CFP, special issue of InterAlia: ‘Ugly Bodies: Queer Perspectives on Illness, Disability, and Aging’

InterAlia: A Journal of Queer Studies

Ugly Bodies: Queer Perspectives on Illness, Disability, and Aging

In mainstream discourse, the (physically, mentally, and socially) healthy body is, or by definition ought to be, productive. The heterosexual body must also be reproductive. In line with the widely accepted ideal of liberal LG(BT) politics, socio-economic productivity is tantamount to assimilation and fertility; while Poland is not in the vanguard when it comes to specific legal solutions to aid reproduction, many recognized and influential groups aspire to this Western model. From the healthy position, illness (and old age) can be approached through such politically correct euphemisms as “loving differently” or “differently abled,” terms which have gradually been replaced by “possessing alternative motor and sensory skills”. Illness and aging can also easily be ignored, since the lack of representation or plain invisibility removes the risk of confrontation, allowing the public to remain unaware of the existence of certain postulates or claims.

Within the context of neo-Marxist movements, Judith Butler wrote in Merely Cultural (1997) about the practice of reducing queer activism to demands for the recognition of cultural identity alone, divorced from economic concerns. Political activism on behalf of disabled or old bodies cannot be reduced to such demands, for we cannot ignore the problem of access to life-saving/sustaining technologies and services and various types of infrastructure. There is sometimes no way to eradicate or even alleviate physical pain unrelated to aspirations for change in the social sphere. (Are there any forms of political and socials activism that can or should be reduced to the “merely social”?) Thus activism organized around disability – which cannot, after all, be essentialized as a single identity – constitutes an ideal point of departure for a kind of queer thinking that reaches far beyond issues of identity and cultural representation, focusing instead on the broadly understood distribution of “the good life.”

We hope to encourage reflection on the potential opened up by a *convergence or even an alliance of crip theory and queer studies/practices, popularized by Robert McRuer’s Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability (2006). McRuer’s study reaches beyond the social (as  opposed to the medical) model of disability, which has already been recognized within academia. The transgressions laid out by McRuer raise the following issues which we encourage contributors to consider:

  • Is crip & queer a literally and metaphorically desirable alliance against the neoliberal social policy discourse?  How do disability and illness problematize the liberal-humanist subjectivity of contemporary politics?
  • Extranormative sexuality/gender expression, discursivized explicitly or implicitly as disability, whether psychosocial, (re)productive, or other. 
  • Sanonormativity and hygienonormativity: discourses of health as normativizing discourses.
  • Spaces of excess: the promiscuous gay male and the docile invalid? The queer body as hedonistic and the disabled body as subordinated to the rigors of medicine and the expectations of the social security system?
  • The legacy of AIDS. 
  • The Christian view of suffering as ennobling and sublimating.
  • How do the disabled desire and make love? Who looks on and what do they see? The non-normative desire of ill, disabled, and old people as taboo.
  • Fat acceptance. Destabilizing the normative gaze, destigmatizing fatness.
  • The advantages and pitfalls of using specific methodological tools (intersectionality, standpoint theory).
  • The medicalization and mutilation of transsexual bodies – [1] the transsexual body as felt to be at odds with one’s psychophysical needs and desires, and thus “deviant,” in need of minor or major correction (and therefore ill or disabled); [2] the post-transition body as infertile.
  • Parallels between the need for visibility and the denial of visibility: representations of nonheteronormativity and disability as, on the one hand, evoking pity, fear, revulsion, the desire to help, even compassion, and, on the other, as giving strength.
  • “Nothing is obvious”: denormativizing (the notion of) beauty.
  • Disappearance under the sign “queer”: the specificity of women’s experiences of disability.
  • Generating images of disability in the sphere of everyday life. Limiting the representations of disability to several emblematic images (wheelchair, white cane, etc.) and limiting the spectrum of gender/sexual non-normativity to the acronym LG(B)T within the context of political and economic visibility. 
  • The rights of individuals vs. the rights of the public; emancipation within the framework of the system vs. shame (the sanctioning of disability, which is possible only after it is laid bare before the appropriate commission, vs. neoliberal autonormalization in the name of a frictionless adjustment to the system). The possibility of dissent.
  • Telling crip stories: self-narration by nonsanonormative persons. Testimonies, memoirs, art projects.
  • The transfer of life to the internet? Digitalization as a source of change in the functioning of ill and disabled people.
  • “I just don’t know what the right term these days is” (McRuer 41). What governs the ethics of speaking about illness, disability, and old age? Where do euphemisms originate? How can we tell the difference between words that wound and fighting words?
  • Improvement [1]. Nonhuman disabilities – deliberately produced mutations and deviations (for instance by breeding companion animals or livestock), and those that constitute the side effects of the environmental impact of human practices.
  • Improvement [2]. Attempts to defy the limitations of age and physical health in liberal political discourses. Contemporary eugenics.
  • Transhumanist utopias. 
  • Relations between the disabled and the able-bodied: between desire and care.

The above references to specific publications (Czesław Robotycki, Nic nie jest oczywiste [Nothing is obvious]; Cheshire Calhoun, The Gender Closet: Lesbian Disappearance under the Sign ‘Women’; Kenneth Plummer, Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change, and Social Worlds) are not intended as bibliographic prompts.

Editors of the issue: Paulina Szkudlarek, Dominka Ferens and Tomasz Sikora (with the help of the whole editorial collective).

Deadline for abstracts: 31st December 2014.

Deadline for manuscripts: 31st May 2015.

The issue is scheduled for the end of 2015.

Email address:

Guidelines for contributors to be accessed at

Research Posts, Scottish Learning Disability Observatory, University of Glasgow

The Scottish Learning Disability Observatory is seeking to recruit a number of new research posts, one at grade 8, and up to 7 other researchers at Grade 6 and 7.  The aim of the recently established observatory is to conduct programmes of research, public engagement and knowledge exchange. The focus is to contribute towards a fairer and healthier Scotland through raising awareness of, and providing evidence-based solutions to the very poor health and health inequalities currently experienced by people with learning disabilities. Areas include: health improvement, service improvement, public health intelligence, research and development, monitoring and assessing trends in the health of people with learning disabilities, assessing evidence of effectiveness, policy and strategy development, collaborative working for health.  We are looking for both quantitative and qualitative researchers and would particularly welcome applications from people with a disability studies background.

Details of the posts are available here:

Grade 6

Grade 7

Grade 8

CFP, Special Issue of Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research: ‘Disability after the Recession’

Disability after the Recession: The State of Politics & the Politics of States

The Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research is concerned to address the key disability issues that have come to the fore in the years since the financial crisis of 2007-2008, and is inviting contributions for a special issue. Disability Studies can give globally informed insights into these issues; in a theoretical and methodological sense, but also with regard to research goals and social implications.

For the special issue, we welcome papers that address current issues with this specific historical backdrop. We are especially interested in:

  • Papers that deal with current conceptions of disability, particularly as they intersect with those of other marginalized minorities. This includes papers on mainstream and majority resentment of and hate / hate crime directed at disabled people and intersectional groups.
  • Papers that adopt a “best practice” approach. This includes papers on effective ways to model disability at in a post-“social vs. medical model” era, as well papers that shed light on or empirical insight into how disability is or can be usefully conceived by states, NGOs, institutions, activists or other entities.
  • Papers that deal with rights and legal frameworks, including but not limited to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its ratification and implementation.

Submission Instructions

Submissions (NB! Max 7,000 words per paper, incl. references) should be made by 1st April 2015, via the journal’s ScholarOne Manuscripts™ site:

Please label submissions “Disability after the Recession”.

Three Disability Studies and Medical Humanities Fellowships, University of Leeds

Three new Disability Studies and Medical Humanities posts are currently being advertised at University of Leeds as part of the 250 Great Minds recruitment programme.

The 250 Great Minds programme aims to fast track fellows through to Associate Professor in five years.  The three DS and MH posts are:

  • Disability Law (ref: ESLLW1001);
  • English coupled with Medical or Environmental Humanities (ref:  ARTEN1000);
  • Medical Humanities (ref: ARTPR1000).

For more details on 250 Great Minds, and how to apply for the posts, follow this link.

Centre for Comedy Studies Research Symposium: ‘Comedy, Health and Disability’, Uxbridge

To celebrate their 1st birthday, the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR) are holding their first Comedy Matters Research Seminar for 2014-15.

Date: Wednesday 8th October 2014

Time: 4.00pm-5.30pm with a drinks reception/birthday party 5.30pm-6.30pm

Location: Mead Room, Hamilton Centre, Brunel University London, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH

Comedy and Mental Health Symposium

This symposium will discuss comedy and its relationship to mental health, with speakers discussing the psychology of the stand-up comedian, the use of stand-up comedy in reducing mental health stigma in the military and uses of comedy with mental health service users.


Gordon Claridge is Emeritus Professor of Abnormal Psychology, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Emeritus Fellow, Magdalen College, and Visiting Professor, Oxford Brookes University. Professor Claridge is an internationally renowned expert in the relationship between personality and psychological disorders, adopting a broadly dimensional view. Recently, he has been involved in research on the psychology of the stand-up comedian. More generally, his research on the relationship between personality and psychological disorders has been inspired, on the practical front, by working as a clinical psychologist and, on the academic front, by experimental research on the topic. In mid-career he began to focus particularly on psychotic disorders, developing measurement scales for assessing schizotypal characteristics in the general population and using these to examine laboratory correlates in a wide range of subject samples, including relatives of psychotic patients. The central thesis in all of this work is that, while genetically predisposing to mental illness, psychotic characteristics are not in themselves pathological. On the contrary, they may have many healthy adaptive qualities, of which creativity is the most salient example.

Tim Sayers works as one of the arts in health co-ordinators at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT). He has a background in mental health nursing, specialising in working with people with severe and enduring mental health problems and also with people with drug and alcohol problems. Tim has been involved with arts in mental health on a voluntary basis for approximately fifteen years; initially as a founder member of the Brainstorm Arts in Mental Health Group in Birmingham, then as the founder member of BrightSparks: Arts in Mental Health Group in 1999. BrightSparks is dedicated to promoting positive images of mental health through the arts and has an expanding portfolio of arts projects which are mainly delivered in partnership with LPT. Tim is dedicated to using the arts, in particular comedy, to promote positive images of mental health, social inclusion, and service user and carer involvement. Tim is studying for an MSc in Recovery and Social Inclusion at Nottingham University at present, and has had articles published in his field in the past. He has extensive experience of teaching and workshop leading and is also an experienced freelance performer and workshop leader in the fields of music, poetry, comedy, magic and circus skills.

John Ryan is a stand-up comedian and one of seven co-researchers at the Department for Military Mental Health, Kings College, London, on a project that examined ‘modifying attitudes to mental health using comedy as a delivery medium’ in the armed forces. The research aimed to use comedy to help persuade military personnel to seek help with mental health issues. John is also winner of the 2011 Scottish Mental Health and Arts Film Festival Best Short Documentary Award, the 2010 NHS Regional Health and Social Care award winner for Mental Health and Well Being and in 2010 received a Royal Society for Public Health Special Commendation for contributions to the field of Arts and Health Equalities.

We are pleased to announce that we have one £40 travel grant available for a low income researcher or PhD student attending this event. Please email Simon Weaver ( by Monday 29th September 2014 if you wish to apply.  To apply please send a short paragraph (max 250 words) explaining why you wish to attend the seminar.

For catering purposes please register at

Everyone very welcome!

For more information, please email Dr Sharon Lockyer (Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Communications + Director, Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR), Brunel University, UK) (

Twitter: @Comedy_Studies

CFP: Prostheses in Antiquity, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Prostheses in Antiquity: A conference to be held at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (Lampeter Campus)

Tuesday 30th June 2015

In the contemporary world, a prosthesis is an artificial device that replaces a missing body part, generally designed and assembled according to the individual’s appearance and functional needs with a view to being both as unobtrusive and as useful as possible.  Surviving examples from Pharaonic Egypt are in accordance with this, constructed from painted cartonnage and showing evidence of wear.  In the Graeco-Roman world, however, this was not necessarily the case.  The ancient literary and documentary evidence for prostheses is contradictory, and the bioarchaeological and archaeological evidence is enigmatic, but it would appear that discretion and utility were not necessarily priorities, whether the prosthesis in question was a gold dental appliance, or an iron hand.  So when, how and why did individuals utilise them?

Since the publication of the last (and to date only) substantial piece of academic research devoted solely to prostheses – Lawrence Bliquez’s ‘Prosthetics in Antiquity: Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Prosthetics’ in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt 37.3 – in 1996, there has been a steady increase in interest in impairment and disability in historical periods.  While the vast majority of this interest has focussed on the post-mediaeval period, classical antiquity has not been ignored, with medical historians, ancient historians and archaeologists utilising literary, documentary, bioarchaeological and archaeological evidence in order to investigate a range of aspects of impairment and disability.  Yet despite this, the use of prostheses in antiquity remains an understudied area, and it is past time for a reassessment.

Potential areas of investigation include but are not limited to:

  • Prostheses in ancient literature
  • Prostheses in the archaeological record (e.g. grave goods, ritual deposition)
  • Prostheses in art
  • The relationship between anatomical ex votos and prostheses
  • The relationship between automata and prostheses
  • The technical aspects of design, production and usage of prostheses
  • The purpose of prostheses (e.g. replacement, reconstruction, utility, cosmetic etc.)
  • Medicine, surgery, rehabilitation and physiotherapy

Confirmed speakers:

Dr Ralph Jackson (British Museum)

Papers should be of 20 minutes’ length, and should not have been previously published or delivered at a major conference.  Please submit your abstract (200-300 words, either Word or PDF format) to Dr Jane Draycott ( by Monday 5th January 2015.  Please include your name, academic affiliation, and contact details in your email.  Successful contributions may be considered for publication in a peer-reviewed conference volume.

The Goodall Symposium: Conflict, Casualties and Caring in the First World War, Glasgow

Monday 13th October 2014, 6.00 pm for 6.30 pm

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
232 – 242 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5RJ


  • Mr Roy Miller: Injured in France – Treated in Scotland
  • Dr Alastair Glen: A Field Ambulance in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia
  • Mr Tom Scotland: Casualites in the British Expeditionary Force, France and Flanders 1914-1918.

Light refreshments to start the evening.  Event is free but booking is required. Email for details.

Carol Parry
Library and Heritage Manager
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
232 – 242 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5RJ
T + 44 (0)34 | F + 44 (0)141 221 1804