Call for papers!

Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies

Special issue: Learning Difficulties: Histories and Cultures

Guest editors: Owen Barden and Tina Cook

Until the late 20th century, intellectual disability history was subsumed or neglected within accounts from the psycho-medical professions, educational and mental health services, sociologists, and historians. More recently, input from a broad range of disciplines has helped to challenge the assumed truths generated about learning difficulties generated by medics, scientists, and medical historians.  Learning difficulties have also emerged as a field of inquiry in their own right within disability studies, following recognition that this aspect of disability has frequently been overlooked in both the initial turn to the social model and the subsequent re-turn to impairment. The overall objective of this special issue will be to make a significant contribution to this growing field of interdisciplinary and emancipatory research about learning difficulties.

Disabled people generally, and people labelled with learning difficulties specifically, have often been excluded not only from research but from culture and history more broadly. This has made people labelled with learning difficulties almost invisible. Where representations do exist, they are often skewed by the label and tropes of learning difficulties. We seek contributions evidencing the generation of new knowledge about learning difficulties and their histories, and which bring a variety of perspectives to bear not only on historical material and accounts, but also on the lived experience of learning difficulties today.

We encourage histories which foreground the role of culture, and the impact people labelled with learning disabilities have had on culture, rather than medicalized accounts. A cultural approach to history addresses the discursive practices and formations surrounding learning difficulties; it is concerned with the way people said to have learning difficulties are conceptualized, spoken about, and interacted with, and with the relational and environmental factors contextualizing and shaping these practices and formations. We welcome both histories of lives of people labelled with learning difficulties and historical analyses of cultural representations of learning difficulties.

Possible topics might include:

  • Representations of learning difficulties in historico-cultural artefacts.
  • Explorations of identity and intersectionality in relation to learning difficulties.
  • Analyses of the cultural work done by the organizing concept of learning difficulties.
  • Cultural histories, including ‘histories of the present’, which reveal important yet hidden aspects of contemporary experience.
  • Local, personal and insider histories, knowledges and perspectives.


5th April, 2019: submission of a 500-word proposal for articles or a 150-word proposal for reviews and a short bio to the guest editors Owen Barden bardeno@hope.ac.uk and Tina Cook cookt@hope.ac.uk.

3rd May, 2019: prospective authors notified of proposal status.

30th Nov, 2020: Full versions of selected papers due to editors.

May, 2020: Finalists selected.  Decisions and revisions on submissions sent to authors.

August, 2020: Final, revised papers due.


Call for papers: Chronic Illness and Representation

Ana Bê and Emma Sheppard are pleased to announce a special issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies (JLCDS) and have announced a call for papers!

Special issue: Chronic Illness and Representation
Guest editors: Ana Bê (Liverpool Hope University) and Emma Sheppard (City, University of London)

This special issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies will consider the representation of chronic illness.

Disability studies has for a number of years engaged closely with understanding chronic illness as a category of impairment (Thomas, 2008). Significant early contributions have been made by authors such as Carol Thomas and Susan Wendell and books such as Dissonant Disabilities: Women with Chronic Illnesses Explore Their Lives (2008). It is also important to recognize the relevance of more recent contributions such as those of Alyson Patsavas and Mel Chen in the context of cripistemologies (2014), as well as those offered by Alison Kafer in problematizing the role of pain and fatigue (2013), and Hillary Gravendyk’s concept of ‘chronic poetics’ (2014).

There has been increasing discussion, representation, and awareness of chronic illness in recent years – as part of, and distinct from, disability. Celebrities and public figures such as Lady Gaga have candidly discussed their experiences of chronic illness and been open about the obstacles they have faced, while Jennifer Brea’s documentary Unrest (2017) ignited further discussion. Bitch magazine’s In Sickness series (2017) presented complex and intersectional analysis of chronic illness and feminism. Social media has helped develop a culture of activism around chronic illness, from support groups to activist pages and the creation of memes. Recent films, such as Love and Other Drugs and The Big Sick, have provided audiences with popular representations of chronic illness.

However, there remains a substantial gap in this part of the field of disability studies, and we would like to make a start on filling it by inviting contributions that focus on cultural representations of chronic illness in a range of different cultural mediums–from literature to film, to TV and social media. We aim to take stock of how representations of chronic illness might have developed and what these are telling us about how we understand this experience.

Chronic illnesses are sometimes also designated as long-term health conditions or chronic diseases. For the purposes of this issue, we use the term chronic illness as it tends to resonate in activist circles. Our understanding of chronic illness is underpinned by Susan Wendell’s definition: ‘Usually, they [chronic illnesses] are understood to be illnesses that do not go away by themselves within six months, that cannot reliably be cured, and that will not kill the patient any time soon’ (Wendell 1996:20). Within this definition, we include experiences of undocumented illness (Mollow, 2014)–illnesses that have no recognised or agreed upon classification, whose cause is debated, and the experience of which is often dismissed. Therefore, the definition is quite open, and fits a wide range of experiences, but we emphasize that our understanding of chronic illness is also based on a shared disability studies politics that sees this experience as being framed by both social oppression and impairment effects.

Possible topics for papers include, but are not limited to:

● Documentary film
● Fictions and stories of chronic illness
● Social media representations and cultures of chronic illness
● Intersections of race, gender, sexuality and chronic illness
● Chronic illness and celebrity
● Cripping and queering chronic illness
● Crip time and chronic illness
● Representations of chronic illness in art
● Global perspectives on cultures of chronic illness
● Masculinities and chronic illness
● Cripistemologies of chronic illness
● Historical perspectives on chronic illness
● Activism and cultural representations
● Theater, performance and chronic illness
● Poetry and chronic illness
● Representations of chronic pain and fatigue
● Music and chronic illness


15th April, 2019: submission of a 500-word proposal for articles or a 150-word proposal for reviews and a short bio (150 words) to both the guest editors Ana Bê (pereira@hope.ac.uk) and Emma Sheppard (Emma.Sheppard@city.ac.uk).

28th June, 2019: prospective authors notified of proposal status.

1st December, 2020: Full versions of selected papers due to editors.

June, 2020: Finalists selected. Decisions and revisions on submissions sent to authors.

September, 2020: Final, revised papers due.


Call for papers! SHU Humanities Post-Graduate Conference

Call for papers is open until 1st April 2019

Conference will take place at Sheffield Hallam University, on May 31st 2019

More information available here and below: https://postgradgroupshu.wordpress.com/call-for-papers/

Details: Inter-disciplinary conference with the theme of Invisibility

Potential approaches to Invisibility and Absence may include:

  • Absent voices in political discourses, and how those voices are silenced.
  • Power relationships predicated upon the absence of voice of some of the participants.
  • The gaining of voice; making oneself visible.
  • The ontological status of the ‘invisible’.
  • Narratives of those who have been traditionally under-represented or oppressed: women, trans, minority narratives.
  • The ‘unseen’ consequences of political discourses on those without voice.
  • Agency and visibility.
  • Age and invisibility.
  • Social media and presence.
  • The experience of being ‘invisible’ within discourse and its consequences.
  • Disempowerment relating to absence.

The conference is aimed at giving masters, PhD students and early career researchers the opportunity to have their ideas heard in a supportive environment. It has been run for three years and is a great opportunity to gain experience of a conference, practise delivering a conference paper or to network with others.

The conference isn’t limited to Sheffield Hallam University, there will be a key note from Manchester and 5 abstracts from universities all over England have been received so far.

If you wish to submit your abstract please email it to: invisibilityconferenceshu@gmail.com and should include a 250 word abstract and a short biography.



Friday 22nd February

Time: 10am – 12pm.

Place: 12.02.20 Charles Street Building, Sheffield Hallam University. City Campus

This is on the second floor of the Charles Street Building which is just next to Arundel where we held meetings last year.

Speaker 1: Louise Logan-Smith

Title: ‘The Giant Hotspot’: Museums, Medicine, Literature and the Cultural Afterlife of Charles Byrne


The Hunterian Museum’s acquisition and display of the human remains of the eighteenth-century ‘giant’ Charles Byrne have been embroiled in ethical debates surrounding the competing claims to and contested ownership of the body. In June 2018, it was announced that the museum would be removing Byrne’s remains from display during a refurbishment period of three years, during which time they would ‘consider’ the possible repatriation and burial of his bones. This present example of the contentious legacy of remains in museums raises issues concerning the ethics involved in collection and display, but it also brings to light the ways in which historical collections are ethically embroiled in disability politics. Focusing on disability and museum discourse, as well as literary and textual analysis, this paper interrogates the extent to which interdisciplinary narratives can insight a “cultural redress” (Snyder, Brueggemann, Garland-Thomson, 2002) of disability representation and the cultural afterlife of the ‘freak show’ in museums.

Speaker 2: Maram Alwadi

Title: The Inclusion of Disabled Children in Oral Health Research


Despite the fact that current policies encourage the involvement of disabled children in decision- making and research about matters that affect their lives (UNICEF, 1989), whilst the educational, sociological and nursing research have made progress towards inclusion, disabled children have been less commonly included in oral health research. The importance of listening to children, including disabled children, is well supported in policy as well as in literature (Sinclair and Franklin, 2000; Willow, 2002).

Within the field of oral health research, two valuable systematic reviews have been conducted to show how far dental research has been done with or on children. The first systematic review found that the majority of research (87%) of papers viewed children as the ‘objects’ on which to do research on, rather than with (Marshman et al., 2007). An updated systematic review identified that the proportion of research on children had decreased by 23% over that decade and moved more towards research with children rather than on them (Marshman et al., 2015). What neither systematic review does is identify whether disabled children are viewed as a diverse group and if they are included in oral health research. Therefore, my PhD research has two aims which are to:

  • Review the literature on the inclusion of disabled children in oral health research (Study1)
  • Explore the oral health views and experiences of disabled children, their formal and informal carers and service providers (Study 2)

The systematic review of the current literature on the place of disabled children in oral health research, revealed that most oral health research is conducted on disabled children. Unlike previous systematic reviews of inclusion of the voices of children in oral health research (Marshman et al, 2007; Marshman et al, 2015), disabled children were mostly excluded from research. This suggests that there is a need for research that attempts to use methods, which include disabled children as fully as possible to ensure that their perspectives are obtained, and their voices are heard.

Therefore, the second study aims to enable the voice of disabled children to be heard in oral health research through exploring their perspectives of oral health and oral health services. Meanwhile, the views of mothers, as the significant adult in children’s home life, their service providers and teachers as the significant adults in the children’s life will be sought to triangulate with and support the children’s perspectives. The current study is significant since the voices of disabled children appear to be mostly excluded from oral health research. This has an impact on service provision and policy to identify areas for improvements in oral health services and oral health promotion initiatives.

Note: The presentation will present the systematic review of the current literature on the place of disabled children in oral health research. It will also present an overview for the study two which aims to explore the oral health views and experiences of disabled children, their formal and informal carers and service providers.


New Directions in Critical Disability Studies – postgraduate symposium

A postgraduate symposium aiming to share exciting new ideas in disability studies, and think critically about what it means to be human.

July 9th. 10am – 4pm

About this Event

This one-day symposium invites postgraduate researchers to engage with some of these questions as they relate to their own research projects. The day offers the exciting possibility of learning with and from one another to think about the different directions that are now being taken within critical disability studies. Each speaker will offer a unique contribution to the day, drawing upon the theoretical and methodological frameworks of their PhD project. The call for papers is intentionally broad in order to provide an open and flexible space for these new directions to be debated and discussed. While broad, presenters are brought together through their interest in both developing, and initiating, new directions in critical disability studies. We hope to meet with postgraduate researchers from a range of institutions and seek to explore the following questions:

What does it mean to be human?

What does it mean to be pushed to the peripheries of its borders?

How might we confront these borders and rethink the dominant territory of the ‘normal’ human?

How, as a collective of postgraduate researchers, can we have honest and open conversations about what the human is, isn’t, and could be?

We welcome proposals from postgraduate researchers who position their work within the field of CDS. We are interested in exploring some of the new directions you are taking this field within the unique parameters of your PhD topic. Abstracts should be between 150 and 200 words.

Please send your abstract, and brief bio, to newdirectionscds@gmail.com on or before Wednesday 13th March, 2019. We aim to respond to you by Monday 15th April with our decisions.

The symposium will take place in Workroom 4, on the first floor of 38 Mappin Street, University of Sheffield, S1 4DT. This space has access to accessible toilet facilities, gender-neutral toilets, car-parking, and with level access into the building. The building does not play background music. Lift access is available next to workroom 4.

More info on accessibility has been created by Disabled Go https://www.accessable.co.uk/venues/38-mappin-street

An interactive map of the building is available following this link http://ssid.sheffield.ac.uk/38-mappin-floor-plan/

This is a free event and lunch and light refreshments will be provided.

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with us newdirectionscds@gmail.com

More information can be found on the link below: