–conference organized by Helen Deutsch (University of California, Los Angeles), Jason Farr (Marquette University), Paul Kelleher (Emory University), and Jared Richman (Colorado College)
Co-sponsored by UCLA’s Dean of Humanities, CMRS Center for Early Global Studies, Undergraduate Education Initiatives-Disability Studies, Department of English, Department of History, and Joyce Appleby Endowed Chair of America in the World
Over the last two decades, the cultural and historical study of disability has emerged as a vital field of inquiry, transforming how we understand various forms of corporeal and cognitive difference in the early modern period. In turn, the increasing scholarly focus on earlier periods has pressing implications for our constructions of disability in the present. This conference aims to foster two overlapping and mutually illuminating conversations: one about the role that theory plays in how we represent and interpret archival sources, and another about how the archive invites us to critique the historical assumptions and (at times) limitations of theoretical inquiry. Among the many questions this conference will raise, we anticipate that our participants will ask: How do we define “archive,” and how is archival knowledge organized? What theoretical approaches will allow us to move forward in our uncovering of disabled pasts? How does the historical distance embodied by the archive inspire us to further diversify and complicate our theoretical models and strategies? How can sustained scholarly attention to archives of disability open up new possibilities for conversation between the fields of disability studies and medical humanities, whose relationship was aptly termed that of “frenemies” at an MLA panel some years ago? In short, how does our simultaneous embrace of the archive and theory promise to open up new horizons both for the study of early modern disability and for disability studies?