Gender, Sexuality and Disability

This class surveys queer and feminist perspectives on disability. We will take up disability broadly, understood to include not just physical “impairment,” but also psychiatric difference and neuroatypicality, chronic illness, forms of substance use, pathologized affects, and other deviations from mental and bodily norms. Echoing basic arguments of gender and sexuality studies, scholars have long emphasized that disability be understood not as a natural or biological condition, but a social and political category constructed through institutions of medicine, law, and culture. Accordingly, activists and scholars have challenged medical models that conceptualize disability as an individual defect in need of elimination; they have also critiqued the idea that disability is strictly a minority experience or identity—to the contrary, it is a status that most humans will occupy at some point in their lives. In this class, we’ll trace some of the intersections of issues of disability, gender, and sexuality, along with an eye towards work in related fields like ethnic studies, transgender studies, fat studies, and animal studies. Foci will include: the politics of health (understood not as a self-evident ideal but a social norm); historical and contemporary disability activism; issues of institutionalization, incarceration, and policing; theories of embodiment (including work in “somatechnics”); madness and mad studies; and work in the emergent field of crip theory. Along with scholarly writing, the class will also include selections of fiction and memoir, such as Audre Lorde’s Cancer Journals and Christina Crosby’s A Body, Undone.