DRF News

‘Notes for Delegates’ and ‘Notes for Presenters’ now available for ‘Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane’ Conference 2013 (Sheffield, UK)

‘Notes for Delegates’ and ‘Notes for Presenters’ are now available for the upcoming  ‘Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane’ Conference 2013.  Click on the links below.

Notes for Delegates include:

1. Getting to Sheffield

2. Accommodation in Sheffield

3. Conference Venue

– Access Information about the Conference Building

4. Food

Notes for Presenters include:



  1. Content
  2. Visual Aids
  3. Written Materials

For more conference info: https://disabilityresearchforum.wordpress.com/events/normalcy-2013 or join the debate on twitter #normalcy2013


**Draft conference programme coming shortly**

DRF News

Keynotes Announced for Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane Conference (Sheffield, UK: September 2013)

If you are in any doubt over whether you should attend the Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane: 4th International Conference at Sheffield Hallam University (September 3rd-4th 2013), here is a little taster of what will be on offer.

We are thrilled to announce two of this year’s keynotes speakers:

Dr Clare Barker, Lecturer in English (Medical Humanities) at the University of Leeds, UK will be discussing….

Whose Health? Biocolonialism, Postcolonial Medicine, and Normalcy Across Cultures

Abstract: In the Māori writer Patricia Grace’s novel Baby No-Eyes (1998), an indigenous activist counters arguments about ‘progress’ in genetic science and the benefits of finding ‘answers’ to health ‘problems’ with questions: “whose health problems are we talking about, and answers for who?”. These questions are productive and provocative as they unsettle some of the normalising functions of global biomedical discourses: assumptions that ‘health’ will look and feel the same across different cultures and communities; that we all want to know the same information about our genes and bodies, and aspire to the same goals of bodily function, appearance, and ability; and that advances in medical science will ultimately benefit all of humankind. This paper uses examples from literary texts such as Baby No-Eyes in order to unpack the universalism that underpins concepts such as ‘normalcy’, ‘health’ and ‘ability’. While organisations such as the WHO offer standardised models for measuring ‘health’ and identifying ‘problem’ areas, these texts provide alternative perspectives on what communities themselves perceive as ‘normal’, ‘unhealthy’ or ‘dysfunctional’, and stress the specialist cultural knowledge and resources that often determine how illness, disability, and medical intervention are experienced. Focusing especially on genetic research, the paper will highlight the continuities between extractive colonial practices and contemporary forms of ‘biocolonialism’ – the mining or exploitation of some human bodies (usually in the global South) for the benefit of others (most often, neoliberalised ‘normates’ in the global North). It will end by reflecting on what a postcolonial approach to global health, medicine, normalcy, and disability might look like. An approach that is attentive to cultural difference and specificity, I suggest, can help keep us vigilant about the kinds of normalisation that arise within medical discourse and provide conceptual resources for resisting the tyranny of the normal.

Bio: Clare Barker is the author of Postcolonial Fiction and Disability: Exceptional Children, Metaphor and Materiality (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and has co-edited two special issues of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies: ‘Disabling Postcolonialism’ (2010, with Stuart Murray) and ‘Disability and Native American/Indigenous Studies’ (2013, with Siobhan Senier). Her research is situated at the intersection of postcolonial studies, disability studies and medical humanities, and focuses on representations of disability, health, illness, and medicine in world literatures and cultures. She is interested in the ways in which disability, health and illness are constructed in local and global contexts, and how fiction can transform our understanding of embodied difference, medical encounters, and the politics of health. Clare is currently working on two new research projects: one is a collaborative AHRC-funded project on community health and wellbeing in the UK, in which she will focus on the relationship between health and ethnicity in British Asian communities and literatures. The other, tentatively entitled ‘Postcolonial Health: Literature, Medicine, Activism’, will explore the representation of health crises, global biomedical debates, and health-related community activism in postcolonial literatures and film. This will include work on fictional and activist representations of the Bhopal disaster, indigenous responses to the Human Genome Diversity Project, and disability-related protests against the sponsorship of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.


Dr Jenny Slater, Lecturer in Education and Disability Studies at the Sheffield Hallam University, UK will be discussing….

The (Normal) Non-normativity of Youth

Abstract: Youth unnerves us. Awkwardly bridging the space between ‘child’ and ‘adult’, we are delivered demonising depictions of young people (hoodies and hooligans), and working out how to deal with these not-quite children but not-quite-adults is high on policy makers’ agendas (Slater, 2013, f.c.). On the other hand, the non-normativity of ‘teenage rebellion’ is considered an ‘identity forming’ rite of passage for young people to cross the border zone between child and adult (Lesko, 2002). We hear, in fact, young people scorned upon for their apolitical, apathetic acceptance of normativity – the youth today a pale reflection of their predecessors (Bennett, 2008).  Even our ever-so reasonable politicians tell us that they “[did] things that teenagers do”, before they “pulled [themselves] up and headed in the right [direction]”  (Cameron in Watt, 2009).

This paper will explore how, through youth, ‘non-normativity’ emerges as a place allowed, indeed expected, as a stage of ‘normative development’. I will argue, however, that it is a stage only permissible to young people fitting neatly into other culturally privileged positions. Furthermore, it must be played out by meeting other societal expectations (‘masculinity’ – lads will be lads; first heterosexual encounters, and so on) which set young people on the path to normative adulthood. Commercialised and commodified ‘what it is to be young’, I argue, is an illustration of the required flexible neoliberal subject; it is okay to be ‘non-normative’ if ‘non-normativity’ can be compartmentalised, as a phase to be grown-out of, and later periodically bought into. Drawing on fieldwork with disabled young people alongside other cultural and media representations of ‘youth’ and ‘youth culture’, I will argue that perceived  ‘non-normativity’ leaves young people not fitting into other culturally priveledged positions much more precariously positioned.

Bio: Jenny Slater is a lecturer in Education and Disability Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. Her doctoral work with young disabled people drew on critical disability studies frameworks to consider cultural constructions of ‘youth’ and ‘disability’. Jenny is interested in how youth and disability ‘play out’ with other intersectional identities, particularly gender and sexuality.


Keep up to date via the Normalcy 2013 page on the DRF blog: https://disabilityresearchforum.wordpress.com/events/normalcy-2013/, join the debate on twitter #normalcy2013 and, remember, to book a place at the conference, please visit normalcy2013.eventbrite.co.uk

Critical Theory, DRF News

Announcing ***Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane*** Sept, 2013: Sheffield, UK

As some of you may already know, at yesterday’s DRF seminar we had the privilege of announcing the date and details of the next ***Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane*** Conference.  See below for further details.

Event: 4th Annual International Conference ***Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane***

Date/Place: Tues. 3rd – Wed. 4th September 2013 – Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Hosted by: Dept. of Education, Childhood and Inclusion + Disability Research Forum, Sheffield Hallam University in association with University of Chester, Manchester Metropolitan University + the University of Sheffield.

Conference organising committee: Dan Goodley (UoS); Nick Hodge (SHU); Rebecca Mallett (SHU); Cassie Ogden (Univ of Chester); Katherine Runswick-Cole (MMU); Jenny Slater (SHU).

Title: Precarious Positions: Encounters with Normalcy

Call For Papers: disabilityresearchforum.wordpress.com/events/normalcy-2013

Conference Enquiries: normalcy2013@gmail.com

Conference Registration: to book a place please visit normalcy2013.eventbrite.co.uk

Printable Poster: Normlacy 2013 Poster

Keep up to date and join the debate on twitter #normalcy2013

DRF News

CFP: The North of England Education Conference (Sheffield, UK ~ Jan 2013)

[Given the theme of this conference, we thought DRF members might be interested…]

Event: The North of England Education Conference (NEEC)

Theme: Mind, Brain, Community: Inspiring Learners, Strengthening Resilience

Dates: 16th – 18th January 2013

Venue: Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield UK

Details: The North of England Education Conference (NEEC), established in 1903 is one of the UK’s most influential and prestigious annual education events. The 2013 conference will be held in the city of Sheffield and involves a unique partnership with Sheffield City Council, the School of Education at the University of Sheffield and Department of Teacher Education at Sheffield Hallam University.  As always, the NEEC will bring together service leaders and policy makers, headteachers, school leaders, academy principals and sponsors, practitioners and politicians as well as academics/researchers and people who work in schools and communities.

The organisers have identified the interface between neuroscience and education, in particular, as an area of crucial importance in what is now very much an age of technological and global interconnectivity.

They are inviting papers (critical, empirical, theoretical), symposia, workshops and posters from academics, researchers, practitioners and community groups which address one or more aspects of the Conference title.

The aims of the conference are:

  • to focus on aspects of mind and brain in relation to learning, schools, families and healthy communities
  • to explore the ideas and innovative practices which could shape the new education landscape both in and out of the classroom
  • to deliver a legacy of collaboration between academics, policy makers, practitioners and service users which will last well beyond the conference itself

Abstracts of no more than 150 words (500 words for symposia) should be submitted by 10th September 2012 via the on-line system on the Conference web-site: https://registration.livegroup.co.uk/neec2013/


New Issue of JLCDS (6:2) is now available: Popular Genres and Disability Representation

The new issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies (JLCDS) is now available.  Volume 6: Issue 2 is a special issue on Popular Genres and Disability Representation and is guest edited by Ria Cheyne


Comment from the Field:

JLCDS is available from Liverpool University Press, online and in print, to institutional and individual subscribers; it is also part of the Project MUSE collection to which the links below point.  

For more information, please contact: Dr. David Bolt: boltd@hope.ac.uk

DRF News

Fourth Keynote Title and Abstract Announced for Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane: 3rd International Conference (Chester, UK: June 2012)

Last but certainly not least, we are pleased to announce the details of our fourth keynote for Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane: 3rd International Conference at the University of Chester (June 26th-27th 2012).

Cassie Ogden (University of Chester, UK) will be discussing….

Title: Gases, Liquids and Solids: Reclaiming Fluidity in a Liquid Modern World

Abstract: Much academic focus has led to the understanding of the commodification of the body, which has resulted amongst other things in the devotion of time, money and effort, to pursue the ‘perfect’ body.  This commitment to an idealised/normalised asceticism is often manifested in the actual or appeared alteration of the size and shape of the body with the ‘help’ of various diets, clothing, surgery, drugs and exercise. One’s corporeality therefore partially shapes social reality and statuses according to the degree to which bodies are accepted into society.  Despite the importance placed on the body in terms of appearance and productivity in the contemporary world, mundane functions of the body are often deemed shameful in this fallacious imaginary of the body resulting in the denial and/or veiling of regular bodily functions.  Repulsion and exclusion can be felt by those possessing ‘leaky’ bodies or more accurately bodies that leak without control. This paper utilises a Baumanesque analysis of modernity to highlight the convenience of a controlled body to a consumerist society.  Also reflective of Shildrick’s (2009) plea for troubling dominant discourses and instead envisaging all bodies as non-stable, Bauman’s work creates the potential to imagine an emancipated society where static, constricting notions of the body are obsolete. Through the location of society as liquid modern (Bauman, 2000), the common sense notion of ‘bodily control’ will be interrogated and highlighted as a dangerous benchmark that people are best to resist.

Our three other confirmed keynotes are:

For Further Details on the conference, including registration – please click here

DRF News

Third Keynote Title and Abstract Announced for Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane: 3rd International Conference (Chester, UK: June 2012)

Proving that good things come in threes… we are pleased to announce the details of our third keynote for Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane: 3rd International Conference at the University of Chester (June 26th-27th 2012).

Margrit Shildrick (Professor of Gender and Knowledge Production, Linkoping University, Sweden) will be discussing….

Title: Celebrating Crip Pleasure: The Somatechnics of Disability and Desire

Abstract: In this presentation, I intend to address pleasure and desire in the disabled body in relation to somatechnics in which embodiment is always technologised. The focus will primarily be on sexuality, but also on other bodily engagements.

As one aspect of biotechnology, prostheses have long been in term use as compensatory technologies that stand in for some putative lack or deficiency that is supposedly the mark of anomalous embodiment. More recently, however, the emphasis has firmly switched to enhancement and supplement, and it is that more productive trajectory that I shall pursue. My argument is that in the era of postmodernity, the disabled body specifically can raise acute questions about the always ambivalent relationship between embodied subjects, pleasure and biotechnology. Desire is no longer focussed on the replication of a more or less acceptable model of normative practices but on a highly productive alternative that inevitably queers the meaning of sexuality itself.

For Further Details on the conference, including registration – please click here


Further Details: Theorizing Normalcy and the Mundane 3rd International Conference (Chester, UK)

 Theorizing Normalcy and the Mundane 3rd International Conference

“Cripping the Norm” 

** Extended call for papers – new deadline: 15th May 2012 **

** Conference website for details and registration now online: click here **

Dates: 26th- 27th June 2012

Where: University of Chester

Keynotes confirmed:

A conference jointly-hosted by University of Chester in association with Critical Disability Studies (Manchester Metropolitan University) (MMU) and the Disability Research Forum (Sheffield Hallam University)

This 3rd international conference builds on the success of the Normalcy2010 and Normalcy2011 conferences held in Manchester and seeks, again, to bring together an international group of disability studies researchers. Our conference moves to the beautiful Cathedral town of Chester (located on the border of England and Wales)

This conference will critically explore and debate issues in the following areas:

– exploring the cultural and political production of normalcy
– addressing our obsession with reason and rationality
– connecting ableism with other hegemonies including heterosexism, racism and ageism
– analysing the barriers and possibilities of the mundane and extraordinary
– deconstructing new pathologies and ‘abnormalities’
– celebrating deviations from the norm
– affirming crip identities and ways of living

Our aim is for this conference to be as inclusive as possible.  We welcome activists, undergraduate and postgraduate students, practitioners and academics to join us. In the spirit of an eco-friendly conference, registered delegates will be sent an e-pack. Details of accommodation near the venue will also be sent to delegates.

This year, to cover costs of refreshment and lunches, we will be charging a flat rate of £75 per delegate. Free registration is still available however for full time students and the out of work.

For further information (or to request a code to allow free registration) please contact Dr Cassie Ogden: c.ogden@chester.ac.uk – tel (01244 512068)

When registering online please complete the form below before clicking on “add to cart”.

DRF News

Second Keynote’s Title and Abstract Announced for Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane: 3rd International Conference (Chester, UK: June 2012)

If you need any further encouragement to attend the Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane: 3rd International Conference at the University of Chester (June 26th-27th 2012), here are details of our second keynote speaker: China Mills, who will be discussing…

Spoof: Faking Normal, Faking Disorder


“[T]he most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed” (Steve Biko, 1978: 92).

How do spoof, ‘fake’ psycho-pharmaceutical adverts work to queer the ‘real’ adverts, and the disorders they market the drugs for? How do they crip conceptions of normality and sanity?

These spoof ads point to a creeping psychiatrization of our everyday lives, a psychiatrization globalised through ‘mental health literacy’ campaigns and psycho-education in low-income countries of the global South. This paper will explore how this psychiatrization interlaces with colonial subject formation. For while pharmaceutical adverts and psychiatry interpellate, hail, ‘make up’, and elicit particular subjects – as pharmaceutical citizens, neurochemical selves; there is also a force at work in ‘making up’ these subjects, through the power of the gaze, that for Frantz Fanon; objectifies, seals, crushes and abrades. But how does medication broker subjectivity? How does it, as the ads claim, restore us to ourselves, make us whole again?

This paper will attend to the visual, to mechanisms of looking, to psychiatric fields of visibility. In India, many mental health Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), go to rural areas to ‘identify’ people with ‘mental illness’, making them visible through diagnostic systems developed in the global North, and medicating them. They say these people are ‘invisible people’. So how do medication and psychiatry make people visible? What ways of ‘seeing’ do they make possible? For Homi Bhabha (1994) invisibility does not signify lack; instead it works to disrupt identification and interpellation through refusing presence. Thus how might these ‘invisible people’, those who refuse to ‘reproduce hegemonic appearances’ (Scott, 1990), work to disrupt the gaze of psychiatry? Might invisibility; the doubling, dissembling image of being in two places at once (Bhabha, 1994), work as both a ‘symptom’ of oppression, and a means of subversion?

To read psychiatrization as a colonial discourse opens up possibilities to explore how the secret arts, the hidden transcripts, of resistance of the colonised might be read in people’s resistance to psychiatry – from the slyness of mimicking normality, to the mockery of ‘spoof’ drug adverts. How the ‘disembodied eyes’ of the subaltern that see but are not seen, might disrupt and subvert both the presumed ‘I’ of the unitary ‘whole’ subject, and the surveillant, penetrative ‘eye’ of psychiatry.

How medication might work to make people visible is more troubling if we read invisibility as camouflage and potential subversion. It suggests that medication might make people more vulnerable in their submission to sociality, in their domestication. But with what conceptual tools can we establish whether being invisible is an act of resistance through camouflage, a strategy solely for survival, or a mark of adaptation and assimilation? Perhaps certain forms of psychiatric ‘looking’ allow us not to ‘see’; enable us to encounter difference and yet defer it, domesticate it– to recuperate the hegemonic, the status quo, in the final look.

In this paper I will explore how spoof adverts may mimic ‘real’ ads in a similar way to how some people mimic normality, slyly; a ‘resemblance and menace’ that mocks the power of the ‘real’ and the ‘sane’, their very power to be a model (Bhabha, 1994:86). Will you be able to tell the difference between the ‘real’ and the ‘fakes’?


China Mills is in the final stages of writing up her PhD thesis, which employs a colonial discourse analysis of Global mental Health’s ‘scale-up’ of psychiatry, and the psychiatrization of India. She is funded by the Education and Social Research Institute, at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. China has worked within, and been allied to, the UK and Indian psychiatric user/survivor movement for some years, and is a member of the editorial collective of Asylum magazine for democratic psychiatry (www.asylumonline.net).

For more information on the conference click here.

DRF News

Keynote’s Title and Abstract Announced for Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane: 3rd International Conference (Chester, UK: June 2012)

If you are in any doubt over whether you should attend the Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane: 3rd International Conference at the University of Chester (June 26th-27th 2012), here is a little taster of what will be on offer.

Dr James Overboe (Associate Professor, Wilfrid Lauier University, Canada)  will be discussing….

Title: Gimp Philosophy: Turning its Back on the Norm

Abstract: “From the onset of disability (whether congenital or acquired) our social milieu have been concerned with how to eradicate, mitigate or manage the effects of “impairment”. But impairment has been considered as a social construction (Shelly Tremain), situational (Tom Shakespeare) or ever evolving (Carol Thomas and Donna Reeves) with each perspective having differing implications for both individuals and the social world.

Pierre Klossowski argues that the effects of Nietzsche’s impairments (madness, migraines, and failing vision) provided the foundation and the impetus for his philosophy and for his life. Similarly, I argue that accumulated “impairments” or gimpness provide the scaffolding for, and the impetus that drives the expression of life of a disabled person.

Gilles Deleuze and Giorgio Agamben argue that our lives oscillate between two complementary registers the personal and the impersonal. Since the enlightenment the impersonal registry has been dismissed as simply the ‘bricks’ and ‘mortar’ that sustain the more highly evolved ‘self’. Initially I privilege the impersonal registry over the personal registry in order to highlight the substantive way that gimpness informs life.

Normalcy and its accompanying normative shadows are immersed in the personal registry associated with the conscious self that is expected to be preoccupied with productivity, and consumption, progressively moving through stages of life. In this registry gimpness is refashioned as impairment that unless eradicated or at least managed is deemed an albatross impeding people from living a successful life.

Conversely, within the impersonal life the self is eschewed and the erotics of exposure of gimpness is simply expressed. Within the context of life there are no prescribed stages of life that a conscious self must meet; rather events create life. Moreover, gimpness as a generative source of life dissipates the garroting affect of both normalcy and ableism and in doing so affirms life.

I end by illustrating how these complementary registers actualize in the everyday life of disabled people and to some extent influence the discipline of Disability Studies and the disability movement.”

For more information on the conference (and details of the Call for Papers) click here.