DRF News

CCDS Event: ‘Mad in Court: Mentally Disabled Pro Se Litigants and the Complex Embodiment of Mind’ (October 2012, UK)

Event: Centre for Culture & Disability Studies (CCDS) Research Seminar 

Date: Weds. 3rd October 2012: 2.15pm-3.45pm ~ Venue: Eden, 109, Liverpool Hope University, UK. 

Brief Description:

Mad in Court: Mentally Disabled Pro Se Litigants and the Complex Embodiment of Mind

~ Prof. Catherine Prendergast (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)

Despite the recent increase in self-advocacy by people who are mentally impaired, the legal realm is still considered a risky area for self-representation, as though “nothing about us without us” should stop at the courthouse door. To complicate this notion, Catherine Prendergast presents two cases that demonstrate both the persuasive force and jurisprudential significance of mentally impaired pro se litigation. The contention is that these litigants offer something akin to Tobin Siebers’s notion of “complex embodiment” in the sense that they lend concrete form to the oppressive and flattening abstraction of mental illness. They also provide first-hand accounts of the barriers that hamper inmate efforts to engage in self-expression and advocacy. These accounts question the mind-body dualism implied in the very notion of embodiment.

Catherine Prendergast is Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she teaches courses in disability studies, rhetoric, and writing. Her articles on the subject of mental impairment have appeared in SAQ: South Atlantic Quarterly, College English, and The Disability Studies Reader (3rd edition). She has co-edited (with Elizabeth Donaldson) a special issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies on the topic of Representing Disability and Emotion.

For further information from the organisers, please contact: Dr. David Bolt: boltd@hope.ac.uk

DRF News

Call for Papers: The Normalcy of Difference (AAG, February 2012: New York, USA)

The following session is co-sponsored by the Disability Specialty Group and the Geographical Perspectives on Women (GPOW) Specialty Group, of the Association of American Geographers (AAG).

Call for Papers: The Normalcy of Difference

Event: Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), February 24th–28th, New York, 2012

Session Organiser: Jayne Sellick (Durham University)

This session aims to explore the normalcy and/or acceptance of difference by focusing on disability, (mental) health, impairment and chronic illness and pain; however, papers may consider these and/or other embodied or gender differences by addressing conceptual, empirical and/or methodological work.

The normalcy of difference can be framed by drawing from various perspectives and thinking through new embodied geographies of inclusion (Parr 2008), as well as the interdisciplinary nature (Hansen and Philo, 2007) of difference research. These perspectives have drawn from the breadth of bodies represented through “multiple material, lived and imagined differences” (Crooks and Chouinard 2006): 346); while more recent body-object (Bissell 2008) and body-landscape (Macpherson 2010) relations refer to the nonrepresentational.  Papers may focus on:

  • The processes, practices and relationships that exist between, across and through these differences, object(s) and landscapes in space(s) and over time(s);
  • Conceptualising difference by focusing on the (non)representational and thinking through difference as a system, a set of practices, a relationship, kinds of embodiment, interactions with the built environment, frames of mind (Garland-Thomson 2004), an identity politics, an everyday experience, an assemblage;
  • Historiographies of difference and the role of space and time in accepting difference;
  • Methodological approaches to embodied and/or gender difference(s) and the role of participants in the research process;
  • The role of power relations (including those located in gender differences) in acceptance; the space and time of acceptance; the embodied difference of acceptance;
  • The potential of individual and collective action to (re)produce the (in)visibility of embodied difference;
  • The role of borders/boundaries in feminist/empowering approaches to difference as a form of individual/collective action;
  • Spatio-temporalities drawn from empirical work

Please send proposed titles and abstracts (no more than 250 words) to Jayne Sellick (j.m.sellick@durham.ac.uk) by September 25th 2011.


  • Bissell, D. (2008). “Comfortable bodies: sedentary affects.” Environment and Planning A 40(7): 1697.
  • Crooks, V. A. and V. Chouinard (2006). “An embodied geography of disablement: Chronically ill women’s struggles for enabling places in spaces of health care and daily life.” Health & Place 12(3): 345-352.
  • Garland-Thomson, R. (2004). Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory. New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press.
  • Hansen, N. and Philo, C. (2007) “The Normality of doing things differently: bodies, spaces and disability” Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie 98 (4): 493-506
  • Macpherson, H. (2010). “Non Representational Approaches to Body–Landscape Relations.” Geography Compass 4(1): 1-13.
  • Parr, H. (2008). Mental health and social space : towards inclusionary geographies? Oxford, Blackwell.