CFP: Improving Feminist Philosophy and Theory By Taking Account of Disability

Call for submissions to a special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ)

Improving Feminist Philosophy and Theory by Taking Account of Disability
Guest editor: Shelley Tremain, PhD

A growing body of literature demonstrates that disabled people confront poverty, discrimination in employment and housing, sexual violence, limited educational opportunities, incarceration, and social isolation to a far greater extent than their non-disabled counterparts and furthermore that disabled women experience the impact of these disabling social and political phenomena even more severely than do disabled men. Although feminism is purported to be a social, political, and cultural movement that represents all women, disabled feminists have long argued that the concerns, political struggles, and socio-cultural issues that directly affect disabled women (and disabled people more generally) remain marginalized, and often ignored, within mainstream feminist movements.

Feminist theorists and researchers in the university produce and reproduce this marginalization and exclusion through a variety of mechanisms, one of which is their use of the apparently intransigent conceptual schema and theoretical frameworks of “gender, race, and sexuality” and “gender, race, and class.” In the terms of these conceptions and frameworks, disability is naturalized, rather than represented as a relation of social power in which everyone — disabled and non-disabled — is implicated: each disabled person is perceived to embody a particular disability, while non-disabled people are taken for granted as representatives of the universal human, the prototype from which disabled people depart. That disabled (and non-disabled) feminist philosophers and theorists of disability have few venues in which to present and publish their work, as well as fewer opportunities for employment in the university, are among the consequences of these marginalizing and exclusionary frameworks and schema.

Consider the following. Job postings in philosophy do not identify disability as a hegemonic category or form of identity and subjecting power intertwined and on a par with gender, race, sexuality, and class and hence similarly appropriate for philosophical specialization. In 2011-2012, none of the respective annual conference programs of the three divisions of the national philosophical association in the US (with a combined international membership of more than 10,000) included an invited symposium, refereed session, nor even a single invited or refereed paper on disability. Furthermore, the leading journal in feminist philosophy has not published an issue devoted to disability and disabled women in a decade, publishing only a handful of articles on disability in the interim. In addition, the flagship journal of the largest women’s studies association in the US published an issue on disability and disabled women in the last decade. Finally, the editorial boards of academic feminist journals seldom include specialists in disability studies, with the consequence that the work of feminist philosophers/theorists of disability is oftentimes reviewed and adjudicated by (non-disabled) feminists who have a limited, even conventional, medicalized, understanding of the epistemological, ontological, ethical, and political implications of, and phenomena surrounding, disability.

This special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ) — the first and foremost journal in disability studies internationally — will bring attention to new work in feminist philosophy of disability and feminist disability theory. The central aim of the issue is to elevate and advance the current status of feminist philosophy of disability/feminist disability theory in feminist and non-feminist academic discourses and, in doing so, challenge the way in which heretofore feminist philosophy and theory have been conceptualized and (re)produced.

Submissions may take any philosophical or theoretical approach to disability that is grounded in feminist political values and goals (broadly construed). The guest editor especially encourages submissions from feminist philosophers and theorists of disability living outside of North America and the global North. Among the topics that might be addressed in submissions are these:
The conceptual and material costs of limiting feminist theory and analyses to the gender, race, and sexuality matrix and the gender, race, and class matrix
Gender, race, and sexuality/class matrices and schema as epistemologies of ignorance
Ableist language and philosophy of language/feminist philosophy of language
Disabled people (in general) and disabled women (in particular) as knowers and holders of epistemically privileged perspectives and standpoints
Disability and ableism in mainstream and feminist bioethics
Ageism and sizeism as forms of ableism and disability
Transnational disability and the globalization of philosophical ableism
Disabling classifications of intelligence, race, color, impairment, morphology, sex, sexuality, and gender in modern science and philosophy of science and postcolonial critiques of these
Race, disability, normality, and “racism against the abnormal”
Disability, representations of beauty, purity, wholeness, and conceptions of ugliness, pollution, incompleteness in (feminist) aesthetics and philosophy of art
Disability and/in the history of philosophy and the disabling narrative of western philosophy’s self-conception
Disabled feminists at the front of the classroom
Ableist privilege in/and feminist theory and philosophy
Philosophy of education, disability, and the ethics and politics of the (in)accessible feminist classroom/conference
The ethics and politics of “passing” as non-disabled within and beyond the university
Elaborations and critiques of the ethics of care as an ethic for disabled people
Feminist accounts and critiques of disability and distributive justice
Disabled people as cyborgs in/up against feminist science and technology studies
Submissions should be no more than 8,000 words in length, inclusive of notes and bibliography, and should be prepared for anonymous peer review, with no identifying elements in the text or reference material. Submissions and all inquiries about the issue should be sent to Shelley Tremain at: s.tremain AT with the subject line “DSQ FEMDIS”.

NOTIFICATION OF ACCEPTANCES: on or before November 30, 2012.
DATE OF PUBLICATION: Projected for late 2013.

Knocking an abortion bill off the fast-track

This Washington Post article, surveying how media attention knocked the Virginia ultrasound bill off the fast-track, is interesting to read in its entirety.  As a fan of frivolous entertainments, I enjoy the mentions of SNL and the Daily Show, such fun.  As a blogger at FP, I found the sentence that jumped out at me from the second page was this:

“I don’t think they understood what kind of ultrasound they were talking about,” [State Sen. Janet Howell] said.

I remember my experiences with transvaginal ultrasound as terribly negative, far more uncomfortable and upsetting than I expected.  Yes, one must understand what one is talking about. 

Not much to add that we haven’t already discussed, but it’s an interesting take on the media attention, recommended reading.