News | 27 April 2023

Research Cluster Spotlight: Disability Geographies and Disability Time Travels


This year, THI is sponsoring two research clusters dedicated to pursuing questions related to our 2022-2023 Theme: Travel. The Disability Geographies and Disability Time Travels cluster reflects the organizers’ broader goal of “reshaping our academic geographies to embrace disability cultures (Kuppers, 2022).” The cluster convenes an intersectional and interdisciplinary group of faculty members and graduate students dedicated to disability activisms, pedagogies, and research trajectories.

Principal investigators Professor Megan Moodie (Anthropology) and Professor Amy Vidali (Writing Program) share their vision for the cluster, and for the future of this important work:

As leaders of the Disability Studies cluster, we embrace disability activist and ancestor Alice Wong’s comment in a recent KALW interview: “[W]e have to make space for joy and we have to take pleasure in what we can. Because there is joy in being disabled. I think that goes against almost every major idea, or portrayal.” In doing our cluster work, we are simultaneously fighting for change and embracing that there is “joy in being disabled.”

In doing our cluster work, we are simultaneously fighting for change and embracing that there is “joy in being disabled.”

Disability Studies is flourishing at UCSC. Our cluster connects those researching and teaching disability, provides opportunities to gather for disability events, and works to mount the Disability Studies Minor students at UCSC are asking for.

Our cluster began by articulating shared interests and principles of community, including co-creating a culture of access at UCSC. We have also identified already-existing courses on campus, and an Introduction to Disability Studies course will be offered in winter 2024 in Anthropology, with a plan to circulate the course among faculty across divisions. Cluster members are sharing syllabi and ideas for the minor, while remembering the physical inaccessibility of much of our campus.

During winter quarter, we met to discuss Sami Schalk’s Black Disability Politics, which Schalk defines as “anti-ableist arguments and actions performed by Black cultural workers” (5). We considered her claim that “existing disability studies and disability rights frameworks for understanding and defining disability have been developed with little attention to the types of disability most common in poor and racialized communities” (9), and what this might mean for the work of our cluster and our own disability projects. We are ever-aware of the whiteness of much work in Disability Studies.

In spring, we are excited to co-host three events for cluster participants, in conjunction with Cynthia Ling Lee’s Disability and Performance course. These events include a visit from queer crip writer and interdisciplinary artist Krista K. Miranda, Ph.D. (April 26); dedicated time with Syrus Marcus Ware, who is an artist who explores social justice frameworks and Black activist culture (May 1); and a visit with Petra Kuppers, who draws from her book project, Eco Soma: Pain and Joy in Speculative Performance Encounters (May 17).

We are also hosting a crip-friendly, community-building public event where cluster members can share presentations they’ve given on disability. This event, entitled “Encore Papers & Presentations,” will take place on May 5.

The Disability Studies cluster is bolstered by our own work as disability scholars. Moodie has recently appeared on the podcast “Meeting Street,” [an interview], sponsored by Brown University’s Cogut Institute for the Humanities and guest-hosted by Emily Lim Rogers, as well as written about the connection between disability studies and Black feminist thought in anthropology. Vidali is completing a project on infertility and/as disability and offered reflections on what Chat GPT and other AI technologies might mean for disability access. As we continue our cluster work, we are focused on disability justice at UCSC.