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Evolving Syllabus

Kristin's picture




Health Studies 304, Spring 2023

Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:30-4:00 PM

Sharpless 430

Prof. Kristin Lindgren




In this course, students 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 explore how disability theory, disability justice, and engaged community practice inform and shape one another. Along the way, we 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. The course typically includes a 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. We hope to be able to engage in some sessions with CCW artists in the second half of this semester.


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 keely milbourne  (, Director 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!

College Statement:

I am committed to partnering with you on your academic and intellectual journey. I also recognize that your ability to thrive academically can be impacted by your personal well-being and that stressors may impact you over the course of the semester. If the stressors are academic, I welcome the opportunity to discuss and address those stressors with you in order to find solutions together.  If you are experiencing challenges or questions related to emotional health, finances, physical health, relationships, learning strategies or differences, or other potential stressors, I hope you will consider reaching out to the many resources available on campus. These resources include CAPS (free and unlimited counseling is available), the Office of Academic Resources, Health Services, Professional Health Advocate, Religious and Spiritual Life, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the GRASE Center, and the Dean’s Office. Additional information can be found at

Additionally, Haverford College is committed to creating a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse student body and providing equal access to students with a disability. If you have (or think you have) a learning difference or disability – including mental health, medical, or physical impairment – please contact the Office of Access and Disability Services (ADS) at The Director will confidentially discuss the process to establish reasonable accommodations.  It is never too late to request accommodations – our bodies and circumstances are continuously changing.

Students who have already been approved to receive academic accommodations and want to use their accommodations in this course should share their accommodation letter and make arrangements to meet with me as soon as possible to discuss how their accommodations will be implemented in this course. Please note that accommodations are not retroactive and require advance notice in order to successfully implement. If, at any point in the semester, a disability or personal circumstances affect your learning in this course or if there are ways in which the overall structure of the course and general classroom interactions could be adapted to facilitate full participation, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. 

It is a state law in Pennsylvania that individuals must be given advance notice that they may be recorded. Therefore, any student who has a disability-related need to audio record this class must first be approved for this accommodation from the Director of Access and Disability Services and then must speak to me. Other class members need to be aware that this class may be recorded.



Most readings for the course will be made available as pdf's on our course web platform, Serendip. We will also be using portions of the following books. The only one we will read in full is Good Kings, Bad Kings. There is an excellent audiobook version if you prefer to listen. We will also be reading several chapters in A Disability History of the United States.

Eli Clare, Exile and Pride (e-book available via Tripod)

Lennard J. Davis, ed. The Disability Studies Reader (e-book available via Tripod)

Kim Nielsen, A Disability History of the United States (bookstore, e-book available via Tripod)

Susan Nussbaum, Good Kings, Bad Kings (bookstore, e-book available via Tripod)



I expect us to create, collectively, an inclusive learning community in which each one of us can teach and learn joyfully and effectively. To this end, I ask for your attentive presence in our classroom and our online course space Serendip. Assignments include eight Serendip posts over the semester, a mid-semester project, a final project.


I will ask you to post on Serendip eight weeks out of the fourteen weeks of the semester. Some weeks there will be a specific prompt; some weeks not. I will add prompts as we go. You can post a reflection on course material or on an event, article, film, etc. that is related to our course material. (You are also very welcome to post links to anything interesting, but it doesn’t count as one of your eight posts unless you add a reflection).  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 eight times on Serendip over the semester (your mid-term and final projects will bring this to ten) but your postings can take a variety of forms. I welcome your ideas about how we can engage on Serendip effectively as a class.


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 and your Serendip posts. I will also ask for a two-to-three page informal reflection on your learning in the course. You will receive individual grades on your mid-semester project, your final project, and your course engagement (in class, on Serendip, and with CCW). Your final course grade will be holistic, based on these three grades and your portfolio as a whole. Please feel free to talk to me if you have questions or concerns about grading





January 17     

Introductions and overview of the course

Brainstorming class community guidelines and access practices

January 19     

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

James Robinson, I Have A Visual Disability, and I Want You to Look Me in the Eye (12 min)

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

Serendip: Create a username and upload an image



January 24     

Kim Nielsen, A Disability History of the United States, introduction and chapters 1 and 2 (42 pages) (CW for the book: not a pretty history)

There are some positive stories, especially at the beginning and end of the book, but also plenty of traumatic disability history.

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. Post some thoughts about these intersections on Serendip if you wish.

January 26     

Lennard Davis, "Introduction: Normality, Power, and Culture" The Disability Studies Reader (DSR) (Read pages 1-8, dense reading)

Harriet McBryde Johnson, “Unspeakable Conversations,” also via pdf (pdf contains several chapters: this is chapter nine, 28 pages).



January 31     

A Disability History, chapter 6 (30 pages)     

February 2     

Hidden Brain podcast: Emma, Carrie, Vivian: How a Family Became a Test Case (41 minutes, and/or read the transcript).

Molly McCully Brown, "The Central Virginia Training Center" (poem, 2 pages, pdf) Brown reads this poem on the podcast. 



February 7   

Eli Clare, Exile and Pride, “Freaks and Queers,” (pages 81-118)                                                                    

February 9    Riva Lehrer, “I’m Done with the Costumes that Hid the Monster Beneath

Riva Lehrer, Jarred: Self-Portrait in Formaldehyde (27 minutes, 43 with optional Q&A)  framed by her visit to the Mütter Museum in Philly and her work in portraiture
CW: images of fetuses in jars)

Riva Lehrer, Golem Girl, excerpts (pdf)



February 14      

Sins Invalid, Ten Principles of Disability Justice (image and list)

Sins Invalid and Patty Berne, Ten Principles Explained

Mia Mingus, Access Intimacy, Interdependence, and Disability Justice (5 pages)

TL Lewis, Working Definition of Ableism

Sarah Kim, Black Disabled Lives Matter

TL Lewis, “Disability Justice is An Essential Part of Abolishing Police and Prisons” (5 pages)         

February 16       

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

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

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

Browse Disability and Climate Change: A Public Archive Project, including the Plain Language version

Read Disability After Disaster: Reflections from a Disabled First Responder Germán Parodi

In conversation with Julia Watts Belser

Cripping Climate Adaptation: Disability Justice and Climate Change (13 minutes)

Optional: Panel Conversation Disability Justice, Climate Change, and Eco-Ableism

Alternatives for those who have already read the pieces on COVID-19: listen to and/or read the transcript of one of the Contra* podcasts about disability and COVID-19: Aimi Hamraie with Alice Wong (22 min), Arrianna Planey (34 min), or Jay Dolmage (26 min)


Serendip: Write a response to one (or more) of the short essays we read this week

Schedule a meeting with Kristin about mid-semester project ideas this week or next.

Begin to formulate an idea for your mid-term project.
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 an 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, artistic, or activist 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 or activist project that can be shared, and in many other ways.
  • Consider accessibility: how can you make your project as accessible as possible?                         


February 21

Margaret Price, Introduction to Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life (pdf) (25 pages)

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

Optional: Therí Pickens, excerpt from Introduction to Black Madness :: Mad Blackness (pdf, pages 4-8, more if you wish)

February 23   

Nick Walker (she/her), "Neurodiversity: Some Basic Terms and Definitions" and Throw Away the Master’s Tools

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) 



February 28 and March 2

You will each have about 8 minutes for a conversation about your mid-semester project. (About 4 minutes for you to talk about your project, and another 4 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. 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. Finally, tell your classmates something you're still struggling with/trying to work out, and ask for ideas and feedback. 

Please upload your project to Serendip once it’s completed. Deadline is approximately the day before spring break, March 3rd, but is flexible: you can upload your project before then or take some time during the early part of spring break (as long as you then take a real break!) Once projects are posted, I'd like you to read/view at least three of your classmates' projects: more if you have time! Please post a comment on one or more, including one that no one has yet commented on. You can do this after spring break.





March 14 

Tours of CCW this week: Tues 10-11 and 1-2, Thurs 1-2     

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

Susan Nussbaum, Good Kings, Bad Kings (pages 1-99. It’s a quick read or listen)
(CW: physical and sexual abuse and rape, accidental death, overmedication. The novel also contains a lot of love, resilience, and crip humor).

Serendip: Anytime this week or next, read at least three of your classmate's midterm projects and comment on at least one on Serendip, including one that has not yet been commented on. 

March 16 

Samantha Mitchell, Exhibitions Coordinator at CCW, comes to class to talk about our partnership  with CCW.      

Good Kings, Bad Kings, 100-197



Serendip: continue reading and commenting on your classmates' mid-term projects!

Visit CCW this week in your groups of three

March 21

Good Kings, Bad Kings, pages 198-298 (finish the book)

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

Cheryl Green, In My Home (6 minute video)

Cheryl Green, In My Home with Audio Description (6 minute video)


March 23

Art 21: Creative Growth Art Center (13 minutes)

Art 21: Judith Scott (1 page)

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)

Optional: Nathaniel Rich, "A Training Ground for Untrained Artists: Creative Growth Art CenterNYT Magazine (about 8 pages)  



Visit CCW in groups of three

March 28 

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

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

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

Optional: NPR's The Takeaway: "The Kinetic Movements of Kinetic Light" podcast (21 minutes)

Optional Serendip post: Respond to/reflect on Petra Kuppers's questions: "What is disability culture? Is there one, are there many? Who calls culture into being?"


March 30

Today's videos and readings focus on creatively thinking about access in a variety of contexts.

How Architecture Changes for the Deaf (5 minutes)

Christine Sun Kim, Closer Captions (8 minutes)

Carolyn Lazard, Accessibility in the Arts: A Promise and a Practice. Read Part I: "Why Accessibility?" and browse Part II: Accommodations, as well as Parts III and IV. Think about access measures we can incorporate into the CCW exhibition.

Design Activism: Sara Hendren, The Accessible Icon Project (Read "An Icon Is a Verb" and "Notes on Design Activism" about 8 pages altogether including lots of images)

Optional: Carmen Papalia, “A New Model for Access in the Museum” (15 pages)

Check out access guidelines and programs at the website of a museum you visit or another museum such as The Whitney, The Guggenheim, The National Portrait Gallery, or any other museum that interests you. The point is to find out what kinds of access and programming various museums offer. 



Visit CCW and select one or two works by your artist for the exhibition

April 4

Ruha Benjamin, "Interrogating Equity: A Disability Justice Approach to Genetic Engineering" (4 pages) 

Sandy Sufian & Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, The Dark Side of CRISPR (4 pages)

H-Dirksen Bauman, Designing Deaf Babies and the Question of Disdability 

Optional articles if you want to pursue these ideas further:

Erika Check Hayden,"Tomorrow's Children: What would genome editing really mean for future generations?" (about 4 pages)

Eli Clare, Brilliant Imperfection, e-book available via Tripod and physical copies available in Canaday and Lutnick.
Please read: "Introduction: Writing A Mosaic" and "A Note on Reading This Book: Thinking About Trigger Warnings" (pages xv-xxi),
Chapter 1, "Ideology of Cure” (pages 5-17) and part of chapter 4, "Nuances of Cure", (pages 53-62, no need to read 63-64). The reading is 27 pages altogether. 

April 6

Watch ONE of these films, ideally one you haven't seen before. 

Documentary film Deaf Jam (Tripod/Kanopy), dir. Judy Lieff. 

Sound of Metal (Amazon Prime Video), dir. Darius Marder

CODA (Apple TV+), dir. Sian Heder



Write wall text for exhibition (artist bio and description of their art practice) and description of the work

April 11          

Watch the documentary film Crip Camp, dir James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham (streaming on Netflix, 1 hour 48 minutes)

Content warning: includes awful video images of disabled people incarcerated at Willowbrook State School, a notoriously abusive institution 

Reread the list of ten principles of disability justice (below) and consider what elements of disability justice you see at work at Camp Jened and in the disability rights movement, especially the Section 504 protests, decades before these principles were articulated.
Sins Invalid, Ten Principles of Disability Justice (image and list) 
Sins Invalid and Patty Berne, Ten Principles Explained

Optional/Alternative: Chapter 8 of A Disability History of the United States (25 pages)

A couple of 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

April 13

In class: Complete wall text which is due to library later doay; work on social story and other access tasks

4:30 PM: Talk by Stephanie Kerschbaum about her recent book SIgns of Disability



April 18

Work in class on preparing for exhibition: record audio descriptions; etc. 

April 20

Work in class on access practices for exhibition          



Exhibition installation (may or may not need help from us)

April 25           Works-in-Progress 

April 27           Works-in-Progress  LAST CLASS

May 2              CCW Exhibition Opening at 4 PM in Lutnick Library

In planning to workshop ideas for your final project, consider these questions:

  • 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? A multidisciplinary 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
  • 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, creating an activist project, and in many other ways.
  • Consider accessibility. What might access look like in your project? 

Final projects and portfolios due last day of the semester. For seniors: Saturday, May 6 at 5 PM; for non-seniors, Friday May 12 at 12 PM 



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 Serendip “portfolio” for the semester.

3. 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 2-3 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 or career and your future as a human?

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.

Portfolio checklist:

  • Mid-term and final projects posted to Serendip
  • At least 8 Serendip posts, *including* comments on classmates' projects. (You can see your own posts by logging in to our course website, clicking on "E-portfolios" in the list that runs across the top of the page, and then clicking on your username. You can also click on "My E-Portfolio" under "Quick LInks" on the left side of the course page). 
  • Participation in CCW partnership and planning for the exhibition (please write a paragraph or so about how you engaged with CCW and the exhibition)
  • Course reflection, 2-3 informal pages