Disability Studies: Cultivating Critical Narrative Consciousnesses

Disability Studies cultivates a critical narrative consciousness to unlock understandings of disability in the context of multiple disciplines, experiences, and perspectives. If we are to ably turn indisputably attractive words like “diversity” into concrete actions that make a difference, we need to share scholarship and research into the broad panoply of perspectives on impairment.  First, we are compelled to ask how these perspectives been shaped by varied ideas in cultural identity, social conditions and social justice?

To emancipate ourselves from disability narratives echoing from an unenlightened past, Dr. Kim E. Nielsen unpacks insights from her book Disability History of the United States. This deft depiction traces back to the 19th century and underlines how distorted concepts of disability have inadvertently shaped the American experience--from justifying slavery to normalizing gender discrimination. Some breezier debunking of hackneyed disability narratives comes from Ji Park’s quick qualitative analysis of movie characters with disabilities. Then, turning us away from misperceptions and leading us into authentic disability culture at an intersection with indigenous identity, Cora Demit is ready to hold us rapt in a storytelling session of how her own Athabascan cultural practices have given her a healthy and spiritual basis for living in harmony with her personal experience of disability.

One thing this topic area makes clear: this is not our parents’ investigation into disability narratives! Consciousness-raising insights are offered by more than fifteen presentations, including Megan Conway’s not-to-be-missed workshop for how to bring down silo walls of academe and deepen disability connections studies across all curricula. Find models and ideas that break with conventional Western paradigms and offer new relevance in an interconnected world of new convergences.

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For more information about this topic area, contact topic chairs, Steve Brown, sebrown@hawaii.edu, or Megan Conway, mconway@hawaii.edu. For general information on the conference, please contact Charmaine Crockett at cccrocke@hawaii.edu, (808) 956-7539. For registration questions, please contact the registration desk at (808) 956-8816, fax (808) 956-4437 or email prreg@hawaii.edu.