Further Details: Theorizing Normalcy and the Mundane 3rd International Conference (Chester, UK)

 Theorizing Normalcy and the Mundane 3rd International Conference

“Cripping the Norm” 

** Extended call for papers – new deadline: 15th May 2012 **

** Conference website for details and registration now online: click here **

Dates: 26th- 27th June 2012

Where: University of Chester

Keynotes confirmed:

A conference jointly-hosted by University of Chester in association with Critical Disability Studies (Manchester Metropolitan University) (MMU) and the Disability Research Forum (Sheffield Hallam University)

This 3rd international conference builds on the success of the Normalcy2010 and Normalcy2011 conferences held in Manchester and seeks, again, to bring together an international group of disability studies researchers. Our conference moves to the beautiful Cathedral town of Chester (located on the border of England and Wales)

This conference will critically explore and debate issues in the following areas:

– exploring the cultural and political production of normalcy
– addressing our obsession with reason and rationality
– connecting ableism with other hegemonies including heterosexism, racism and ageism
– analysing the barriers and possibilities of the mundane and extraordinary
– deconstructing new pathologies and ‘abnormalities’
– celebrating deviations from the norm
– affirming crip identities and ways of living

Our aim is for this conference to be as inclusive as possible.  We welcome activists, undergraduate and postgraduate students, practitioners and academics to join us. In the spirit of an eco-friendly conference, registered delegates will be sent an e-pack. Details of accommodation near the venue will also be sent to delegates.

This year, to cover costs of refreshment and lunches, we will be charging a flat rate of £75 per delegate. Free registration is still available however for full time students and the out of work.

For further information (or to request a code to allow free registration) please contact Dr Cassie Ogden: c.ogden@chester.ac.uk – tel (01244 512068)

When registering online please complete the form below before clicking on “add to cart”.

DRF News

Reminder: Next DRF Seminar ~ 3rd May 2012 (Sheffield, UK)

DRF Seminar Series: Seminar #7

Date/Time: 3rd May 2012 (Thurs) 2pm-4pm

Venue: Room 10111 in the Arundel Building, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University (More information on the venue can be found here.)

  • Slot 13: Steven Graby (Centre for Disability Studies, University of Leeds): Autism and/as “disabled” identity 

Abstract: TBC

  • Slot 14: Louis Nisiotis (Sheffield Hallam University): A Cyber Campus to Support Inclusive Education

Abstract: This study aims to review and explore the use of cyber campuses as a potential learning tool to support people who cannot regularly attend the University. Students whom due to various reasons have to be away from the University are missing important learning experiences and this research investigates the concept of cyber campuses as a support tool to overcome some of the barriers that restrict or exclude them from education. 

A virtual inclusive learning environment capable to support and enhance students learning experience has been developed. This presentation shall discuss the research method, the motivation behind this research and the expected contributions in knowledge. Also the work that has been done, the work that is intended to be carried out and the research challenges that are emerging during this investigation shall be presented.

***Coming Soon*** We will be shortly announcing dates for 2012-13 so watch this space if you would like to present a paper in an upcoming seminar. 


DRF News

Getting Involved in the DRF…

The Disability Research Forum (DRF) will soon be entering its seventh year and is establishing itself as a significant international network of researchers (independent and those allied to particular education institutions or NGOs ) as well as anybody who has a committed interest in all things related to the study of disability and impairment. 

We thought we’d share with you some of the many ways to get involved, raise your profile and generally big up disability studies…

Our People Page

We have members from within the UK and beyond, including countries such as Canada, Kenya and Botswana.  As it is the diversity of its members which makes the DRF such a vibrant and interesting space, please consider adding your details to our People page.  If your details are already on there, please double-check they are up-to-date.  Any additions or changes can be sent to Rebecca Mallett (r.mallett@shu.ac.uk)

Recent additions include:

Nadia Ahmed: nadia.ahmed@qmul.ac.uk – PhD Research Student, School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London, UK. Nadia’s research focuses on practicable working environments for disabled academics in UK based universities. She is also the president of the Ability Society at Queen Mary University of London.

Nick Chown: nick@chown.fsbusiness.co.uk – PhD Student and Associate Lecturer, Faculty of Development and Society, Sheffield Hallam University, UK.  Nick’s doctoral research focused on language methods and language-games in autism.  His previous research interests have included barriers to learning for students with autism in further education, and autism awareness and understanding in the UK police service.  He is currently investigating the use of email as an autism-friendly interviewing tool.

Harriet Cooper: harriet.aj.cooper@googlemail.com – MPhil/PhD Researcher, Department of English and Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK. Her MA dissertation, entitled ‘The Ideal of Self-sufficiency and the Physically Disabled Subject in Contemporary Anglo-American Culture’, drew on ideas from cultural theory, disability studies, gender studies and psychoanalysis. Her PhD research explores the rise of the notion of the ‘normal child’ in Anglo-American culture and its impact on cultural constructions of the physically impaired child.

Alice Mathers: a.mathers@sheffield.ac.uk – Research Associate, Department of Landscape, Sheffield University, UK. Alice’s work is driven by an interdisciplinary approach to people-environment interactions, which straddles the academic boundaries of landscape architecture, planning, sociology, disability studies, human geography and environmental psychology. Her research with disabled people seeks to challenge current professional, academic and societal constraints that inhibit the involvement of underrepresented communities. Click here for profile.

Our Publications Page

An important part of the DRF is keeping each other up to date with the latest research and scholarly activity surrounding the study of disability.  Please consider adding your recent (or forthcoming) publications to our Publications Page.  If your details are already on there, please double-check any ‘forthcoming’ entries and send the correct details upon publication.  Any updates or additions can be sent to Rebecca Mallett (r.mallett@shu.ac.uk)

DRF Seminar Series

Details of the next seminar are below.  We will be shortly announcing dates for 2012-13 so watch this space if you would like to present a paper in an upcoming seminar.  (Please note: There is currently a slot available for the seminar on 3rd May 2012 (Thurs) 2pm-4pm. If you could and would like to fill this slot please get in touch asap.)

Date/Time: 18th April 2012 (Weds) 1pm-3pm

Venue: Room 10111 in the Arundel Building, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University (More information on the venue can be found here.)

Slot 11: Will Southwell-Wright (Department of Archaeology, University of Durham): Past Perspectives: What can Archaeology offer to Disability Studies?

Slot 12: Tom Campbell (School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds): Bio-politics, resistance and the social model of disability

Further details (including abstracts) are available here.

DRF News

CFP: ‘Living With Social Categories: Ethnicity, Mental Health, and Learning Disability in An Age Of Austerity’ Conference (June, UK)

Title: Living With Social Categories: Ethnicity, Mental Health, and Learning Disability in An Age Of Austerity

Date: 18th June 2012

Place: The Open University, Milton Keynes

Key Note Speaker: Professor James Nazroo (University of Manchester, UK)

Chair: Professor Richard Jenkins (University of Sheffield, UK)

Brief Description: This one day interdisciplinary conference seeks to re-ignite debates about the lived consequences of the category of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) in statutory services. Using mental health (MH) and Learning Disability (LD) as reference points the conference will explore fresh understandings and theorisations for how BME plays out within the care/control function of the state. Conference organisers acknowledge that ‘Learning Disability’ is contested by advocacy groups; however it is employed here to reflect its use in statutory services. 

The conference is hosted by the Faculty of Health and Social Care (The Open University) and the Race and Ethnicity Study Group (British Sociological Association).

Background: Notwithstanding recent advancements, there remains a disjuncture between theory and praxis in the sociology literature on ethnicity. While it is now accepted that ethnicity is an ontologically unstable category (Alexander 2006), writers arguably over-emphasise ethnicity qua ethnicity at the expense of material and psychic consequences of ethnic categorisations (Carter and Fenton, 2011). However there is long-standing evidence that the category BME has consequences for lived experience in statutory services where the state’s care/control function is thrown into sharp focus. Consequently although less likely to receive welfare services, BMEs are over-represented in the coercive aspects of ‘caring’ services. In MH and LD for instance, some BME groups are less likely to access preventative services but more likely to be detained for involuntary treatment (Mir et al, 2001; Care Quality Commission and National Mental Health Development Unit, 2011). Thus ‘[p]aradoxically, they receive the MH services they don’t want, but not the ones they do or might want’ (Keating and Robertson, 2004, p446). While the applied literature has helpfully evidenced these inequalities, it struggles to satisfactorily operationalise ethnicity to reflect current substantive understandings of fluidity (Nazroo, 2011; Salway et al 2009, 2011). The present age of austerity is likely to exacerbate longstanding inequalities, hence the timely need to refocus on the sociological processes which lead to embodiment of social categories such as BME, MH, and LD.      

We welcome papers from postgraduate and early career researchers that address the following themes:

  • What sociological theories are useful in explaining/could explain the disproportionate representation of BME in MH and LD services?
  • What are the possibilities, limitations and challenges of using ethnic categorisations to describe and explain inequalities in the provision of statutory services? Is an integrative (or intersectional) approach more useful?
  • Interrogating the category of BME: Although widely used in applied studies, BME is rarely explored critically. What is the history of the category; whose interests does it serve?
  • Spaces of care/control: ‘Space’ could be geographical, virtual, material, and mental – how is care/control operationalised; what are the mechanisms?
  • How can the gap between theory and practice be reduced? Is it an issue of dissemination? If so, how can this be bridged?

Deadline for abstract submission: 1st May 2012

BSA members and non-members, please contact Godfred Boahen (g.f.boahen@open.ac.uk) to reserve a place at the conference

DRF News

Second Keynote’s Title and Abstract Announced for Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane: 3rd International Conference (Chester, UK: June 2012)

If you need any further encouragement to attend the Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane: 3rd International Conference at the University of Chester (June 26th-27th 2012), here are details of our second keynote speaker: China Mills, who will be discussing…

Spoof: Faking Normal, Faking Disorder


“[T]he most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed” (Steve Biko, 1978: 92).

How do spoof, ‘fake’ psycho-pharmaceutical adverts work to queer the ‘real’ adverts, and the disorders they market the drugs for? How do they crip conceptions of normality and sanity?

These spoof ads point to a creeping psychiatrization of our everyday lives, a psychiatrization globalised through ‘mental health literacy’ campaigns and psycho-education in low-income countries of the global South. This paper will explore how this psychiatrization interlaces with colonial subject formation. For while pharmaceutical adverts and psychiatry interpellate, hail, ‘make up’, and elicit particular subjects – as pharmaceutical citizens, neurochemical selves; there is also a force at work in ‘making up’ these subjects, through the power of the gaze, that for Frantz Fanon; objectifies, seals, crushes and abrades. But how does medication broker subjectivity? How does it, as the ads claim, restore us to ourselves, make us whole again?

This paper will attend to the visual, to mechanisms of looking, to psychiatric fields of visibility. In India, many mental health Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), go to rural areas to ‘identify’ people with ‘mental illness’, making them visible through diagnostic systems developed in the global North, and medicating them. They say these people are ‘invisible people’. So how do medication and psychiatry make people visible? What ways of ‘seeing’ do they make possible? For Homi Bhabha (1994) invisibility does not signify lack; instead it works to disrupt identification and interpellation through refusing presence. Thus how might these ‘invisible people’, those who refuse to ‘reproduce hegemonic appearances’ (Scott, 1990), work to disrupt the gaze of psychiatry? Might invisibility; the doubling, dissembling image of being in two places at once (Bhabha, 1994), work as both a ‘symptom’ of oppression, and a means of subversion?

To read psychiatrization as a colonial discourse opens up possibilities to explore how the secret arts, the hidden transcripts, of resistance of the colonised might be read in people’s resistance to psychiatry – from the slyness of mimicking normality, to the mockery of ‘spoof’ drug adverts. How the ‘disembodied eyes’ of the subaltern that see but are not seen, might disrupt and subvert both the presumed ‘I’ of the unitary ‘whole’ subject, and the surveillant, penetrative ‘eye’ of psychiatry.

How medication might work to make people visible is more troubling if we read invisibility as camouflage and potential subversion. It suggests that medication might make people more vulnerable in their submission to sociality, in their domestication. But with what conceptual tools can we establish whether being invisible is an act of resistance through camouflage, a strategy solely for survival, or a mark of adaptation and assimilation? Perhaps certain forms of psychiatric ‘looking’ allow us not to ‘see’; enable us to encounter difference and yet defer it, domesticate it– to recuperate the hegemonic, the status quo, in the final look.

In this paper I will explore how spoof adverts may mimic ‘real’ ads in a similar way to how some people mimic normality, slyly; a ‘resemblance and menace’ that mocks the power of the ‘real’ and the ‘sane’, their very power to be a model (Bhabha, 1994:86). Will you be able to tell the difference between the ‘real’ and the ‘fakes’?


China Mills is in the final stages of writing up her PhD thesis, which employs a colonial discourse analysis of Global mental Health’s ‘scale-up’ of psychiatry, and the psychiatrization of India. She is funded by the Education and Social Research Institute, at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. China has worked within, and been allied to, the UK and Indian psychiatric user/survivor movement for some years, and is a member of the editorial collective of Asylum magazine for democratic psychiatry (www.asylumonline.net).

For more information on the conference click here.