November’s Disability Reading Group

Our next Disability Reading Group will take place on Thursday, 2 November at 12-1pm in Arundel 10111. We are going to discuss the following article:

Weiss, G. 2015. “The normal, the natural, and the normative: A Merleau-Pontian legacy to feminist theory, critical race theory, and disability studies” Continental Philosophy Review 48(1), doi:10.1007/s11007-014-9316-y, pp.77-93.

For those arriving early, please mind the fact that the first floor of Arundel Building is locked for non-SHU staff members. During the 30 minutes that precede the sessions, a DRF organiser will grant access to Arundel 10111 for the Disability Reading Group and Disability Research Forum visitors.


November’s Disability Research Forum session

Our next Disability Research Forum session will take place at Thursday, 2 November from 1:30 to 3:30pm in Arundel 10111.  Two PhD students based at Sheffield Hallam University will present their work.

Our room will be locked for non-SHU staff members; we will make sure that the room is accessible for everybody right before the session starts, but please bear in mind that the first floor of Arundel Building will be locked for those who will arrive early.

The first speaker is Katherine Terrell

“How white supremacy and audism influence discourses around language and education in the USA: a critical comparison of Black English and Black American Sign Language (ASL)”

In Audre Lorde’s words, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not lead single-issue lives” (1984), and this is true in considering the way Black Deaf children’s language has been, and continues to be, a source of oppression and struggle. This paper considers how discourse around language contributes to naturalising white supremacy; that is, the concept that white language, culture, and “ways of knowing” are superior (Mills, 1997). A significant but understudied area is Black American Sign Language (BASL), a variation of American Sign Language (ASL), the language of the North American Deaf community. BASL lies at the intersection between white supremacy and audism, “the hearing way of dominating, restructuring, and exercising authority over the deaf community” (Lane, 1992). Just as “African American studies critiques white supremacy, Deaf Studies critiques … audism.” (Bauman, 2008). I draw from scholars of “race” and Deaf studies to critically consider and compare the ways in which white supremacy and audism both have their bases in assumptions of the moral, intellectual and aesthetic superiority of the dominant white and hearing (non-deaf) cultures. The history of public policy and discourse around language in the education of Black and Deaf children has revolved around concerns that students are taught to communicate “properly” and “normally”, as exemplified in the Oakland Ebonics debate. Perhaps less well known is the history in segregated Deaf schools of paternalism and oralism (a system of education that uses only lip-reading and forbids sign language). I will argue that concern about students communicating “properly” is more than misguided benevolence, but rather a way to suppress Black and/or Deaf “ways of knowing” (such as in the concept of “Deafhood”) in order to reinforce the supremacy of white and hearing (non-deaf) thought, culture and language. I consider how both Black and Deaf bodies and language have been dehumanised, pathologised and problematised in similar but historically distinct and unique ways in educational systems (Lane, 1992; Jackson, 2006). I draw on researchers who critically consider their position within hegemonic discourses and integrate Black and Deaf epistemology into their work, which Rodney sees as essential in “race” studies (1972).

The second speaker is Stephen Connolly

Not ‘research on’, not ‘research with’ but research by emanci-participatory approach to autism research.

[The following abstract was written with no input from my spelling person, iv tried as much as possible to use correct grammar but I imagine that there is still a large amount of grammatical mistakes why have I not had any input from my spelling person? youll find out with the presentation of course.]

There is a growing movement within the autism research world. I say growing as it has been there for some time, even before the now leaders of this charge took up arms over the past few years there has always been elements of this movement. In the early 90’s the likes of Rita Jorden worked with autistic professionals to deliver training as she could see the benefit to the audience. Yet where this movement was just simmering it feels like now it’s on a full-blown rolling boil. The movement I speak of is that of emancipation through participation, leadership and ultimately ownership. This summer there was the Critical Autism conference, the National Autistic Society’s The Autism Show, the Suicidality in Autism conference series and Autism and Mental Health conference to name a few. The one question Actually Autistic’s asked was, are the speakers autistic? With heavy criticism laid upon those conferences that lack an autism presence in the key note speaker list. The same is true with the litany of papers around autism that are published throughout the year.

This question is an important one not only so that autistic researchers get work though this is a plus but rather it is a question of power and voice. The autism community has often in the past been used as a resource much the same as other minority communities, used by researchers to further a sense of wonderment and a career. But there is some good news (kinda), there has been a shift in how autistic participants are seen and used, Tregaskis and Goodley (2005) highlighted that disability literature is moving away from research ‘on’ disabled individuals and towards research ‘with’ disabled individuals which has resulted in the promotion of the ‘disabled voice’ within research. Building on this in the past four or five years has been the move towards participatory research and the ‘gold standard’ that is emancipatory research. However I challenge how much this voice is still allowed to be heard. I put forward that power still resides with the non-autistic lead researcher and that the concept of voice is being used to give a guise of progressive inclusiveness in a one-upmanship of ‘gold standard’ inclusive and accessible research. Rather than just having a token autistic researcher involved or the use of an autistic working group I put forward a concept of complete community control using my method of emanci-participatory research. This method is a simple one reduce the power imbalance as much as possible by giving those involved (note the non-use of participant or the fallacy of co-researcher) as much choice as possible and as a result remove how much their voice can be restrained or influenced to truly promote the ‘disabled voice’. Yet there are still issues particularly around how ethics does not allow for emergent research and how institutional governance has the ultimate power especially when the research is part of a PhD.

Now I appreciate this abstract is rather reductionist positioning anything but research conducted by autistic researchers that empowers the autistic community as less than (feeding into that one-upmanship I highlight as a negative) but this abstract aims to get people to the DRF (even if that isn’t in person). The presentation itself puts forward an argument that there is room for most types of research but that research has to recognise its own power balance and where possible ask themselves some key questions. To facilitate this discussion I use my research which looks at the inclusion of students that identify as autistic in higher education. The method I put forward isn’t a check-box list of how to do the next level of inclusive research but rather a philosophy to carrying out what I see as ethical and inclusive research whilst also drawing attention to the issues I discussed.