CFP: GSA 2021 – Panel Series „Discourses of Disability“ (01.02.2021)

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Call for Papers: “Discourses of Disability: Rethinking the Mind, Body, and Health in German-Speaking Modernity” Panel Series, sponsored by the Body Studies Network
German Studies Association Conference; 30.9-3.10.21; Indianapolis, IN
Deadline: February 1

Discourses of Disability: Rethinking the Mind, Body, and Health in German-Speaking Modernity

As Carol Poore has written, “both cultural representations of disability and debates about the proper places for disabled people in German society have often been central to major controversies about aesthetics, normality, individuality, citizenship, and morality” (Disability in Twentieth-Century German Culture, xv). The politics of disability were hugely important for the development of the welfare state and the course of the Weimar Republic. The genocidal rejection of disability was an essential feature of Nazi ideology and its policy of extermination. Conceptions of disability continued to underpin images of the ideal body in both East and West after WWII, while disability rights activism formed a part of the new social movements from the 1970s onward. Modernity generated new idealized images of the body, of able-bodiedness and able-mindedness, against which the disabled body was figured as degenerate—something progress should leave behind. At the same time, disability was frequently imagined as the generalized condition of modernity, as urbanization and industrialization seemed to outpace the human body’s ability to keep up. War also linked masculinity, heroism, and injury on a wide scale, creating a type of post-war disabled body rife with what Sabine Kienitz has termed “symbolic capital.” In short, disability as a lived experience and as a conceptual tool has played a significant role in the politics and culture of the modern period.

This interdisciplinary panel series seeks to think about German-speaking modernity from the perspective of disability. Over the last three decades, German Studies scholars have devoted considerable attention to the effects of industrialization and urbanization on the body and mind, as well as how these effects were discursively constructed (in scientific disciplines, for instance) and represented (in literature, theater, painting, film, dance, popular entertainment, and so on). While class, race, gender, and sexuality have become key analytical terms in this scholarship, however, disability has not, despite its clear relevance to conceptualizations and representations of the body and mind. We invite papers that investigate the role of disability discourses in German-speaking countries from a variety of perspectives. We especially want to consider how theories and experiences rooted in disability can draw various areas of inquiry--such as the body, physical and mental illness, medicine, body culture, reproductive politics, and eugenics--into dialogue.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to, ways that discourses of disability have shaped:
- notions of progress, time, efficiency
- definitions of and approaches to health, wellness, medicine
- the construction and deployment of other identity categories (race, gender, class, sexuality)
- aesthetic concepts of beauty and wholeness
- the spaces and built environments of modernity
- collective political action
- the development of media

Timeline:
February 1: Abstracts (350-400 words), short bios, and/or moderator/commentator availability* sent to Paul Dobryden (pad9q@virginia.edu) and Caroline Weist (caroline.weist@richmond.edu)
February 3-4: notifications from organizers
No later than February 10: all participants must be active members of the GSA

*In order to encourage discussion among participants and between panels, we will attempt to fill moderator and commentator roles with presenters from other panels. If you are already committed to a role on a separate panel, please indicate that in your email. We also welcome inquiries from those interested solely in moderating and/or commentating.