Embodiment & Disability (DSAB 602)

School of Professional Studies
City University of New York
Embodiment & Disability (DSAB 602)
Spring 2010

Instructor: Beth A. Haller, Ph.D.
CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue

Contact: bhaller@comcast.net or bhaller@towson.edu

Course Materials:

Claiming Disability: Knowledge & Identity by Simi Linton (NYU Press, 1998)
Nothing about Us Without Us: Disability Oppression & Empowerment by James Charlton (University of California Press, 2000).
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon (Random House, 2003). Read by Feb. 20.
Other readings will be available online or as handouts (You will need access to a printer to print out many of the readings, if you don’t like to read online.)
You will select ONE of the following books for the final project. (You may purchase or check out of the library.)
Anne Finger, Past Due (Seal Press, 1990). (Out of print, but easily obtained at a low price from Amazon.com.)
Kenny Fries, Body, Remember (Dutton, 1997).
Terry Galloway, Mean Little Deaf Queer (Beacon, 2009).
Temple Grandin, Thinking in Pictures (Doubleday, 1995).
Simi Linton, My Body Politic (University of Michigan Press, 2006).
Robert F. Murphy, The Body Silent (W.W. Norton, 1987).
Elyn Saks, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (Hyperion, 2007).

Course Description

This course focuses on issues related to embodiment and the biological, medical and social aspects of disability. Subjects studied include:

· The relationship between disability empowerment, identity and disability studies;

· The difference between an understanding of the disabled body as a social construction and as a medical problem;

· Stigma and the “normate”;

· Mediated bodies – the impact of cultural and media representations of the experience of disability;

· Engagement with Disability Studies as a discipline;

· Disability oppression and societal threats to people with disabilities;

· Body politics and the lived experience of disability; and

· “Hidden” embodiment.


The Master of Arts in Disability Studies and Certificate in Disability Studies introduce students to this emerging multidisciplinary field that spans the social sciences, humanities, and sciences. The Disability Studies paradigm recognizes that disability is not inherent in the individual as a personal problem or deficit, but rather, is a set of physical and social barriers that constrains people. Several goals of this course are:

· To understand disability studies as “the holistic study of the phenomenon of disability through a multidisciplinary approach”;

· To incorporate the experience of disability and the perspectives of people with disabilities into a research structure;

· To offer a sampling of the major scholarly perspectives and professional issues in disability studies, media studies, and social policy, as they relate to embodiment;

· To encourage students to engage with, as well as critique, disability studies scholarship;

· To provide a structure for student research into disability and embodiment.

The Structure of the Course

I hope this course will be a participatory, collaborative learning experience. Because this course will take place over the course of seven full Saturdays, I would like to keep it discussion-oriented, as well as mixing in numerous viewings of media texts on disability topics to further additional discussions. Therefore, it is imperative that you do the readings and browse any Web sites required before each class. Please come to each class with at least 10 questions, comments or critiques of the readings, known as Reflection Q&A’s.


Class participation and Reflection Q&A’s (30 percent)
A rewarding aspect of graduate study is the opportunity for colleagues (faculty and students) to interact, learn from each other and, sometimes, to produce new knowledge. Aside from helping me to get to know you as a colleague, your class participation will help me evaluate your analytical skills, your preparation for each class, and your ability to integrate concepts we discuss into your understanding and analysis of “disability embodied.”

· To assist you in your preparation for each class, please type up a brief Reflection Q&A (about 250 words or more). As you are doing the readings, write down at least 10 questions, comments, and critiques from that day’s readings. If you disagree with something said, write about that. If something in the readings really surprised or amazed you, write about that. You will be engaging the readings in a critically constructive way – see if you also can extend the ideas or issues raised by an author(s) by linking them to lived experience of disability or other readings. Format: Typed with your name on it, but it can be as simple as a list of questions or comments on one page. Bring two copies, one to turn in to me and one for you to take notes on, as the class the discussion may add to the thoughts you had.

· Cognitive embodiment discussion – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. In this novel the author tries to thoroughly embody the mind of a young man with autism. Read the book and write approximately 500 words about whether you think he succeeded in this “cognitive embodiment.” Look for details that would provide evidence of success or failure in this embodiment. We will discuss the book as a group on February 20, when your short paper is due.

Embodiment Analysis Paper (30 percent)
All of these memoirs listed at the beginning of the syllabus focus on how a person learns to embody his or her disability, negotiate the world and eventually come to understand the disability identity in American culture and the issues facing the disability community. Select ONE of the memoirs and analyze the person’s growing embodiment of a disability identity, i.e how the person learns to embrace the social model. You should look at disability identity, the social model and other models of disability, and embodiment. In your analysis, use 5 readings that we’ve explored in class, such as disability oppression, disability identity, the medical model, Supercrips, the problem of pity, disability rights, disability discrimination, etc. (If you want to bring in other readings you have had in other disability studies courses, that’s fine, too.) Your paper will be evaluated on the quality of your writing, the organization of your paper, and your ability to integrate analytical concepts related to disability embodiment into your analysis.

· On Feb. 20, please let me know which memoir you will be reading for the paper.

· Paper Length: at least 1500 words

· Final paper due by email: March 13

Final Paper on Oppression, Empowerment & Disability (40 percent)
This paper will focus on the concepts presented in the Linton’s Claiming Disability book and the Charlton’s Nothing about Us without Us book. We will be gradually reading the books through the semester and during the time we are not having class between March 14 and April 16, you should write a paper that explores how societal oppression affects people with disabilities, as well as how people with disabilities have learned to empower themselves to confront this oppression and how they have forged a strong disability identity.

The paper should have several components:

· An introductory section should clearly explain Linton and Charlton’s concepts of oppression, empowerment, and identity.

· The second section should integrate explanations of these concepts from at least 5 readings, films and discussions from this class. For example, does the high-profile film “Murderball” empower people with disabilities generally or does it present a Supercrip theme that oppresses them?

· The bulk of the paper, however, should discuss themes and examples of oppression, empowerment and identity as found in the writings of people with disabilities themselves. This section of the paper should have examples from at least 10 articles from the disability publications, New Mobility, http://www.newmobility.com, and/or The Ragged Edge magazine online archives, http://www.ragged-edge-mag.com/. Both these publications contain primarily articles written by people with disabilities about the societal issues they face.

· The paper should answer the question: How are issues of oppression, empowerment and identity being addressed by the disability community in the USA and worldwide (examples from the Charlton book)?

· You may seek to focus on one topic that you believe leads to the oppression of people with disabilities, such as assisted suicide or employment discrimination or you can cover a myriad of issues. Make sure you can find 10 articles in New Mobility and/or The Ragged Edge to use in your paper if you decide to focus on one issue.

· Finally, the conclusion to your paper should be your own reaction and reflection about what society is or is not doing to lessen the oppression of people with disabilities and how their efforts toward empowerment and identity building are working. This section at the end of the paper will be your personal commentary about what you learned, and how your impressions of disability may have shifted because of your readings on this topic.

· Finally, the last class will be presentations of what you discussed in your paper. So make a few notes so you can tell the class what you found in your exploration of the topic of oppression, empowerment and identity.

· The paper should contain a reference list of the 5 materials from class and the 10 articles from the disability publications, as well as the Linton and Charlton books.

· Proposal due: Feb. 27

· Paper Length: at least 2000 words

· Due Date: April 17

Some General Policies

Because the course only covers 7 Saturdays, no absences are allowed, except in dire emergencies. Please come to all classes prepared by having done the readings, prepared a Reflection Q&A, and ready to discuss the material. If an emergency arises, please contact me immediately.

This class will be governed by the CUNY’s general policies on intellectual property, academic misconduct, and plagiarism. All material in your papers should be properly cited.

You may use whatever reference style you prefer. I am most familiar with APA style, so that’s what these examples are. For in-text citations, if you directly quote material, put the citation after the quote mark and before the period, in parentheses with the page number: “xxx” (Haller, 2009, p. 48). You must also cite any material you paraphrase. Then you would just use the citation (Haller, 2009) before the period at the end of the paraphrased sentences.

For APA-style references in your final reference list at the end of the paper, here are a few examples:

Journal Article:
Hodges, F. M. (2003). The promised planet: Alliances and struggles of the gerontocracy in American television science fiction of the 1960s. The Aging Male, 6, 175-182. Retrieved from http://www.informaworld.com/TheAgingMale.

Magazine Article:
Mershon, D. H. (1998, November/December). Star trek on the brain: Alien minds, human minds. American Scientist, 86(6), 585.

Okuda, M., & Okuda, D. (1993). Star trek chronology: The history of the future. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

Web sites:
Epsicokhan, J. (2004, February 20). Confessions of a closet trekkie. Retrieved October 12, 2009, from Jammer’s Reviews website: http://www.jammersreviews.com/articles/confessions.php.

For examples of other types of APA references, visit http://www.liu.edu/CWIS/CWP/library/workshop/citapa.htm.


If you have specific accommodations you need as a person with a disability, please let me know as soon as possible so I can provide those. All students should let me know what I can do to maximize your learning potential, participation, and general access in this course. I am available to discuss this in person, on the phone or on email. To make arrangements for accommodations with the CUNY Graduate Center, contact Mariette Bates, Director of Disability Studies Master’s program at CUNY, Mariette.Bates@mail.cuny.edu.

Course Schedule & Readings

January 25

Email introductions, syllabus emailed. Questions about the course?

About the readings: We may not have time to discuss all the readings each class, but they are meant to give you different perspectives on Disability Studies, and at least 5 of them should be integrated into your two longer papers for the course, the Empowerment paper and the Embodiment Analysis paper.

Jan. 30

Body Politics, Models of Disability, and What is Disability Studies?

(First class meeting at CUNY Graduate Center. The class will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, with a one-hour break for lunch. I will be available to meet with students during the lunch break and after class. Because of the long days, I am structuring the course as the before-lunch “class” and the after-lunch “class.”)

Assignments due: Reflection Q&A’s are due at the beginning of each class.

Before-lunch Readings:

Simi Linton, “Reclamation” Claiming Disability (NYU Press, 1998).

James Charlton, “Nothing about us without us,” Nothing about us without us (Univ. of California Press, 2000).

Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, “Models of Disability,” http://www.copower.org/leader/models.htm.

Goffman, E., “Stigma selections,” The Disability Studies Reader (Routledge, 2006). (on e-reserve)

Mireya Navarro, “Clearly, Frankly, Unabashedly Disabled” Style Section, New York Times, Page 1, Sunday May 13, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/13/fashion/13disabled.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=josh%20blue%20last%20comic%20standing&st=cse

Screening: “Shameless: The ART of Disability” (71 min.)


After-lunch Readings:

Simi Linton, “Reassigning meaning” Claiming Disability (NYU Press, 1998).

James Charlton, “The dimensions of disability oppression,” Nothing about us without us (Univ. of California Press, 2000).

Sharon Snyder, Disability Studies, Encyclopedia of Disability, Vol. 1. (Sage, 2006). (Handout in class.)

Anthony Ramirez, “Disability as Field of Study?” by, New York Times, December 21, 1997. http://disabilitystudies.tripod.com/articles.html

Peter Monaghan, “Pioneering Field of Disability Studies Challenges Established Approaches and Attitudes,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 23, 1998. http://disabilitystudies.tripod.com/articles.html

Beth Haller, “History of SDS.” Draft from The American Encyclopedia of Disability History, Facts on File, 2009. (on e-reserve)

Michael Berube, (1997, May 30). The cultural representation of people with disabilities affects us all. Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 43 Issue 38, p. B4. (on e-reserve)

Beth Haller, “False positive: The Supercrip image kicks real issues off the media radar screen,” January/February 2000, The Ragged Edge. http://www.ragged-edge-mag.com/0100/c0100media.htm

Laura Rensom Mitchell, “Why I hate Supercrip stories,” 1996, http://webspace.webring.com/people/rl/lrmidi/articles.htm#supcrip.

Lindeman, K., “Review of Murderball,” DSQ, Spring 2006, http://www.dsq-sds.org/article/view/706/883

Screening: “Murderball” (86 min.)


SDS web site: http://www.disstudies.org/

Guidelines for DS programs: http://www.disstudies.org/guidelines_for_disability_studies_programs

DSQ web site: http://www.dsq-sds.org/

DSQ history: http://www.dsq-sds.org/history_of_dsq.html

Feb. 6

Threats to Embodiment, The Oppression of Pity, & What is Disability Studies?

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