BAAL/Cambridge University Press seminar on the pathologisation of non-standard language

This event will be held at 24 and 25 April at Charles Street Building at Sheffield Hallam University.

It  aims to provide a forum for discussion, and a springboard for collaborative working, between sociolinguists, speech and language therapists (SLTs) and educationalists. The outcomes of its discussions on the discourses of pathology and their deficit model will eventually be disseminated during a conference colloquium, with plans for publication in a special issue of the journal Language and Discrimination. 

In previous work and in a previous BAAL/CUP funded seminar (2011), we have discussed a resurgence of language deficit perspectives in political, educational and media discourse (Grainger and Jones 2013). In addition, the profession of speech and language pathology has become involved in the debates, often drawn in by policy makers to lend authority to claims of linguistic deficit in children from poorer families and to support remedial communication programmes for schools and families in socially disadvantaged areas. The assumption is that the alleged lack of communicative skill in poorer children is attributable to inadequate parenting, which then results in linguistic pathology. While there are echoes here of the ‘compensatory’ educational initiatives inspired by Basil Bernstein’s work in the 1970s (Jones, 2013), the 21st century repackaging of the issue involves extending the professional remit of SLT into the education of typically developing children and their parents (e.g. Locke et al. 2002).

While speech and language pathology (SLT) is traditionally based on a medical model of language development, a sociolinguistic perspective is missing from all such recent proposals for communicational intervention (e.g. Bercow et al. 2008; All Party Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties, 2013). Collaboration between sociolinguists, educational linguists and the profession of SLT would therefore seem particularly timely. Such collaboration will promote knowledge and awareness of the social context of language use and will provide a more balanced evidence base on which to draw for future policy-making. It is therefore the goal of the proposed workshop to bring together educationalists, SLTs and sociolinguists who are interested in collaborative research that questions the pathologisation of poor children’s communication skills, that foregrounds the role of social context in language use, and that emphasises the economic inequalities underlying differential educational achievement. The workshop will focus on the production of an action plan for future collaboration between specialists in the three discipline areas.

For more information, please contact Dr Karen Grainger (k.p.grainger@shu.ac.uk) or Dr Peter E. Jones (p.e.jones@shu.ac.uk).



Kate Sang’s survey request

Kate Sang is conducting research to understand the experiences of disabled academics to provide some guidance for universities, funders and unions to better support staff. The research is funded by the EPSRC and Heriot Watt University.
The survey and further details can be found here:
All findings will be anonymised to protect the identities of respondents and institutions. Data will be used to develop a freely available report, and in resulting research outputs. The research has received ethical approval from Heriot Watt University. All data will be securely stored and anonymised prior to analysis.
If the survey format is not accessible for you, please email k.sang@hw.ac.uk

September’s Disability Research Forum session

The first Disability Research Forum session after the summer break will take place on 28 September 2017. Time and location to be announced.

Our first speaker will be Dr Erin Pritchard from Liverpool Hope University 

“He’s Adorable”: Representations of Dwarfs in Family Guy

This paper examines how dwarfs* are represented in the American animated sitcom Family Guy. Whilst the show has been criticised for its controversial humour, this paper argues that the show actually exposes negative social attitudes that dwarfs encounter from other members of the public, whilst refraining from encouraging stereotypes of dwarfs. This paper shows how Family Guy presents dwarfs as ordinary members of society, whilst still being humorous. In this paper it is suggested that Family Guy has the potential to challenge social attitudes towards dwarfs, and the way they are perceived in society, through directing the humour towards those who mock them as opposed to the dwarfs themselves.

Keywords: dwarfs, humour, Family Guy, social attitudes.

* Terms used to refer to people with dwarfism differ from person to person. The term dwarf was chosen as it describes a person who is of short stature (<125cm) and has a medical condition.

Further speakers to be announced.


April’s Disability Research Forum

April’s Disability Research Forum session will take place on the 5th of April at 2-4pm in Arundel 10311.

The first speaker will be Dr Jill Smith who is a lecturer in Autism Studies at Sheffield Hallam University.

This time last year (April 2016), I presented a paper at the Equality, Diversity and Social Justice research group making a case for theory in ‘autism research’. A year on, in coming to the DRF, I return to theory with fresh enthusiasm, like visiting an old friend, picking up where we left off all that time ago. In this paper I will make a case for the theoretical work I came to find so valuable in my PhD research, a case for theorising dis/orientation in research about everyday life, autism, and childhood. I will explore that giddy feeling I get in trying to grapple with the theorising of everyday life and the messiness and somersaulting that requires. In that spirit, I’m going to return to the work I’ve been doing around dis/orientation, a theoretical sentiment that I’ve been thinking with and writing with since those heady days of thesis writing. My use of dis/orientation brings together a number of theoretical ‘titbits’ from dis/humanism (Goodley and Runswick-Cole, 2014) and Sara Ahmed’s (2006) ‘orientation’ in queer phenomenology. I throw in a nod to Deleuze & Guattari for good measure to encourage that we work towards staying with/in dis/orientating in our relation to autism, childhood and dis/ability beyond reductive dichotomies of lives labelled autistic being either simply disordered or simply different.

The second speaker will be Hannah Ebben who is a PhD student at the Autism Centre at Sheffield Hallam University.

My presentation will tie my critical thinking on disability with my background in the field of Cultural Studies. The social construction of disability involves a great amount of speculation, from clinical practices of examination to disability living allowance eligibility and everyday phrases such as ‘Why are you in a wheelchair?’. The disabled subject in its embodied, performative, and bureaucratic reality is greatly shaped through a ‘political economy of doubt’, in which people are allowed to speculate about human populations and conditions. Outside of clinical and political praxis, popular culture offers a safe haven to speculate. On a television or film screen, the fictional world of the film or series that you are watching does not hear your thoughts about plot development or the characters. This brings a feeling of pleasure, often named scopophilia in reference to Freud within feminist film criticism, which is of interest to the study of everyday practices of speculation and doubt in relation to disability.

In film and television, questions to speculate about often form the backbone of a plot; for example, when the groundbreaking series Twin Peaks aired in 1990, it started a so-called ‘water cooler effect’ in which people spent their chat-up with colleagues at work discussing who could have killed Laura Palmer. Originally, however, this murder investigation was meant to be a mere device to keep the plot about eccentric townsfolk going, which is a phenomenon called a MacGuffin in film theory. Even though this ‘MacGuffin’ left much room for speculation up until the reveal, the disabled characters that appeared throughout the series do not trigger much of this. Some of them have visible impairments with an origin that gets explained in-universe, whilst the appearance of others contribute to the surreal, mythical, and paranormal atmosphere of the series.

In my talk, I would like to compare this to one of my case studies in my PhD study on autism as a discourse in film. The 2011 movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, child protagonist Oskar Schell is searching for the lock of a key belonging to a person called Black, that he found in the cupboard of his father who died during the 9/11 attacks. The main plot is driven by his desire to find the key destination and thus to come closer to his deceased father. Ultimately, the film actually focuses on the way in which Oskar copes with trauma, interacts with his remaining family members, and gains more life experience overall. The element of speculation for the viewer lies in his condition: could he have Asperger’s Syndrome? I will discuss these different forms of looking with doubt and anticipation (and the moments during which these might fail to occur), as well as the wider implications that these could have on perceptions and cultural constellations of disability in society as a whole.


Funded PhD opportunity at MMU in Digital Inclusion (UK)

There is a funded PhD opportunity at Manchester Metropolitan University studying “Digital Inclusion: Transforming the lives of people with learning disabilities”

Summary: The project will explore the ways in which people with learning disabilities are using the internet. People with learning disabilities are commonly digitally excluded but as the numbers of internet users increases, it is important to learn more about their experiences. This research will explore how the internet is being used, the nature of support and identify strategies for successful internet use.

Full details here: http://www2.mmu.ac.uk/research/research-study/scholarships/detail/hpsc-sc-2017-1-digital-inclusion.php

Closing date: 13th April 2017


CFP: Special Forum of Review of Disability Studies, ‘The Crip, the Fat and the Ugly in an Age of Austerity: Resistance, Reclamation, and Affirmation’

The Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal (RDS) seeks proposals for a special forum on the Crip, the Fat, the Ugly. We are currently soliciting papers of up to 7500 words in length, including references and tables. The deadline for submission of papers is June 1, 2017. Papers should be submitted to the Special Guest Editors Dr. Jen Slater, Sheffield Hallam University j.slater@shu.ac.uk, and Dr. Kirsty Liddiard, University of Sheffield k.liddiard@sheffield.ac.uk . Upon submission, please indicate that your paper is for consideration of the special forum on the Crip, the fat, and the ugly in an age of austerity.

Papers considered for inclusion may take the form of academic and creative works, as well as reflections on international disability-specific policies, practices, pedagogies and developments.

Submissions to this special issue will undergo a process of multiple editors peer-review. Authors will be notified of whether their papers will be included in the forum by September 1, 2017. Accepted authors will then be asked to submit their papers online to RDS. Prospective authors are encouraged to consult the RDS website at http://www.rds.hawaii.edu for more information about the Journal and its formatting guidelines. Authors are encouraged to review previous issues of RDS in preparing their paper and to subscribe to the Journal. All submissions must follow the RDS publication guidelines posted on the website. Please note that acceptance of an article does not guarantee publication in RDS.

‘The magnificence of a body that shakes, spills out, takes up space, needs help, moseys, slinks, limps, drools, rocks, curls over on itself. The magnificence of a body that doesn’t get to choose when to go to the bathroom, let alone which bathroom to use. A body that doesn’t get to choose what to wear in the morning, what hairstyle to sport, how they’re going to move or stand, or what time they’re going to bed. The magnificence of bodies that have been coded, not just undesirable and ugly, but un-human. The magnificence of bodies that are understanding gender in far more complex ways than I could explain in an hour. Moving beyond a politic of desirability to loving the ugly. Respecting Ugly for how it has shaped us and been exiled. Seeing its power and magic, seeing the reasons it has been feared. Seeing it for what it is: some of our greatest strength’. (Mingus, 2011)

Global austerity has a far reach, often into, around, behind, beyond and alongside the body. Global austerity routinely categorises bodies in terms of productivity, value, cost, ability and aesthetics. The body is positioned vis-a-vis global austerity as a site for social order, economic possibility, progression, and big business. Whereas “[a]n able body is the body of a citizen; deformed deafened, amputated, obese, female, perverse, crippled, maimed and blinded bodies do not make up the body politic” (Davis, 1995, pp. 71-72).

Through global austerity, then, the crip, the fat and the ugly are typically Othered and denigrated bodies, identities, minds and selves, implicated and co-constituted by one-another (Bergman, 2009; Kafer, 2013). Within a context of coloniality, transnational capitalism, patriarchy, cissexism and white supremacy, the Crip, the fat and the ugly are rendered unintelligible (Butler, 1999), made in/visible and vilified locally, nationally, and globally. As Garland-Thompson (2002, p. 57) reminds us, “as a culture we are at once obsessed with and intensely conflicted about the disabled body. We fear, deify, disavow, avoid, abstract, revere, conceal, and reconstruct disability – perhaps because it is one of the most universal, fundamental of human experiences”.

Notwithstanding the harsh political backdrop, Clare (2015, p. 107) reminds us that “[w]ithout pride, individual and collective resistance to oppression becomes nearly impossible”. In this special issue we therefore seek to explore affirmatory meanings and pleasurable engagements with the Crip, the fat and the ugly. By this we mean to critically resist and play with normative understandings of what bodies should do and be, to reimagine that – as Mingus (2011) emphasises – the Crip, the fat and the ugly are ‘our greatest strength’. How are Crip, fat and ugly embodiments both resisting and resistant? How might they offer new ways of interrogating global austerity and neoliberal ways of life? How might the Crip, the fat, and the ugly generate new, diverse and polymorphous pleasures? What are the relationships, entanglements and connections between the austere and the aesthetic? What communities do the Crip, the fat, and the ugly build and how are these critical for survival, love and life?

Submissions to this journal could include, but are not limited to, critical interrogations of the relationship between the crip, the fat and the ugly, with:

  • Aesthetic labour
  • Activism and resistance
  • Beauty industries and economies
  • Biopolitics and biopedagogies
  • Bodily esteem, confidence, self-worth and self-love
  • Colonisation and first nations communities
  • Emotion and affect
  • Extensions of Mia Mingus’ work on ugliness
  • Globalisation and globality
  • Health and healthisisation
  • Identity, imagery and representation: masculinities, femininities, queer trans and intersex identities
  • Impairment and embodiment
  • Industrial complexes, institutions and systems
  • Madness and Mad politics
  • Other forms of privilege and oppression (class, ‘race’, gender, sexuality, age etc.)
  • Popular culture and The Arts
  • Queer bodies, identities and selves
  • The politics of staring (Garland-Thomson, 2009)
  • The sexual body: Pleasure, sensuality and desire

RDS is a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary, international journal published by the Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. The Journal contains research articles, essays, creative works and multimedia relating to the culture of disability and people with disabilities.


Wednesday’s Disability Reading Group / Disability Research Forum session

The joint session will be held at the 22nd of February in Arundel 10211.

This month’s Disability Reading Group session will take pace at 12:30-13:30 and will look at the following article:

Runswick-Cole, K. (2011) “Time to end the bias towards inclusive education?”, in: British Journal of Special Education, vol. 38, no. 3: 112-119.

Please contact srhannam@my.shu.ac.uk for further information, access to the article, or if you have any questions about accessibility. If you can’t make this month’s session but you are interested in future sessions and want to be added to the email list, please also contact us.

After a 30-minute break, we will continue with a Disability Research Forum session from 14:00 to 16:00. Our two speakers are:

Emily Redmond from the charity Good Things Foundation

Disabled people crossing the digital divide: Supporting independence with digital skills in the community

This presentation focuses on research undertaken with community organisations which support disabled people, to find out about the barriers to digital inclusion facing this audience. The research, carried out by Sheffield charity Good Things Foundation, has informed a practical handbook to help such organisations get disabled people online.

12.6 million UK adults lack basic digital skills and 5.3m have never been online. Research shows that disabled people are among the most digitally excluded groups in the UK, with 25% of disabled adults having never used the Internet, compared to 10.2% of UK adults. These statistics indicate there is a need for further resources to support organisations with the knowledge and best practice to help more disabled people benefit from digital skills and the Internet.

The Doing Digital Inclusion: Disability Handbook is a practical online resource which outlines common barriers disabled people face to learning basic digital skills and getting online, and presents advice on overcoming these barriers, including tips for engaging, recruiting and supporting disabled people in the community to gain digital skills.

Good Things Foundation (formerly Tinder Foundation) is a charity that supports digitally and socially excluded people to improve their lives through digital. It brings together thousands of community partners to make up the Online Centres Network, reaching deep into communities to help people across the UK gain the support and skills they need to change their lives and overcome social challenges.

And Ria Cheyne who is based at Liverpool Hope University

Disability, Sexuality and Romance (Novels)

As a popular media form that frequently depicts disabled characters finding love and living happily ever, romance novels are a key site of investigation for Disability Studies.  In a cultural context in which disabled people are rarely positioned ‘as either desiring subjects or objects of desire’ (Anna Mollow and Robert McRuer), popular romance texts which explore and celebrate disabled sexuality are multiply significant.  This presentation focuses on the depiction of disabled sexuality in a range of contemporary romance novels, exploring what such texts have to offer both disabled and non-disabled readers.


Call for abstracts: The New Disability Activism

Call for abstracts:

The New Disability Activism: Current Trends, Shifting Priorities and (Uncertain) Future Directions


The onslaught of neoliberalism, austerity measures and cuts, impact of climate change, protracted conflicts and ongoing refugee crisis, rise of far right and populist movements have all negatively impacted on disability and created more suffering, impairment and deaths in the global north and south. At the same time we are witnessing the watering down of many rights, legal entitlements and policies that sustained disability lives as well as the ability and willingness of academia, non-governmental organisations, multinationals and institutions to get involved in fighting back politically, economically, culturally and socially to ensure change. Yet, disabled people are fighting back and we urgently need to understand how, where and what they are doing, what they feel their challenges are and what their future needs will be.


We are thus putting together a book proposal for Routledge illustrating disability activism in its current forms and needed future directions. We will provide a dedicated space to disability activists to give them a platform to illustrate their current practices and a platform to do this in a format of their choosing. We also want to illustrate some of the ways in which academics are engaging in activist practice to understand why and how this occurs. Lastly, we feel we need to learn from the ways in which disability activism is forming and will change or needs to change to combat the coming challenges of the 21st Century.  How do you define activism? Does disability activism need to decolonise? What are the differing roles of pioneer and emerging activists in the north and south? What kinds of issues are of concern?


*Topics of interest include but are not limited to:*

-The links between models and theories to social changes as seen and understood by activists and academics: what works?

-The effects of neoliberal austerity measures and role of disabled people’s activism in the global north and south and links to influencing international and national policy

-Disability activism and links to academia, non-governmental organisations, multinationals and ensuring funding, restitution or reparations

-Perspectives from pioneer disability activists from the global north and south

-Decolonising disability activism, protesting ableism and rethinking human rights in the global south and north

-The experiences of disability activisms or emerging activisms that are not regularly given attention such as those of women, children and the elderly

-New tactics, issues and advocacy movements, emancipations and liberations

-Cyber-activism, the deep web and social media

-New health activisms around issues such as dementia or infectious diseases and links to ‘disability’, biological (dis)ableism and the new futures of genomics for disability lives

-Psychiatry, mad pride, mad studies, neurodiversity and survivor activism

-Rebellion, emancipation, political revolt and the roles of disability in peace movements and reconciliation

-Forced migration, refugee experiences and combating a disabling humanitarianism

-Involvement in accessibility, independence and inclusion movements in Indonesia, intersectionality to protests against university fees in South Africa or movements such as Black Lives Matter in the United States

-Far right movements, fascism and living under (dis) ableist dictatorships

-Interventions in disabled people’s lives and role of activism

-Disability activism incarcerated and imprisoned (i.e. prisons, day centres, orphanages, care homes etc.)

-Art, culture, tourism and disability activism

-Political engagement, voting (‘Cripping’ the vote or making it accessible) and occupation of public spaces

-Different styles of activism: ‘confrontational vs non-confrontational disability activism’




Dr. Maria Berghs (De Montfort University), Dr. Tsitsi Chataika (University of Zimbabwe) and Dr. Yahya El-Lahib (University of Calgary)


We will be supported by an advisory board of activists who will ensure oversight of the activist contributions.


Please send your abstract submissions to: disabilityactivism@gmail.com


Abstracts should contain a title, a short paragraph (300 words) and some key words.


*Deadline:* 31st of March 2017


Dis/Cinema screening of Sins Invalid, 1st of March

Dis/Cinema’s second screening will be of the film Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty, facilitated by Dr Kirsty Liddiard, Research Fellow in the School of Education at the University of Sheffield.  All screenings are FREE and everyone is welcome to attend.
Screening of Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty
Wednesday, 1 March, 2017
The Diamond, room G.04, University of Sheffield
Screening at 6:00pm
Free to attend
Sins Invalid is a performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists. The film explores themes of sexuality, beauty, and the disabled body. Watch a trailer
Dr Kirsty Liddiard is a Research Fellow in the School of Education and Co-Leader of the Institute for the Study of the Human (iHuman), University of Sheffield. Kirsty’s research explores disability, gender, and sexual and intimate citizenship in contemporary dis/ableist cultures. Visit Kirsty’s website
*For accessibility enquiries, contact us at discinemasheffield@gmail.com
**See the attached flyer and the dis/cinema wordpress for more details.
dis/cinema is a new initiative put in motion by PhD students at the University of Sheffield, which offers film and documentary screenings with themes of disability, mental health, and related stigma. In subsequent series, dis/cinema plans to show screenings that address further themes of ‘otherness’ as disruptions to the status quo. Screenings will always be followed by a Q&A which will be facilitated by either a director/producer of the film and/or an individual who does work within the context of the specific film being screened. dis/cinema aims to create a space to discuss and more clearly identify issues and stigma around ableism, or discrimination against people with disabilities.

Disability Reading Group session on Katherine Runswick-Cole, 22nd of February

This month’s DRG is being held in conjunction with the DRF session on the 22nd February. The session is going to be from 12.30-1.30pm at Arundel 10211 Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Howard Street, Sheffield, S1 1WB
This month we will be taking a look at:
Runswick-Cole, K. (2011). Time to end the bias towards inclusive education? British Journal of Special Education. 38(3). 112-119.
Please contact srhannam@my.shu.ac.uk for further information, access to the article, or if you have any questions about accessibility. If you can’t make this month’s session but you are interested in future sessions and want to be added to the email list, please let us know.