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Postcolonial Studies Association Convention (7th–9th Sept. 2015: University of Leicester, UK)

The first Postcolonial Studies Association Convention aims to be as interdisciplinary as possible – we wondered if any of our Disability Studies friends were interested in attending…

Postcolonial Studies Association Convention at the University of Leicester on 7th–9th September 2015

The first PSA convention will be held at the University of Leicester (UK), from 7 to 9 September 2015. Contributions from academics and postgraduates investigating any area of postcolonialism from any disciplinary, cross- or interdisciplinary perspective are warmly invited.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Professor Paul Gilroy (King’s College London)
  • Professor John McLeod (University of Leeds)
  • (Other keynotes to be confirmed)

The 2015 PSA Convention Special Topic is Diasporas

Proposals for panels and papers on the theme of diasporas will be particularly welcome. Movement —be it of culture, capital or the human movement involved in colonialism, slavery, indentured labour, or postcolonial migration to former colonial metropoli— has always been central to postcolonial studies.

Diaspora has been one of the key concepts of postcolonial studies within this context of individual and collective journeys. Within contemporary analysis, diasporas have tended to be explored in terms of ethnicity, race, nationality, and even religion. However, diaspora has sometimes been accused of perpetuating histories of colonial inequality by failing to differentiate between precarious migration motivated by exploitation and the more economically privileged transnational movements of the global bourgeoisie. The study of human movement during colonial and postcolonial times has taken a number of shapes across the humanities and social sciences through the study of diaspora, migration, transnationalism, cosmopolitanism and globalisation. It is this theme of movement that the conference special topic will address. What social, historical and linguistic configurations does the study of diasporas privilege? Which ones does it ignore? How has diaspora come to include different motivations of migration beyond the more familiar ones of ethnic discrimination and economic hardship? How has the diasporic experience been represented and studied?

The convention will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Journal of Postcolonial Writing & its ongoing partnership with the PSA.

Format: Individual 20-min. academic papers, panels, performances or poster presentations.

Please send abstracts of individual presentations (250 words) or panels of 3 (500 words) with a brief biographical note of participants (2-3 sentences) to psa2015convention@gmail.com

Deadline for abstracts: 28 February 2015. Decisions communicated by the end of March 2015.

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

DRF News

CCDS Event: The Bhopal Disaster, Literature, and Charity Advertising (November 2012, UK)

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

Date: Wednesday 7th November 2012: 2.15pm-3.45pm ~ Venue: Eden, 109, Liverpool Hope University, UK. 

Brief Description:

The Bhopal Disaster, Literature, and Charity Advertising ~ Dr. Clare Barker (University of Leeds, UK)

The 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy was the world’s worst industrial disaster. It has killed 25,000 people to date, injured many thousands more, and is still causing sickness and disabilities nearly 30 years later due to toxic chemicals in the city’s groundwater supply. Dr. Clare Barker considers representations of the disabled inhabitants of Bhopal in both charity advertising and literary works relating to the disaster, in particular Indra Sinha’s Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Animal’s People (2007). As a former advertising copywriter, Sinha was instrumental in setting up the Bhopal Medical Appeal in the UK and is still involved in its activities. Dr. Barker contends that there is a productive synergy between literature and advertising in the BMA’s campaigns: while disability charities frequently rely on tropes of helplessness and pity, often supported by sensational or sentimental images of disabled children, Dr. Barker argues that the BMA engages with fictional narrative techniques and consequently achieves more empowering representations in its publicity. As a complement to this, Animal’s People contributes to the BMA’s agenda by promoting awareness of Bhopal’s unresolved medical crises while also interrogating the politics of “western” medical aid interventions and problematizing the representational strategies of charity discourse. Dr. Barker considers literature’s role within health activism and points to ways in which literary texts such as Animal’s People might be used to inform the representations of disability and medical aid within charities’ campaign strategies.

Clare Barker is Lecturer in English at the University of Leeds. She is author of Postcolonial Fiction and Disability: Exceptional Children, Metaphor and Materiality (2012) and guest editor, with Stuart Murray, of a special issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, namely, Disabling Postcolonialism: Global Disability Cultures and Democratic Criticism (2010).

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