Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies
Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies

Disabilities Studies: A Public Symposium

Rita Charon Poster Resized


Mel Y. Chen is Associate Professor of Gender & Women's Studies at U.C. Berkeley and Director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture. Chen’s 2012 book, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Duke University Press, winner of Alan Bray Award from Modern Language Association’s GL/Q Caucus), explores questions of racialization, queering, disability, and affective economies in animate and inanimate “life” through the extended concept of “animacy.” A second book project concerns the relationships among the conceptual territories of “toxicity” and “intoxication” and their involvement in histories of the shared interanimation of race and disability. Further writing on topics such as cognitive disability and method, animal gendering in film, the racialization of pollution, and queer intimacies can be found in the journals Women’s Studies Quarterly, GLQ, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Transgender Studies Quarterly, Discourse, Women in Performance, Australian Feminist Studies, Amerasia, Worldviews, and Medical Humanities (forthcoming). A co-edited special issue (with Dana Luciano) of GLQ on “Queer Inhumanisms” appeared in early 2015. With Jasbir K. Puar, Chen coedits a book series entitled “Anima,” highlighting scholarship in critical race and disability post/in/humanisms at Duke University Press.


Nirmala Erevelles is Professor of Social and Cultural Studies in Education at the University of Alabama. Her teaching and research interests lie in the areas of disability studies, critical race theory, transnational feminism, sociology of education, and postcolonial studies. Specifically, her research focuses on the unruly, messy, unpredictable and taboo body – a habitual outcast in educational (and social) contexts. Erevelles asks: Why do some bodies matter more than others? Her insistence on an intersectional analysis foregrounds the dialectical relationship between disability and the other constructs of difference, namely race, class, gender, and sexuality and its brutal implications for (disabled) students in U. S. public schools and (disabled) citizens in transnational contexts. Erevelles has published articles in the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Theory, Studies in Education and Philosophy, the Journal of Curriculum Studies, Teachers College Record, Disability & Society, Disability Studies Quarterly, and the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, among others. Her book, Disability and Difference in Global Contexts: Towards a Transformative Body Politic, was published by Palgrave in November 2012.


Alison Kafer is professor of feminist studies at Southwestern University, where she also teaches in the race and ethnicity studies and environmental studies programs. She is the author of Feminist, Queer, Crip (Indiana UP, 2013) as well as essays in queer feminist disability studies.


Julie Passanante Elman received her Ph.D. in American Studies from the George Washington University in 2009. She is currently Assistant Professor of Women's & Gender Studies at the University of Missouri. She previously served as Lecturer of Television Studies/Media Theory at University College Dublin (Republic of Ireland) and Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow of Gender and Sexuality Studies in New York University's Department of Social & Cultural Analysis. There, she developed NYU’s first-ever undergraduate disability studies course. Elman’s research focuses broadly on disability studies; feminist and queer theory; science studies; and U.S. media and cultural history. Her monograph, Chronic Youth: Disability, Sexuality, and US Media Cultures of Rehabilitation (Social & Cultural Analysis Series, NYUP, 2014) shows how the representational figure of the teenager became a cultural touchstone for shifting notions of able-bodiedness, heteronormativity, and neoliberalism in the post-sexual liberation era. By analyzing how adolescence increasingly became represented as a disability, the book reveals how the teenager became a lynchpin for a US culture of perpetual rehabilitation and governmentality. Elman's research has also appeared in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Somatosphere, and Television & New Media and is forthcoming in an anthology from NYU Press, Disability Media Studies (Elizabeth Ellcessor and William Kirkpatrick, eds). She is currently working on a second monograph, Wearable You: Technology, Our Bodies, Ourselves, a cultural history of wearable technology that examines how disability, race, class, gender, and sexuality shape cultural ideas about the relationship among technology, health, and good citizenship. Elman currently serves on the editorial board of Disability Studies Quarterly and is working to establish an undergraduate Disability Studies Certificate at Mizzou. Her undergraduate courses include: Introduction to Women’s & Gender Studies; Disability & Sexuality in U.S. Culture; Queer Cultural Politics; Feminist Theory; Feminist Methodologies, and Feminist Media Studies. In recognition of her teaching excellence, she earned the Provost’s Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching Award in 2015.

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