Many arguments about disclosing disabilities in higher education contexts are tied to claims about the importance of showing disability as part of college and university environments as a means for moving towards more inclusive and welcoming spaces. Indeed, on both small and large scales, acts of identifying shared experiences can enact moments of solidarity that enable continued persistence in discriminatory environments. These arguments, however, must necessarily be tempered by the just-as-persistent reminder that disclosure, as both Mel Chen and Ellen Samuels highlighted in their remarks at the “Disability Disclosure in/and Higher Education” conference held at the University of Delaware in October, 2013, always intersects with other identity markers as well as with privilege, and the risk-taking that accompanies disclosure is not experienced equally or in the same ways by all.
In taking disability disclosure within higher education as a central point of departure, this collection will build on recent scholarship that highlights the deeply rhetorical nature of disability disclosure, as well as myriad metaphors for disclosure (passing, coming out, masquerade, covering, in/visible disability) while maintaining focus on disclosures as complex manifestations within particular social and institutional contexts. Within these contexts, how disability is read and interpreted depends heavily on the context, the types of interactions that are unfolding, interlocutors’ long- and short-term goals, the nature and experience of disability, and many other contingencies (see, e.g., Kerschbaum, 2014).
This collection thus seeks to explore the richness of disability disclosure. Building on and extending the work of the “Disability Disclosure in/and Higher Education” conference, this work will explore questions about disability disclosures in all corners of higher education, from a variety of theoretical, methodological, conceptual, and (multi)(inter)disciplinary perspectives. By providing wide-ranging explorations of disability disclosure, this collection will highlight how disability in higher education is not an issue relevant only to those who have disabilities, but one which has far-reaching consequences across higher education.
While the collection seeks to include essays submitted by conference presenters and attendees, it is not a conference proceedings—this collection specifically aims to include, but also move outside and critique the conference from new temporal and spatial vantage points that have opened up through the conference and beyond. Thus, the proposed volume will purposefully attend to gaps, absences, and omissions that were made apparent during and after the conference. These gaps include attention to and representation by scholars of color and the experience of faculty, students, and staff across diverse racial, economic, and social class experiences and dynamics, as well as deeper social-scientific exploration of sites, conceptions, and experiences of disability disclosure within higher education.
The book is tentatively divided into four key thematic sections, into which papers will be organized and presented:
Essays in this section will focus on ways that disability identities intersect with, emerge within, and are influenced by myriad aspects of embodied presence and experience. How, and in what ways, does disability infuse the experiences of abled and disabled bodies alike? In what ways does disability converge with gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality, as well as other aspects of identity performance, to shape the way disabilities are disclosed in a variety of ways and within numerous contexts in higher education?
2) Institutional Change and Policy
This section will explore how attention to disability invites reconsideration of institutional environments and policies. What does—or would—it mean for higher education to truly, as Jay Dolmage (2008) has put it, “invite disability in the front door”? The essays in this section look at past and current practices as well as imagine future directions for disability in institutional policy. What policies are needed? How do past and present policies address disability? What kinds of minds and bodies are imagined and addressed within such policies? What does disability disclosure ask us to consider in light of such policies? How do various issues such as economic access to academia intersect with disability, disclosure, and higher education?
How are disabilities represented within institutions of higher education? How do representations of higher education—in popular media, literature, film, television, and advertising, among others—imagine disability? How do representations of disability intersect with race, gender, class, and other forms of identity? Given that these representations matter to the ways that disabilities are read and understood by those within higher education, and to the ways that various participants perform and enact disability, how do these different representations matter to experience(s) of and around disability in higher education?
4) Disability Identity
While disability studies has worked to affirm disability as a positive and important element of identity, it nevertheless remains important to carefully explore disability’s positive and negative valences, including pride and shame—both of which were recurring themes at the “Disability Disclosure” conference. Disability brings with it a complex web of interconnected and deeply-held, internalized, and institutionalized orientations to disability, and resisting ableism within identity remains deeply significant to disability studies today.
We invite proposals for submissions to this collection. Proposals should include a title, contact information (including email, mailing address, and phone number, as well as your preferred means of contact) and a 500-word abstract. Proposers should also indicate which section of the collection their proposed essay might fit. Proposals are due via email to ConferenceCSD@gmail.com by October 15, 2014. Contributors will be notified by December 1, 2014 of the status of their proposal. Full essays will be due by February 15, 2014, and the editors will submit final revision suggestions and acceptances by April 30, 2015. Final revised submissions will be due by June 1, 2015. The editors welcome queries and questions.