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Evolving Syllabus

Kristin's picture


Health Studies 304                    Prof. Kristin Lindgren

Tuesday 7:30-10                       VCAM 102                                    Office: Stokes 118 IA 



In this course, students will engage with recent work in critical disability studies across a range of humanistic disciplines, including literary studies, visual studies, history, and philosophy. Drawing on these varied disciplinary perspectives, we will explore how disability theory and engaged community practice inform and shape one another. Along the way, we will discuss the historical and theoretical development of the ideas of normalcy and disability; questions around ethical engagement and inclusive design; the growth of disability arts and culture; and the relationship between disability, access, and exhibition practices. In consultation with the instructor, students will also draw up an independent reading list that will shape their final project. The course includes a semester-long project in partnership with the Center for Creative Works (CCW), a studio and teaching space in Wynnewood, PA, for artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This project will involve weekly meetings, alternately at Haverford and CCW, and occasional field trips. It will culminate in an exhibition at Haverford at the end of the semester. Students will contribute weekly reading responses and project notes; complete a mid-semester essay and final course project, and participate in developing the CCW partnership. The syllabus will evolve and change as we go, based on collaborative decisions about what we what to learn and how we want to learn it.



I invite you to talk with me early in the semester about how you learn best and how we can make our classroom and class projects as accessible and generative for you and others as possible. If you would like to request accommodations in this course, please meet with Sherrie Borowsky (, Coordinator of the Office of Access and Disability Services, or with the coordinator of your campus’s office. As a class, we will try to enact principles of universal design. Let’s create a more inclusive and accessible world! 



A notebook, aka repository of ideas, musings, sketches, and responses of many kinds
to our CCW partnership. You may create a digital notebook if you prefer. 

Readings for the course will be made available as pdf's on Serendip as we proceed.

We will also be using these books:

Eli Clare, Exile and Pride (bookstore, library, e-version available via Tripod )
Lennard J. Davis, ed. The Disability Studies Reader (bookstore, library, e-version available via Tripod)
Kim Nielsen, A Disability History of the United States (bookstore, library)
Susan Nussbaum, Good Kings, Bad Kings (bookstore, library, audiobook via Tripod)



I expect us to create, collectively, an inclusive learning community in which each one of us, both in the classroom and in our CWW partnership, can teach and learn joyfully and effectively. To this end, I ask for your attentive presence in four spaces: our classroom; the CCW partnership; our online course space Serendip; and your notebook. Assignments include weekly notebook entries, eight Serendip posts over the semester, a mid-semester project, a final project, and participation in the CCW partnership, including planning our end-of-semester exhibition.



I will ask you to post on Serendip eight weeks out of the fourteen weeks of the semester. If you miss a week, you can post a response to another course event (e.g. a film or a talk), a CCW experience, or a reflection on an article, artwork, film, etc, that is related to our course material. A full and thoughtful response to someone else's posting also counts as a response, and some weeks I will ask you to do this. So: I would like you to post at least 8 times on Serendip over the semester (your mid-term and final projects will bring this to 10) but your postings can take a variety of forms. Sometimes there will be a general prompt and sometimes a more specific one. If you have other ideas about how we can engage on Serendip effectively as a class, let's discuss! At the end of the semester, part of your "portfolio" will consist of an e-portfolio (easy to create in 3 minutes) of all your Serendip postings plus your mid-semester and end-of-semester projects posted on Serendip. If you need to miss a class for any reason, I suggest creating an additional Serendip post.  



I use a portfolio grading process, in which I ask you to submit a portfolio of your work at the end of the semester. The portfolio will include your mid-semester and final projects, your notebook, your Serendip posts, and a checklist of the work for the course. The checklist includes, for example, weekly notebook entries, weekly participation in the CCW partnership, individual meetings with me, and two work-in-progress presentations. I will also ask for a 2-3 page informal reflection on your learning in the course. You will receive individual grades on your mid-semester project, your final project, and your engagement in the four course spaces (classroom, CCW, Serendip, notebook). Your final course grade will be holistic, based on these three grades and your portfolio as a whole. Please talk to me if you have questions or concerns about grading.




January 21

Introductions and overview of the course

Staff members from CCW will join us to discuss the CCW partnership and
begin thinking through schedule and logistics. 



January 28

Reading: Simi Linton, Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity (pdf): Foreword (by Michael Bérubé); Chapter 1, "Reclamation;" Chapter 2, "Reassigning Meaning" (37 pages in all)

Eli Clare, excerpts from Exile and Pride:  “the mountain" (pages 1-13),” and "freaks and queers" (pages 81-118)
(50 pages in all)
CW: sexual abuse

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, “Becoming Disabled” (4 pages)

Mia Mingus, "Access Intimacy" (2 pages)

Jim Ferris, "Poems with Disabilities" (1 page)

Stella Young, I'm Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much  (9 minutes)

Serendip: Create a username and upload an image. 

 Visit CCW next week for a tour and introductions.  



February 4

Kim Nielsen, A Disability History of the United States, introduction and chapters 1-4 (88 pages)

CW: Some positive stories, but lots of ugly and traumatic disability history. 

I recommend reading it in small chunks, as it's a lot to take in. As you read, think about how disability was defined at different historical moments, who was charged with caring for those who needed care, and how disability intersects in different times and places with gender, race, class, citizenship status, and other identity markers. You don't need to pay equal attention to every chapter of the book; read the introduction to get a broad overview and then read the sections that interest you most. Collectively, we'll put together the bigger picture.

These short readings will give you some context for understanding CCW as a progressive art studio:
Disparate Minds, "Progressive Practices: The Basics" (blog post, about 4 pages)
Interview with Matthew Higgs and Lisa Sonneborn, "Sometimes We Need to Get Uncomfortable" (4 pages)

Serendip: Post a question about or reflection on some aspect of the reading from either last week or this week. We won't be able to discuss everything in class, but your posts will give us some places to begin and Serendip can provide a space to discuss things we don't get to in class. 

Notebook: Create a cover, or if you're creating a digital notebook, a cover page.

List seven things you did and seven things you noticed during your visit to CCW. These can be very small things! Then develop one or more of these things into a brief written reflection, a drawing, a poem, a collage, or another mode of reflecting on your experience. You will do this each time we visit CCW or CCW artists come to Haverford, and you can include reflections on other events associated with the CCW partnership. The notebook will form a creative and concrete representation of your weekly engagement with the partnership. If you mention particular CCW artists, you should use their initials to preserve privacy; we may include some notebooks in our final course exhibition/event with CCW.

CCW artists come to the Maker Arts Space to do 3D scans and photogrammetry.
Thursday and Friday, 9:30 AM-12 PM followed by lunch in the DC

Students do 3D scans during Open Hours in Maker Space. 



February 11

Kim Nielsen, A Disability History of the United States, chapters 5 & 6 (about 50 pages)

CW: Some positive stories, but lots of ugly and traumatic disability history.

You will choose one of the following threads to follow, and we will build class discussion around these threads.

1) Gender, race, & disability 
2) Class, labor, & disability
3) Immigration, citizenship, & disability

We will save some time to discuss your experiences with CCW so far and the two short pieces you read last week:
Disparate Minds, "Progressive Practices: The Basics" (blog post, about 4 pages) 
Interview with Matthew Higgs and Lisa Sonneborn, "Sometimes We Need to Get Uncomfortable" (4 pages)

Post a brief reading response OR a response to a classmate's post on Serendip

Haverford students and CCW artists will use recording devices, prompts, and conversation to begin to explore how they see themselves and each other. Students and Artists will be given the assignment this week to return the following week with at least 10 images either taken on their cell phones or with a disposable digital camera. Images should be taken during the week which show pieces of their lives at home etc . Images should be considered as part of what the individual identifies with. Haverford students will be asked to printout their images and come in with good quality prints of their images.



February 18

Please bring your CCW notebooks to class so you can share some of the things you've been reflecting on. 

Lennard J. Davis, "Introduction: Normality, Power, and Culture" The Disability Studies Reader (DSR) (12 dense pages, read pages 1-8) 

Chris Gabbard, "A Life Beyond Reason" The Chronicle of Higher Education (4 pages)

Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, "Taking Life: Humans" (pdf, 10 dense pages)

Then read one of these two responses to Singer: 

Harriet McBryde Johnson, "Unspeakable Conversations" in DSR and also via pdf, 28 lively pages) 
(The pdf contains additional chapters; feel free to read them if you wish, but we will focus on "Unspeakable Conversations," which is about her encounters with philosopher Peter Singer).

OR, if you've already read Johnson's essay in another class, you may read the following essay instead. (But feel free to reread Johnson if you prefer).
Sunaura Taylor, Beasts of Burden, Chapter 12, "All Animals Are Equal (But Some Are More Equal than Others)" (pdf, 25 pages)

We will discuss the different ways in which Gabbard, McBryde Johnson, and Taylor challenge Singer's definition of personhood.

Optional Serendip post in response to one or more of the readings 

Schedule individual meetings with Kristin for this week or next week. (I'll have a signup sheet in class).

At CCW: Continue conversations, collage project.  Students and artists work side by side creating collages of images which represent themselves.



February 25

Individual meetings with Kristin this week

Begin to formulate an idea for your mid-term project assignment, due March 6.
To get started: Pick up on a thread of something that has engaged you in the reading or conversation, something that’s puzzling you,
or a question you want to ask, and spend some time following that thread. One of your Serendip posts might develop into a project. Maybe
there's a issue we haven't discussed in class that you'd like to explore. 
We'll discuss your ideas together; you do not yet need to have a fully formed plan when we meet!

Project parameters: 

  • The project's scope should be equivalent to about 5-7 pages of an analytical essay, but it can take a variety of forms.
  • Discuss your topic, material & methods, and parameters of your particular project with me. 
  • Bring a critical disability studies perspective to your project.  You needn't simply "apply" this perspective: feel free to challenge, extend, or complicate ideas from disability studies. 
  • If your project takes a narrative or artistic form, add an analytical frame or coda that reflects on its relationship to the field of disability studies. 
  • Create a resource that others in the class (and beyond) can draw on. You can do this by extending a conversation we've begun in class, asking new questions, including a bibliography or other resource materials, creating an artistic project that can be shared, and in many other ways. 

Margaret Price, Introduction to Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life (pdf) (25 pages)
You can skim or skip the overview of chapters on pages 21-23, and in general focus on sections that interest you.

Ibby Grace, "Cognitively Accessible Language (Why We Should Care)" (1 page) 

In Nick Walker's blog, Neurocosmopolitanism (about 8 pages in all)


      "Neurodiversity: Some Basic Terms and Definitions"

      "Neuroqueer: An Introduction"

Amythest Schaber, "What is Stimming?" (10 minutes)
If you wish, browse other videos in the Ask An Autistic series

Melanie Yergeau, "I Stim, Therefore I Am" (3 minutes)

Mel Baggs, "In My Language" (8.5 minutes) 

Melanie Yergeau, “Clinically Significant Disturbance: On Theorists Who Theorize Theory of Mind,” in Disability Studies Quarterly (19 pages)
CW: involuntary psychiatric hospitalization and dehumanization
essay plays creatively with the form of an academic article

Serendip post in response to one or more of the readings or viewings, OR respond to someone else's post from this week or last week. 



March 3

You will each have 8-10 minutes for a conversation about your mid-semester project. (About 4-5 minutes for you to talk, and another 4-5 minutes for discussion). This is not a formal presentation; it is an opportunity to talk about work-in-progress with your classmates. Nonetheless, you need to plan your time carefully. Please give us a sense of the main questions or ideas that motivate your project and the methods & materials you are using to explore these questions. If you are including drawings, images, film clips, or other materials, it would be great to see an example or two-- you can pass things around, or you can project images on the screen. Finally, tell your classmates something you're still struggling with/trying to work out, and ask for ideas and feedback.

By the end of the day on Friday, March 6th (with a grace period over the following few days), please upload your project to Serendip. You can *in addition* email me a project if you wish, or give me a hard copy/material version. By the end of the week after spring break, I'd like you to read/view at least three of your classmates' projects. Read them all if you have time! Please post a comment on one or more, including one that no one has yet commented on, by Friday, March 20th.






Please read/view at least three of your classmates' mid-term projects this week on Serendip. Read them all if you have time!

Serendip: Post a response to one or more mid-term projects, including one that has not yet been commented on. 

To be discussed NEXT week, WEEK NINE,  March 24

Susan Nussbaum, Good Kings, Bad Kings (294 pages but a quick read)
CW: sexual abuse, psychiatric abuse, accidental death. Also lots of humor, resilience, and resistance. 

Nicola Griffith, Rewriting the Old Disability Script (2 pages)

Cheryl Green, In My Home (6 minutes) We can also view this in class if you wish. 

Optional: Harriet McBryde Johnson, "The Disability Gulag" (6 pages)

Optional: Kings Floyd, TED talk (10 minutes) (Kings is the sister of a current HC student)



March 31

Petra Kuppers, Introduction to Disability Culture and Community Performance: Find a Strange and Twisted Shape, (Read pages 1-14, e-version available through Tripod)

Let's do a close reading, together, of this portion of Petra's essay. As you read, mine Petra’s writing for particular words, sentences, and ideas that stand out to you as ways of characterizing disability culture or disability art, and write them down. How does the form of Petra’s writing enact disability culture? Is it accessible? Is it art?

Axis Dance, Changing the Face of Dance and Disability (4.5 minutes)
Think about how the dancers are reinventing "partnering" in dance and how the SYTYCD audience might respond to their dance.

Alice Sheppard, "I Dance Because I Can" NYTimes (2 pages)

Alice Sheppard, Embodied Virtuosity: Dances from Disability Culture (8 minutes)

Viewing: Invitation to Dance, directed by Simi Linton and Christian von Tippelskirch (1 hr 25 min).  Streamable via Tripod and Kanopy for BMC and Haverford students. Also available on Amazon Prime. 

Serendip: post a response to or reflection on Petra Kuppers's questions: "What is disability culture? Is there one, are there many? Who calls culture into being?" OR respond to and expand on someone else's post.



April 7

Reading: H-Dirksen L. Bauman and Joseph J. Murray, “Deaf Studies in the 21st Century: ‘Deaf-Gain’ and the Future of Human Diversity"
in The Disability Studies Reader (ebook via Tripod), 242-255 (9 dense pages plus notes).

How Architecture Changes for the Deaf (5 minutes)

Christine Sun Kim, The Enchanting Music of Sign Language (15 minutes) 

Viewing: documentary film Deaf Jam (1 hour, 10 min) Streamable via Tripod and Kanopy from BMC and HC.
If you've seen it before and would prefer to watch something else, browse youtube for clips of ASL poetry and other videos about Deaf culture.
I'd love to know what you find! 

Serendip: Post a question or response to some aspect of the reading or viewing and/or respond to and expand on another student's post. 

Optional: Browse these sites, with thanks to Fiona Smith (former CDS student) for the suggestions!

From Fiona:

There's an interpreter named Matt Maxey who I follow from DEAFinitely Dope, who's most famous for his onstage interpreting of Chance the Rapper.  Here's an article on him (it's long but easy to read, and has lots of videos and GIFs).

Matt Maxey

There are also some funny youtubers, Ben and Andy, who have a channel called CODA Brothers.  They have hilarious sketches and shows where they discuss best and worst interpreters, funny deaf culture stories from their childhood, "deaf driving", and so on.  

CODA Brothers channel

 Another great youtube channel is Deafies in Drag, who mainly do slapstick comedy/funny skits/makeup tutorials, but also have some great entertaining lessons on Deaf culture and their experiences.  My two favorites would be "Expectation vs. Reality:  Deaf People" and "#DeafiesProblems".

Deafies in Drag



April 14

First, some short, related readings about disability, ableism, and triage.
#nobodyisdisposable #ICUgenics

How do we make decisions about allocating medical resources when there aren't enough to go around?

Alice Wong, "Am I Expendable During this Pandemic?" (2 pages)

Elliot Kukla, "My Life is More 'Disposable' During this Pandemic" (2 pages) 

Joseph Stramondo: "Disability, Likeliness of Survival, and Inefficiency Amidst Pandemic" (1 page)

Optional: Katie Savin and Laura Guidry-Grimes: "Confronting Disability Discrimination During the Pandemic" (5 pages)

Next, some readings about the politics of cure.

How do we distinguish between appropriate cure and unwanted intervention?

Eli Clare, "Introduction,"  Chapter 1, "Ideology of Cure," (pages 5-17) and Chapter 4, "Nuances of Cure" (pages 53-62, not 63-64)
in Brilliant Imperfection, (e-book on Tripod, 24 pages total)

Erika Check Hayden,"Tomorrow's Children: What would genome editing really mean for future generations?"
Nature, vol 530. (about 5 pages) 

Ben Mattlin, "Cure Me? No Thanks" (3 pages)

Is it ethical to choose for or against deafness or disability?

Is it ethical to use reproductive or genetic technologies (ranging from selecting a sperm donor to pre-implantation genetic screening to CRISPR) to select against a deaf child? To select for a deaf child? To use germline editing to select for or against the trait of deafness in future generations? What are the questions and perspectives we need to consider?

H-Dirksen L. Bauman, "Designing Deaf Babies and the Question of Disability" (5 pages)

Serendip: Respond to any of the readings and/or reflect on how ableism shapes bioethical decision-making in some context: reproductive technology, CRISPR, triage, or something else. 

We will schedule individual meetings starting next week to brainstorm about your final projects.


Four optional longer articles to read another time if you're interested:

Keri Cronin, "Modern Eugenics: A Disability Theory Perspective on CRISPR" (Serendip) 

Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, "Bioethics and the Deaf Community, in Signs and Voices (pdf, 11 pages) 

Shawna Benston, "CRISPR: A Crossroads in Genetic Intervention: Pitting the Right to Health against the Right to Disability" Laws 2016 5 (1) (about 15 pages)

Michael Bérubé, "The Meaning of Life," from Life as Jamie Knows It (pdf, 30 pages)



April 21

Schedule a meeting with Kristin to  brainstorm about final projects.

Give some thought to notes & images we might send to our CCW partners. 

Viewing: Crip Camp, streamable on Netflix, 1 hr. 47 min. (let me know if you don't have Netflix access)
CW: disturbing footage of abusive conditions at Willowbrook State School

Optional: If you want more information about the disability rights movement, I suggest Chapter 8 of Kim Nielsen's book
A Disability History of the United States, most of which we read earlier in the semester (25 pages)

A couple of other book-length resources for any of you who want to do final projects on this topic:
Lennard J. Davis, Enabling Acts: The Hidden Story of How the Americans with Disability Act Gave the Largest US Minority its Rights
Joseph P. Shapiro, No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement

Serendip post optional



April 28

Class: Work-in-Progress Presentations

Fill out Course Evaluations

In planning your 5-minute presentation (followed by 5 minutes for discussion) keep these things in mind:

  • What are the central questions or ideas guiding your project?
  • How does a disability studies framework shape your project and the questions you are asking? (Consider the difference between a project "about" disability and a project that also brings questions or perspectives from disability studies to the table) 
  • What are your materials and methods? (Close reading of text, images, film clips? Interviews? Multiple media? A particular disciplinary framework? An intersectional approach?)
  • What would you like the rest of us to learn from your work so far? What can you share with us now, and what are you still figuring out? How can the rest of us be a resource for you as you work on your project? How can your project serve as a resource for the rest of us, and potentially for others beyond the class?      

Final project parameters: 

  • The project's scope should be equivalent to about 5-7 pages of an analytical essay, but it can take a variety of forms.
  • Discuss your topic, material & methods, and parameters of your particular project with me. 
  • Bring a critical disability studies perspective to your project.  You needn't simply "apply" this perspective: feel free to challenge, extend, or complicate ideas from disability studies. 
  • If your project takes a narrative or artistic form, add an analytical frame or coda that reflects on its relationship to the field of disability studies. 
  • Create a resource that others in the class (and beyond) can draw on. You can do this by extending a conversation we've begun in class, asking new questions, including a bibliography or other resource materials, creating an artistic project that can be shared, and in many other ways. 

Final projects and portfolios due Friday, May 15 by noon.

Note:  May 15 is a *college deadline* for all semester work, so I cannot extend this deadline without permission of your Dean.



Below are instructions for submitting your final project, e-portfolio, and course reflection. This process invites you to look back on the work you've done over the semester and reflect on what you’ve learned. 

1. Please post your final project to Serendip.

2. Log onto our course homepage. Under “Quick Links” on the left side of the page, you will see “My E-Portfolio.” Clicking on that will call up your two projects and all of your Serendip postings. This is your “portfolio” for the semester.

3. Scan some pages of your CCW notebook (if you brought it home) and post these to Serendip or email them to me. 

4. Review your portfolio and reflect on your learning this semester (not just what appears in concrete form in your portfolio). Then, please write an informal essay (about 2 pages) reflecting on this learning, on where you were at the beginning of the semester and where you are now. Do you see any particular questions or themes that occupied you throughout the semester? Think about your projects and your contributions inside and outside the classroom. You can consider some of the questions below, but you do not need to answer all of them. 

How has your understanding of disability been expanded or challenged? In what contexts did learning happen for you, and how did you contribute to others’ learning?  What will you take from this course into your future courses and your future as a human? How did the pandemic change, interfere with, or deepen your learning?

You can email your reflection to me or post it on Serendip. If you post on Serendip, tag your piece by checking the box “Self-Evaluation and Reflection." I look forward to spending some time with your portfolios and your reflections. If you have any questions whatsoever about the process, please feel free to email me.

Your portfolio includes your two projects, your Serendip posts, scans from your CCW notebook, and a written reflection on your learning in the course.

Final projects and portfolios due Friday, May 15 by noon. 




Please add scans of photos and one or more pages of your notebook to the Google folder by Monday, April 20th. 

Carmen Papalia, “A New Model for Access in the Museum”

Sara Hendren, The Accessible Icon Project (An Icon Is a Verb and Notes on Design Activism) (about 8 pages with images)

Teaching Tolerance lesson plan: Art & Accessibility: Study of Design (about 3 pages) and related lessons.

See links below to the guidelines offered by two high-profile, mainstream arts & exhibition spaces. Browse these guidelines, checking out what interests you. Smaller arts organizations are often at the cutting edge of access, but the big organizations are generally the ones that produce guidelines.    

The Kennedy Center: Sensory Friendly Programming: A Guide for Performing Arts Settings (17 pages)

Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Exhibition Design (110 pages with Table of Contents, so you can read selectively)
Read Overview of Guidelines (3 pages) and one section that interests you, otherwise browse 

In your lab notebooks, list/describe 7 access features you've noticed at CCW, ranging from specific art tools or techniques to different ways of imagining communication, community, temporality, productivity, and so forth.  Bring notebooks to class.

Start developing ideas for your final project, and we'll schedule individual meetings this week and next week.

Optional: Additional info about The Accessible Icon Project: 



April 21

By Monday, April 20th
Please add scans of one or more pages of your notebook, plus photos if you wish, to the Google folder
Please add a comment about the collaboration with CCW to the google doc.
Comments might be most interesting if they focus on a particular moment or particular activity.

Seniors may choose to give Work-in-Progress Presentations this week (others next week). 

No new reading apart from individual reading related to your final project.

Sara Hendren Interview (7 minutes)

Sara Hendren: Engineering for an Inclusive World (2.5 minutes, and she talks superfast)

Browse the examples of access strategies and accessible exhibitions below. We will create a list of access tasks for our exhibition and you can sign up for one or more. If you find an interesting example of an access practice or an exhibition that uses access creatively, post it to Serendip, and I'll also list it here.  

Examples of Access Strategies for events (to be consulted as we plan for our exhibition)
The Senses: Design Beyond Vision (multisensory exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt in NYC)
What Can A Body Do? (Accessibility page for exhibition at Haverford)
What Can A Body Do? (Audio descriptions and transcripts)
Wonder  at the Renwick Gallery
Interaction Badges, ASAN (Autistic Self-Advocacy Network)

In class, we'll work on planning the CCW exhibition and the opening reception, with particular attention to access.