Therapeutic culture and development: a one-day workshop

Please join us for a workshop on therapeutic culture and international development on Friday March 17th 11-5pm, at Sheffield Institute of International Development (SIID), University of Sheffield.

Minds, behaviour and psychologies are fast becoming key frontiers in contemporary development policy. While the links between development and psychology have a long (colonial) history, there has been, of late, a contemporary shift to the more explicit mobilization of therapeutic culture within development interventions. We can see this in multiple arenas, from the uptake of behavioural science in the World Development Report ‘Mind, Society and Behaviour’; the inclusion of mental health on the UN Sustainable Development Goals; to the focus on measures of subjective well-being inter/nationally. Furthermore, digital technology has been used to further integrate psy-expertise in development policy and practice: from the use of phones to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy and to nudge behavioural changes in populations, availability of mental health diagnostic tools on digital platforms, to income management regimes that control population spending.

Speakers so far include:

Dr Sally Brooks (University of York),

Dr Eva Hilberg (University of Sheffield),

Dr Elise Klein (University of Melbourne),

Dr China Mills (University of Sheffield),

Dr Vanessa Pupavac (University of Nottingham), and

Professor Sarah White (University of Bath).

The workshop will be split into two parts:

11-1.30pm Speakers will give short (10 min) presentations of their current research relating to therapeutic culture and/or digital technology within international development. This session is open to anyone who would like to attend.

2.30-5pm A focused workshop to identify priority research areas and strengthen future collaborations. This session is limited to a small group of researchers.

To book a place please email: China Mills and Elise Klein  Please also indicate if you would like to give a 10 min presentation of your work in the morning, and/or attend the second half of the workshop, through submitting a short abstract within the email (by Feb 20th).


DEADLINE EXTENDED! Queer/Crip Contagions Call for Papers

Queer/Crip Contagions
Call for Papers for a Special Issue of Feminist Formations

Edited by Kelly Fritsch and Anne McGuire
**Deadline for full papers extended to March 3rd**

This special issue charts the limits and possibilities of queer/crip biosocial politics by examining the ways these intersect and co-mingle with the narratives, practices, and temporalities of contagion. Feminist scholars have long theorized “queer” and “crip” as unsettling, strange, twisted, or disruptive. Moreover, feminists have demonstrated how a queer/crip refusal of closure invites a range of discursive and embodied forms of contestation and coalition, offering radical alternatives to assimilationist or reformist politics. The coming together of queer and crip is an unstable yet fruitful site of interdisciplinary and multispecies exposure and exchange. Building upon and extending these insights, this special issue will trace the multiple and unexpected ways “queer” and “crip” influence and infect one another. Drawing on the etymology of contagion as “a touching, contact” or “touching closely,” how do queer and crip come into contact? What is absorbed? What is exchanged? And, what is or might yet be produced at this site? We solicit a diverse collection of articles emanating from a range of interdisciplinary fields and areas of study, but that are also united by a shared commitment to queer and crip the discourses and practices of contagion itself.

Bound by neither body nor border, contagion has become an emergent area of interest among scholars working at the intersections of critical race, transnational feminisms, queer theory and disability studies. Indeed, contagion frequently incites medical and moral crisis and panic through its historical, transnational, colonial, and imperial links to racial, sexual, and ability formations and violence. Jasbir Puar argues that the lexicon of contagion and disease “suture” together “etymological and political links” connecting racist/orientalist fears of border penetration and infiltration with cultural anxieties around queer, sick and/or disabled bodies (2007, 52). Mel Chen describes a queer/crip contagion that “de-territorializes,” exhibiting a unique flexibility to move “through and against imperialistic spatializations of ‘here’ and ‘there’” (2012, 167). Neel Ahuja marks contagion through projects of public health intervention and US empire that embed national defense and imperial interests in the racialized, gendered, sexualized, and ableist materializations of bodies (2016, xvi). Scholarship on the ongoing histories and logics of eugenics demonstrates how cultural ideologies of disability-as-threat contaminate and co-mingle with sexually and racially-coded narratives of biological in/security, thus legitimizing a range of neo/colonial and imperial health and hygiene practices in the name of individual, social, and economic development. By tracking contagion through contemporary discourses on viral diseases (i.e., Zika, HIV/AIDS, SARS, West Nile, Avian Flu, H1N1, or the range of diseases and illnesses associated with bioterrorism and biosecurity) and through the “epidemicization” of such phenomena as obesity, autism, smoking, poverty, violent crime, or toxic lead poisoning, we can develop a better sense of the cross-contamination between categories of race, gender, sexuality, and disability. Moreover, we can better understand how these categories have become essential to the organization of modern conceptualizations of human worth/value and to the authorization of an array of paternalistic, clinical, and imperial and colonial interventions.

Contagion most often comes to be associated with danger and undesirability – a racialized, pathological threat to be neutralized, eliminated, or cured. As contagion replicates and spreads through the expanding folds and ever-widening spectrums of illness, threats to our health and to our communities remain elusive and transitory, always eclipsed, always on the future horizon. Yet, contagion moves in indeterminate ways. Working to reorganize and manage both spatial/temporal relations, contagion de-regulates categories of health and disorder, while also and at the same time, anticipates the increased regulation and surveillance of bodies, minds and movements; contagion stimulates temporalities of speed, urgency and emergency, while also producing moments of stillness and suspended animation. Traveling along non-linear, transnational circuits spanning “then” and “now,” “here” and “there,” the queer/crip site of contagion provides a unique vantage for interrogating the violence of global capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, and its biosocial economies of human/nonhuman worth and precarity. Unbounded, intimate, and indeterminate, contagion also provides the grounds for provocative encounters and exchange: novel alliances between patients, scientists, politicians, doctors, biotech companies, community groups, and many others, that give rise to new kinds of biosocial relations. Contagion suggests a site of exposure, a vector of change, or a transgressive mixing that does not stay still. Theories of queer/crip contagion ask: which forms of embodiment are incorporated into life and which are put into quarantine or driven out of this vital fold? (Ahuja 2016; Puar 2012; McRuer 2010).

This special issue asks: how are queer/crip contagions – conceived of as unbounded convergences of bodies, minds, and meanings – working to open up new sites of, and for, social and political exchange? How are crip/queer contagions replicating, and spreading in ways that avoid the pitfalls of what Priscilla Wald (2008) has referred to as “outbreak narratives”? In other words, how are queer/crip narratives refusing social, political, medical, and moral containment by pushing back against 21st century tools and techniques aimed at controlling, capturing, arresting, or otherwise limiting the possibilities of and for biosocial politics: risk management, for example, neoliberal demands for flexibility, homo/able nationalism, clinical and state interventions and occupations, racialized violence, and/or ongoing colonial or imperial development projects?

This issue will build upon, enliven, and complicate emergent scholarship at the nexus of queer and crip. The editors encourage the submission of transnational feminist and intersectional work that engages queer/crip in relation to ethnicity, race, gender, disability, sexuality, age, citizenship, class and other socially produced categories of difference.

We welcome submissions related to, but not limited to the following questions: 

How are crip and queer theory shaped by the discourses and practices of contagion? What new kinds of epistemological and political frameworks emerge out of cross-contaminations between “queer” and “crip”?

What social and political meanings underpin the issue’s key terms ‘queer’, ‘crip’ and ‘contagion’? How are these categories produced by and responsive to ongoing histories of racism/ableism/heteronormativity/sexism?

How are transnational feminist perspectives penetrating queer/crip knowledge production? What new kinds of knowledge might yet be produced by attending to transnational issues and perspectives?

How do the lived experiences of queerness, disability, and chronic illness change across boundaries of race, ethnicity, class, and gender?

How do queer and crip challenge and reconfigure received understandings of kinship relations and imaginaries?

What are the limits and possibilities of thinking crip/queer as fluid, graded spectrums anchored by such binaries as homo/hetero, sickness/health, normal/abnormal?

How do changing forms of securitization impact queer/crip contagions? How do the discourses of contagion figure crip/queer bodies as threats to national security?


How does contagion influence disabled/queer/trans/race mobility across borders? What is the relationship between discourses of contagion and state or national practices of containment such as arrest/detention/delay?

How do increases in biometrics, biosecurity, and bioterrorism impact queer/crip contestations and coalitions?

What is the temporality of the contagion? How does contagion mediate our movements? Impact chronicity?

How are epidemics produced? What does and does not get framed as an epidemic? As non-contagious social “problems” like autism and obesity get narrated in terms of spreading epidemics, what work is and is not accomplished via contagion as metaphor?

What does social and moral panic over widespread/spreading diseases, disabilities and illnesses caused by viruses (e.g., Zika) or contaminants (e.g., lead, mercury, exposure to plasticizers, dirty water) reveal about cultural understandings of disability? How might a queer/crip reading of such events enrich/complicate our understandings of social advocacy (e.g., environmental activism, racial justice or reproductive rights)?

What is the relation between queer/crip contagions and immunization?

What might a queer/crip critique of epidemic/pandemic preparedness (e.g., evacuation plans, triage policies, etc.) look like?

How might a queer/crip framework of contagion critique or engage the exportation of health/hygiene techniques from the global north to global south? How would a queer/crip analysis of contagion both complicate and enrich analyses of global healthcare imbalances and political debates about unequal access to treatments/immunizations/cures in the Global South?

How do queer/crip contagions contest or mark the failure of imperialist, colonialist, and/or capitalist practices of biosecurity, biometrics, or governance?
As we track and follow the patterns/trajectory of contagions, where will it take us? What new forms of inter/transdisciplinary alliances might open up?

And/or that engage the following key topics:

Virality; Immunity; Epidemics; Public health; Crip/queer time, temporalities, futures, futurities; Chronicity, chronic conditions; Capitalism, neoliberalism, austerity, precarity; Bioeconomies, biocapitalism, economization or financialization of life; Toxicity; Hybridity; Trans-ability; Intra-species relations; Health, hygiene, healthism;  Nature/Culture;  Disability, illness, impairment, madness, Deafness, neurodiverity; Making kin;  Ecologies, environments; Affect; Cripistemologies; Trauma, memory;  Nation, colonialism, imperialism; Biosecurity and racialization/pathologization; Bioterrorism

Guest Editors:

Kelly Fritsch, Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, Women & Gender Studies Institute and Technoscience Research Unit, University of Toronto kelly.fritsch@utoronto.ca
Anne McGuire, Assistant Professor, Equity Studies Program, University of Toronto anne.mcguire@utoronto.ca

Submission Process: Full papers (between 8,000- 11,000 words including references) should be sent by March 3rd, 2017 to Kelly Fritsch (kelly.fritsch@utoronto.ca)   and Anne McGuire (anne.mcguire@utoronto.ca). Please include “Queer/Crip Contagions Submission” in the subject line of your submission.

Author(s) should include three files as attachments:

1. Cover page with identifying information including name, title, institutional affiliation, address, phone numbers, and email;
2. Abstract and keywords;
3. Complete manuscript, with all identifying information removed. Files must be in Word (.doc) or Rich Text Format (.rtf).

All submissions must follow the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) author-date system with parenthetical citations. All text, including quotations, must be double-spaced.

Following the deadline, guest editors will review the manuscripts and determine those to be sent for full anonymous review.

Feminist Formations style guide is available at: https://feministformations.org/sites/default/files/FeministFormationsStyleGuide2.pdf
Please contact either of the co-editors with questions or concerns about the submission process.


Dis/cinema event: My Autism and Me (2011)

Wednesday, 8 February, 2017

Hicks Building room 10, University of Sheffield

Doors at 5:30, Screening at 6:00

Free to attend

Reserve your spot on Eventbrite

Dis/cinema is a whole new Disability Studies initiative at the University of Sheffield. Its very first film night will be centered around the CBBC Newsround special My Autism and Me.

The film follows Rosie King, a Sheffield-based Autistic girl, who tells about her own life and presents a few other accounts of different children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Hannah Ebben will facilitate the screening by first introducing My Autism and Me and sharing her research into the use of the concept of autism in film, and what the representation of Autistic people talking about their own lives could tell us about acceptance, inclusion, and citizenship. Hannah will provide a closer analysis after the screening, and facilitate questions and discussion.She delivered the following abstract:

When it comes to the cultural representation of Autistic people, the personal account is a more recent phenomenon than people might think. It is impossible to know for sure if there are autobiographies of Autistic people out there from before the twentieth century, and the notion of autism as we know it now was formulated back in the 1940’s. It was just during the 1980’s that personal accounts were acknowledged: before this, it was thought that autism stood for an inability to be introspective and thus to tell anyone about one’s lived experience.

In my research into the use of the concept of autism in film, I am particularly interested in personal accounts as acknowledgement. For me, this stands for the way in which society accepts Autistic voices and cultural representations are recognised to be a genuine account of such voices. From 2013 onwards, the official widely used clinical term for autism has been ‘autism spectrum disorders’, which means that the diversity amongst autistic people is recognised. In contemporary personal accounts of autism, produced and distributed by non-autistic people, this diversity has now been included in order to inform the general public about different ways of being Autistic.

In my talk about my case study My Autism and Me, I will talk about the intricate combination of the homogeneity of the term ‘autism’ and the heterogeneity of the portrayed Autistic children. My Autism and Me follows Rosie King, a Sheffield-based Autistic girl, who tells about her own life and presents a few other accounts of different children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. I will give a short analysis of the use of animation in the documentary, and will reflect on the question what the representation of Autistic people talking about their own lives could tell us about acceptance, inclusion, and citizenship.

Hannah Ebben is a PhD student in the School of Education at Sheffield Hallam University whose focus on documentaries is on people who identify with the notion of autism who speak for themselves and are portrayed as such in the media.

If you wish to watch the 15 minute documentary in advance before coming to the screening and discussion, you can click the following link to access My Autism and Me

Hicks Building address: Hounsfield Rd, Sheffield S3 7RH



February DRF session, Sheffield Hallam University

The next Disability Research Forum meeting will take place on 22nd Feb at 2-4pm in Arundel 10211

Our first speaker is 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.

The second speaker is 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.


Disability Reading Group session on Psychotropic Childhoods, 24 January

A new year and the first Disability Reading Group will be taking place on Jan 24th, 12-1pm at Charles Street 12.4.03 Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Howard Street, Sheffield S1 1WB
We will be looking at an article by China Mills.
Mills, China. (2014) “Psychotropic Childhoods: Global Mental Health and Pharmaceutical Children”, in: Children and Society, vol. 28: 194-204.

Initiator Hannah Ebben included the following abstract:

One of the most intricate issues that I have encountered in my study of social justice research and activism is the question of mental health and self-care. In contemporary activist practices, particularly online, mental health stigma is included in intersectional oppression. Inspired by woman writers of colour such as Audre Lorde, many activists speak out about the importance of self-care; self-care advices are prevalent on liberal websites post-US presidential election and post-Brexit. On the other hand, the discourse of mental health also seems to be part of the problem of oppression and not only the solution, to put it (too) bluntly. The pathologisation of deviance, voice and resistance has been listed as a common part of oppression in many key critical race studies, queer theory, and gender studies texts, and the roots of psychiatry have been deconstructed as male-centred and Eurocentric. In fact, the earliest work of Foucault, one of the most cited thinkers on knowledge and power, covers the historical and cultural specificity of ‘madness’. If psychiatry and mental health have been challenged to the core by social justice thinking through time, how could this be reconciled by current affirmations of mental health and self-care in social justice movements in our current neoliberal society?

Disability Studies could be a field in which this question could be addressed in a way that does not make mental health and social justice mutually exclusive and that is sensible to intersectionality. For the Disability Reading Group, I have selected a text from Dr China Mills, who is currently based at the University of Sheffield and who gave a lecture during the Critical Race and Ethnicity Conference that I attended last month. In her work and in this particular article, she challenges the alleged universal nature of mental health and reads the psychiatrisation of childhood alongside the colonisation of the world. Such a reading states that universalised mental health discourse serves to colonise the Global South through the introduction of concepts from the Eurocentric field of psychiatry. During our session, we could further reflect upon the notion of mental health and self-care through time, in its contemporary use, and in our own research practice, while taking Mills’ critical analysis as a point of departure. 

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


Funded PhD Opportunity: Contextualising bullying and ‘vulnerability’ in the lives of LGBT and/or disabled young people

Sheffield Hallam University is currently offering funded PhD places. One in particular is ‘disability’ related (co-supervised by the DRF’s Jen Slater). See below and follow this link for more information:

Contextualising bullying and ‘vulnerability’ in the lives of LGBT and/or disabled young people

Anti-bullying practice and advocacy often understands certain ‘types’ of young people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBT) and disabled young people, as being ‘at risk’ or ‘vulnerable’ to bullying. At the same time, youth work provision and other support services are increasingly subject to ‘targeted’ (rather than universal) work. Such approaches essentialise and individualise ‘vulnerability’ as something ‘within’ a person, rather than a product of socio-cultural-political contexts. Combining our backgrounds in critical disability studies, critical psychology, and sociology, we are interested in proposals that examine and critique the notion of ‘vulnerability’, and how it is constructed and enacted in education and (youth) service provision. The suggested research approach is qualitative, within which artsbased and/or participatory methods could be adopted.

For further information, or informal discussion, please contact Eleanor Formby (e.formby@shu.ac.uk)


Request for Research Participants: Accessibility in the Built Environment

Message posted on behalf of Ceri Hedderwick Turner. If interested, please contact Ceri on the email address provided below – thanks.

“My name is Ceri Hedderwick Turner, I am a third year architecture student currently undertaking my dissertation which examines ways in which accessibility can be more effectively/fundamentally integrated into the architectural design process as well as into the education of architects. I am interested in looking at accessibility as not only the functional access to buildings, but additionally at how the whole sensory experience of a building is perceived and at the emotional response architecture can induce.

As part of my dissertation I will be making a short film exploring how people experience buildings differently. I am looking for volunteers, in particular people with different access issues, to interview on their experience with the built environment and potentially be involved with the making of the short film. If you are interested in sharing your experiences with architecture and accessibility please contact me by email: coh23@cam.ac.uk “