CRITICAL DISABILITY STUDIES: THEORY AND PRACTICE
Health Studies 304, Spring 2024
Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:30-4:00 PM
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 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.
LEARNING STYLES AND ACCESSIBILITY
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 (email@example.com), 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!
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 https://www.haverford.edu/deans-office-student-life/offices-resources.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, so you may want to buy or borrow this book. 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, our online course space Serendip, and our partnership with the Center for Creative Works (CCW). 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. If possible, write one of your posts in response to a disability-related event in the Tri-Co or off campus. I'll add optional events to the syllabus as I learn about them. 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.
If possible, I’d like you to attend at least one disability-related event (in the Tri-Co or elsewhere, including online events) and post a reflection on the event on Serendip. Describe the event for others who have not attended and offer a recommendation and/or critique. In your reflection, comment on access features or access fails at the event. Please feel free to publicize other events in class and via Serendip. and I will add more events as I learn of them. Here's a start, with events in the Tri-Co:
Thursday Feb. 1, 6:30 PM, Great Hall, Bryn Mawr: Andrew Leland reading from his book The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight, followed by an on-stage discussion with Andrew Leland and Rodney Evans, audience Q&A and book signing.
Friday Feb. 2, 4 PM Old Library 110, Bryn Mawr: Showing of the film Vision Portraits by filmmaker &Swarthmore prof Rodney Evans, followed by Q&A
Wednesday, April 3rd, 7pm at Bryn Mawr Film Institute: Screening of Alison O’Daniel’s film The Tuba Thieves
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
WEEK ONE: INTRODUCING OURSELVES AND THE COURSE
Introductions and overview of the course
Brainstorming class community guidelines and access practices
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, skim parts of Chapter
2 if you wish)
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)
Sins Invalid, Ten Principles of Disability Justice (image and list)
Serendip: Create a username and upload an image
WEEK TWO: HISTORICAL CONTEXTS
Samantha Mitchell, Exhibitions Coordinator at CCW, comes to class to talk about our partnership with CCW.
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. How did some of the contemporary principles of disability justice show up in these early contexts?
Lennard Davis, "Introduction: Normality, Power, and Culture" The Disability Studies Reader (DSR) (Read pages 1-8, dense reading)
Art 21: Creative Growth Art Center (13 minutes)
Disparate Minds, "Progressive Practices: The Basics" (blog post, about 4 pages)
Optional events: website for Exploring Vision with Andrew Leland and Rodney Evans, where you can register to attend the following events:
Feb. 1, 6:30 PM, Great Hall, Bryn Mawr: Andrew Leland reading from his book The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight, followed by an on-stage discussion with Andrew Leland and Rodney Evans, audience Q&A and book signing.
Friday Feb. 2, 4 PM Old Library 110, Bryn Mawr: Showing of the film Vision Portraits by filmmaker & Swarthmore prof Rodney Evans, followed by Q&A
WEEK THREE: HISTORICAL CONTEXTS
A Disability History, chapter 6 (30 pages)
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.
WEEK FOUR: FREAKS AND MONSTERS
Eli Clare, Exile and Pride, “Freaks and Queers,” (pages 81-118)
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, 20 pages of text, plus images)
Optional: Riva's piece in Art in America about recent debates regarding the Mütter Museum in Philly
WEEK FIVE: DISABILITY JUSTICE, CONTEMPORARY CONTEXTS
Come to class with passages you'd like to discuss! Some ideas we'll explore and work to define this week: access, crip time, rest activism, disability wisdom, debility, disposability politics.
Mia Mingus, Access Intimacy (2 pages)
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Making Space Accessible is an Act of Love for Our Communities (3 pages, also included in her book Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice)
Jillian Crochet, Rest and the Disabled Body (about 7 pages of text, lots of images)
Julia Watts Belser, Climate Crisis Makes Us Recognize Our Limits: Disability Culture Can Show Us How (about 4 pages)
Jasbir Puar, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot! Preface to The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability (read pages 10-16 of the pdf, starting with "Why Biopolitics?")
Four essays from 2020, early in the COVID-19 pandemic:
Elliot Kukla, "My Life is More 'Disposable' During this Pandemic" (2 pages)
Alice Wong, "Am I Expendable During this Pandemic?" (2 pages)
Riva Lehrer, "The Virus Has Stolen Your Face From Me" (2 pages)
Katie Savin and Laura Guidry-Grimes, "Confronting Disability Discrimination During the Pandemic" (5 pages)
Alternatives for those who have already read the pieces on COVID-19 and want to do something else: 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)
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.
- 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/disability justice perspective to your project. You needn't simply "apply" these perspectives: feel free to challenge, extend, or complicate them.
- If your project takes a narrative, artistic, or activist form, add an analytical frame or coda that reflects on its relationship to disability studies and/or disability justice
- 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?
WEEK SIX: "QUALITY OF LIFE," DEBILITY
CW for discussion of infanticide and abortion in relation to disability.
Harriet McBryde Johnson, Unspeakable Conversations,
Optional: Sarah Zhang, The Last Children of Down Syndrome
Let's return to Jasbir Puar's "Hands Up, Don't Shoot!, the Preface to The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability. As we learned, you'll need to google the title of the preface, which will bring you to the Duke University Press website, where you can access the pdf. (Re)read the last seven pages (xviii-xxxiv) of the preface, starting at the subheading "Why Biopolitics?" Read more of the preface if you wish.
CW for police violence
Sarah Kim, Black Disabled Lives Matter
WEEK SEVEN: WORKS-IN-PROGRESS, MID-SEMESTER PROJECT
March 5 and March 7
You will each have about 10 minutes for a conversation about your mid-semester project. (About 5 minutes for you to talk about your project, and another 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. 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 flexible: you can upload it before spring break (March 8), the following weekend, or anytime during the week following spring 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.
SPRING BREAK !!
WEEK EIGHT: DISABILITY CULTURE IN INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXTS
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.
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).
Good Kings, Bad Kings, 100-197
WEEK NINE: DISABILITY ARTS AND CULTURE, INDEPENDENT LIVING MOVEMENT
Serendip: continue reading and commenting on your classmates' mid-term projects!
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)
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?"
WEEK TEN: DEAF CULTURE; ACCESS
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
Wednesday April 3
Optional: 7 PM at Bryn Mawr Film Institute: Screening of Alison O’Daniel’s film The Tuba Thieves
What is the role of sound and what does it mean to listen? Hard of hearing filmmaker Alison O’Daniel uses a series of tuba thefts in Los Angeles high schools as a jumping-off point to explore these questions. Through several d/Deaf people telling stories in a unique game of telephone, the central mystery of The Tuba Thieves isn’t about theft of instruments; it’s about the nature of sound itself.
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.
WEEK ELEVEN: BIOETHICAL CONUNDRUMS AND THE POLITICS OF CURE
Eli Clare, Brilliant Imperfection, e-book available via Tripod and physical copies available in Canaday and Lutnick.
"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.
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)
Erika Check Hayden,"Tomorrow's Children: What would genome editing really mean for future generations?" (about 4 pages)
H-Dirksen Bauman, Designing Deaf Babies and the Question of Disability
How do we distinguish between appropriate treatment or cure and unwanted or harmful intervention?
WEEK TWELVE: DISABILITY RIGHTS, DISABILITY JUSTICE
Write wall text for exhibition (artist bio and description of their art practice) and description of the work
Watch the documentary film Crip Camp, dir James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham (streaming on Netflix, 1 hour 48 minutes)
Content warning: includes awful but brief 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
In class: Complete wall text for exhibition; work on social story and other access tasks
WEEK THIRTEEN: PREPARING FOR CCW EXHIBITION
Work in class on preparing for exhibition: record audio descriptions; etc.
Work in class on access practices for exhibition
WEEK FOURTEEN: WORKS-IN-PROGRESS, FINAL PROJECT
Exhibition installation (may or may not need help from us)
Works-in-Progress LAST CLASS
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 11 at 5 PM; for non-seniors, Friday May 17 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.
- 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
To be inserted back in somewhere? Mental Disability and Neurodiversity:
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)
ASAN: About Autism
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)