite contributors to ‘crip’ the archive, to adopt a critical orientation that illuminates and disrupts ableist power structures and dynamics and analyze how ableness informs the politics of the archive as a physical space, a sacred place, a discriminatory record, and a collection of silences. We seek work that uses a wide range of methods from authors who foreground the lived experiences and representations of disability in their work. We also strongly encourage submissions that use intersectional, interdisciplinary, and transnational approaches to the question of disability and the archive. We welcome submissions from scholars, writers, and artists and will accept 300-500-word abstracts for this collection through May 15, 2021.

Topics include, but are not limited to:
●    Objects, museums, curiosities; disability on display
●    The absence of disability in archival finding aids and indexes
●    The paradox of disability as both hypervisible and invisible in the historical record and archival imagination
●    Centering disability in the archives of medicine, science, and technology
●    The accessibility of archival spaces and materials
●    The impact of charged and negative disability terminology in changing historical contexts (i.e. monstrous, mad, deaf and dumb, crippled, superannuated, invalid, retardation)
●    Uncovering forgotten histories of disability in the archive and revisiting familiar archival sources through a disability lens
●    Identifying and confronting archival erasures rooted in intersectionality
●    Disability approaches to digital archives
●    The archive as a space of resistance (i.e. the reclamation of knowledge systems, ontologies, and identities structured by disability)
●    Decolonizing the archive of disability, Eurocentric understandings of the body and disability
●    Disability and the archive in transnational perspective
●    Myths of overcoming and inspirational narratives in the archives
●    The challenges of locating disability in already contested archives (e.g. slavery, colonialism, etc.)

Please submit abstracts (300-500 words), an abbreviated CV, and a short bio to editors Jenifer Barclay ( and Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy ( by May 15 2021


Contact Information

Jenifer L. Barclay, University at Buffalo -

Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy, University of New Brunswick -

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