Encounters between Disability Studies and Critical Trauma Studies

deadline for submissions: 
April 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Word and Text: A Journal of Literary Studies and Linguistics, University of Ploiesti, Romania

Call for Papers: Word and Text – A Journal of Literary Studies and Linguistics, VIII (2018)

Encounters between Disability Studies and Critical Trauma Studies


The singular most important achievement of the disabled people’s movement has been gaining recognition of the fact that the difficulties encountered by disabled people in their daily lives are not so much a direct and inevitable result of biological or mental impairment but rather a consequence of barriers created by societies that take little to no account of the impairment-related needs of disabled people. Disability, as developed in the work of Colin Barnes, Mike Oliver, Jenny Morris and Simi Linton, among others, therefore becomes socially-created rather than a characteristic of the individual with impairment.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises disability as “an evolving concept”. Indeed, the location of disability in social contexts makes it mutable and open to interpretation – the most important interpretations being those articulated by persons who themselves live disability on a personal basis. Toibin Siebers, Lennard Davis, Rosemary Garland-Thompson, Rod Michalko, David Mitchell, Sharon Snyder, Henri Stiker and Charles Gardou are among those who have shown in their theoretical and auto/biographical writing how disabled people negotiate their way through life and through the obstacles created by socially and culturally disabling factors. These and similar writings have also conceptualised disability as an aspect of the human condition that is inevitable but navigable. However, this is a view that is not necessarily shared by people who have no direct personal or familial experience of disability, including people in positions of influence and policy-making. All too often, disabled people have been regarded as having something missing and even as not being fully human.  These views translate into death-related practices, such as the abortion of disabled foetuses and the support of assisted dying for those with long-term disabilities. They also translate into social and cultural policies and practices that still do not take impairment-related needs fully into account.

Disability studies have shifted the focus from embodied differences to social structures. Bringing in also issues of embodiment and the effects of bodily and mental difference on the individual has been a more recent development. The study of both individual and social factors and the interplay between them creates the possibility of disability studies and critical trauma studies meeting and the latter bringing into focus the experience of going through traumatic events which leave not only physical but also psychological marks. For instance, the trauma of brain injury, with its related disabilities, will never completely disappear after the event that caused it. For Maurice Stevens such “marks” (broken bodies, forever alienated minds) are part of incomplete narratives that investigate the way in which “ruination” was achieved. Daniel R. Morrison (2012) is among the first specialists to suggest that “trauma” and “disability” may be fruitfully conceptualized as embodied manifestations of social classification systems. He points out that while the field of disability studies insists on expunging definitions of the abnormal from the body, focusing so much on stigma, it kept the disabled body in an area that constructed it socially in its continuous struggle against the normative culture. Moreover, Alison Kafer (2016) has argued that the failure to engage the traumatic effects of disability constricts the work of specialists in disability studies, stressing the necessity of disability theories of trauma, mourning, and loss.

            The meeting of disability studies and critical trauma studies provides the opportunity to focus both on sociocultural factors as well as the wounds, impairment and pain of the disabled person, categories which are more important for trauma studies. This issue takes its cue from such links between the categories of disability and trauma. It redirects attention to bodies and minds and their un/seen wounds and the intersection with un/seen wounds and trauma inflicted by society and culture.

Examining the lived experience of impairment and disability that comes with all its traumas, ruptures, fissures, fragmentation as an integral part of the human condition is an important task. This Call for Papers seeks to bring together reflections on this experience, taking into account the manifold interpretations and theories on disability and trauma. Topics of interest include, but are not restricted to:


  • ·         Power relations
  • ·         Iatrogenic interventions
  • ·         The lived experience of pain
  • ·         Reflections on acquiring a disability and/or undergoing trauma
  • ·         Reflections on assisted dying
  • ·         Voicing the experience of disability and trauma
  • ·         Auto/biographical and fictional narratives featuring disability and trauma
  • ·         Embodiment and enmindment
  • ·         Wounds as representations of disability
  • ·         Stigma related to the gendered/racialized/disabled body
  • ·         Hierachies of empathy in relation to physical and mental disability or trauma
  • ·         Affinities between literary/critical theory and disability studies and critical trauma studies
  • ·         Cultural meanings of trauma and disability
  • ·         Disability and trauma in the arts
  • ·         Literary explorations of disability studies and critical trauma studies and their correspondences and differences
  • ·         Cinematic, TV and documentary representations of disability studies, critical trauma studies and their articulations
  • ·         Art therapies
  • ·         Questioning the proposed intersection between disability studies and critical trauma studies
  • ·         Representations of disability in the works of critical theorists.



We welcome interdisciplinary approaches, ranging across disability studies, trauma studies, literary and cultural studies, media studies, as well as other disciplines in the humanities. Contributors are advised to follow the journal’s submission guidelines and stylesheet available from http://jlsl.upg-ploiesti.ro/. The deadline for abstract submissions is April 30, 2018. Please send 500-word proposals to the editors of the volume, who will answer any queries you may have. Articles selected for publication must be submitted by June 30, 2018. All submitted articles will be blind-refereed except when invited. Accepted articles will be returned for post-review revisions by July 30, 2018 and will be expected back in their final version by September 30, 2018 at the latest.

Proposals and articles should be sent as attachments to wordandtext2011@gmail.comand the two editors of the issue, Anne-Marie Callus (anne-marie.callus@um.edu.mt) and Arleen Ionescu (arleen_ionescu@yahoo.com).