DRF Events 2016-2017

This page provides the specific details of upcoming DRF events. For more information how to present at/attend a DRF seminar, please view the About page. 

Venue: Seminars are usually held in the Arundel Building, 122 Charles Street, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University, S1 1WB. For a map of City Campus click here. Please double check the room before attending a specific seminar.

DRF Seminar Schedule 2016-2017

1. Monday, 28th November 2016, 11am-1pm, Arundel 10311

Thinking with ‘Chemical Stories’

Kirsty Liddiard (University of Sheffield) and Esther Ignagni (Ryerson University, Toronto)

All people encounter chemicals – legal and illicit, helpful and harmful – in myriad and complicated ways.  This is particularly true for disabled people who rely on prescribed and generic chemicals for everyday functioning. Framing ‘chemicals’ as an open category, we are interested in everyday encounters with substances ranging from pharmaceuticals, street drugs, environmental pollutants, cosmetics and beyond. Narrative studies of chemical lives include the ‘storied lives of chemicals’; stories of chemical use within identified populations and ‘toxic tales’ of involuntary chemical exposure. These lines of inquiry position disability as an undesirable outcome of our chemical lives, and consequently a site of a precarious, dangerous or obliterated future.

Animated by initial findings from exploratory inquiries in Canada (Ignagni; Eliza Chandler) and the UK (Liddiard, China Mills) centered on people’s stories of their chemical lives, this workshop will begin with a brief description on this project’s framework, a brief review of how ‘chemical stories’ have been taken up in the fields of disability studies, feminist theory, and Indigenous Studies, and an account of the chemical stories we have engaged so far. The workshop will bring a focused discussion on the role of chemicals in our lives, specifically how chemicals both energize and deplete the future. Questions for workshop attendees will include:

  • Broadly speaking, how do you interact with chemicals in your everyday life?
  • How do interactions with chemicals capacitate some and incapacitate others (Erevelles, 2011; Fritsch, 2013)?
  • What kind of (crip) futurity do chemicals allow for (Kafer, 2012)?

Throughout this workshop, we will consider how ‘chemicals’ form and manifest disabling environments, shaping and maintaining particular subjectivities, embodiments and lives marked by difference, debility and exclusion through both mundane and extreme interactions. In this way, we will draw on and contribute to growing disability studies literature that interrogates how disability and impairments are socially produced within the environment by and through interactions with toxins, workplace hazards, and war .

2. Wednesday, 22nd February 2017

2-4pm, Arundel 10211

Emily Redmond, 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.

Ria Cheyne, 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.

3. Wednesday, 5th of April

2-4pm in Arundel 10311.

The presentations will be given by Jill Smith and Hannah Ebben, both from the Autism Centre at Sheffield Hallam University

Jill Smith’s abstract:

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.

Hannah Ebben’s abstract:

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.

4. Tuesday, 23rd May 2017

1:30-3:30 – Location to be announced

The presentations will be given by Lindsay Miller and Michael Miller – abstracts to be announced.

5. Thursday, 28 September 2017

Time and location to be announced.

The first speaker will be 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.


Our second speaker will be Antonios Ktenidis from the University of Sheffield– abstract to be announced

***more details coming very soon***