Guest editors: Ana Bê (Liverpool Hope University) and Emma Sheppard (City, University of London)
This special issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies will consider the representation of chronic illness.
Disability studies has for a number of years engaged closely with understanding chronic illness as a category of impairment (Thomas, 2008). Significant early contributions have been made by authors such as Carol Thomas and Susan Wendell and books such as Dissonant Disabilities: Women with Chronic Illnesses Explore Their Lives(2008). It is also important to recognize the relevance of more recent contributions such as those of Alyson Patsavas and Mel Chen in the context of cripistemologies (2014), as well as those offered by Alison Kafer in problematizing the role of pain and fatigue (2013), and Hillary Gravendyk’s concept of ‘chronic poetics’ (2014).
There has been increasing discussion, representation, and awareness of chronic illness in recent years – as part of, and distinct from, disability. Celebrities and public figures such as Lady Gaga have candidly discussed their experiences of chronic illness and been open about the obstacles they have faced, while Jennifer Brea’s documentary Unrest (2017) ignited further discussion. Bitch magazine’s In Sickness series (2017) presented complex and intersectional analysis of chronic illness and feminism. Social media has helped develop a culture of activism around chronic illness, from support groups to activist pages and the creation of memes. Recent films, such as Love and Other Drugs and The Big Sick, have provided audiences with popular representations of chronic illness.
However, there remains a substantial gap in this part of the field of disability studies, and we would like to make a start on filling it by inviting contributions that focus on cultural representations of chronic illness in a range of different cultural mediums–from literature to film, to TV and social media. We aim to take stock of how representations of chronic illness might have developed and what these are telling us about how we understand this experience.
Chronic illnesses are sometimes also designated as long-term health conditions or chronic diseases. For the purposes of this issue, we use the term chronic illness as it tends to resonate in activist circles. Our understanding of chronic illness is underpinned by Susan Wendell’s definition: ‘Usually, they [chronic illnesses] are understood to be illnesses that do not go away by themselves within six months, that cannot reliably be cured, and that will not kill the patient any time soon’ (Wendell 1996:20). Within this definition, we include experiences of undocumented illness (Mollow, 2014)–illnesses that have no recognised or agreed upon classification, whose cause is debated, and the experience of which is often dismissed. Therefore, the definition is quite open, and fits a wide range of experiences, but we emphasize that our understanding of chronic illness is also based on a shared disability studies politics that sees this experience as being framed by both social oppression and impairment effects.
Possible topics for papers include, but are not limited to:
● Documentary film
● Fictions and stories of chronic illness
● Social media representations and cultures of chronic illness
● Intersections of race, gender, sexuality and chronic illness
● Chronic illness and celebrity
● Cripping and queering chronic illness
● Crip time and chronic illness
● Representations of chronic illness in art
● Global perspectives on cultures of chronic illness
● Masculinities and chronic illness
● Cripistemologies of chronic illness
● Historical perspectives on chronic illness
● Activism and cultural representations
● Theater, performance and chronic illness
● Poetry and chronic illness
● Representations of chronic pain and fatigue
● Music and chronic illness
15th April, 2019: submission of a 500-word proposal for articles or a 150-word proposal for reviews and a short bio (150 words) to both the guest editors Ana Bê (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Emma Sheppard (Emma.Sheppard@city.ac.uk).
28th June, 2019: prospective authors notified of proposal status.
1st December, 2020: Full versions of selected papers due to editors.
June, 2020: Finalists selected. Decisions and revisions on submissions sent to authors.
September, 2020: Final, revised papers due.