Histories of Disability: local, global and colonial stories

7-8 June 2018, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.

Back in 2001, the historian of American deafness Douglas Baynton argued that ‘Disability is everywhere in history, once you begin looking for it, but conspicuously absent in the histories we write (Baynton, 2001, p. 52). Since then the history of disability has burgeoned with many important studies showing this not only to be a significant field but a vibrant one. But several key areas remain to be thoroughly interrogated. The historiography remains largely limited to America and western Europe, historians have been slow to take up the exciting postcolonial questions explored by literary scholars and sociologists about the relationship between colonialism and disability, and a tendency has remained to treat the western experience of disability as a universal one. This workshop aims to interrogate these biases, shed light on geographical specificity of disability and think more about the global history of disability both empirically and theoretically.  

Questions of interest might include, but are not limited to

·         How is the experience and construction of disability specific to time and place?

·         What is the relationship between the local and the global when considering the history of disability?

·         How does disability intersect with other identities (such as race, gender, class and religion)?

·         What is the relationship between disability and imperialism/colonialism? And how was the experience of disability shaped by colonialism/imperialism?

·         How can postcolonial theory help us better historicise the experience of disability?

·         Does the concept of ‘disability’ itself work outside a western context?

·         How are the histories of disability shaped by mobility, movement and travel?

Abstracts of c. 300 words should be sent to Esme Cleall, by 1st December 2017. I’d also be happy to answer any questions.