GSA 2019: Dis/ability in German-Language Culture

deadline for submissions: 
January 10, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
German Studies Association / Coalition of Women in German
contact email: 

German Studies AssociationOctober 3-6, 2019Portland, Oregon, USA 

Panel: Dis/ability in German-Language Culture

As Michael Bérubé writes in the foreword to Robert McRuer’s influential Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability (2006), “disability (in its mutability, its potential invisibility, its potential relation to temporality, and its sheer variety) is a particularly elusive element to introduce into any conjunctural analysis, not because it is so distinct from sexuality, class, race, gender, and age but because it is always already so complexly intertwined with everything else.” In recent years, scholars and activists have responded to this challenge by beginning a rigorous engagement with the topic of disability and the ways in which assumptions of ability shape the world around us, such as Jennifer C. James and Cynthia Wu’s MELUS special issue on “Race, Ethnicity, Disability, and Literature: Intersections and Interventions” (2006), Kim Q. Hall’s edited collection Feminist Disability Studies (2011), and Sunaura Taylor’s Beasts of Burden (2017), bringing disability studies into conversation with critical race theory, feminist theory, and animal rights activism, respectively. Significant German-language contributions include Claudia Franziska Bruner’s KörperSpuren. Zur Dekonstruktion von Körper und Behinderung in biographischen Erzählungen von Frauen (2005), Marcus Dederich’s Körper, Kultur und Behinderung. Eine Einführung in die Disability Studies (2007) and Anne Waldschmidt and Werner Schneider’s edited volume Disability Studies, Kultursoziologie und Soziologie der Behinderung. Erkundungen in einem neuen Forschungsfeld (2007).

This panel invites contributors to examine German-language cultural products from all eras and of all kinds––literature, film, art, performance––that investigate disability, chronic illness, or ableism, that trouble assumptions of normative bodies, and/or that reframe disability as a question of diversity. We especially encourage analyses grounded in intersectional feminist theoretical approaches. This is a guaranteed panel sponsored by the Coalition of Women in German.

Possible topics could include, but are not limited to:

  • Illness and blindness in the work of medieval mystics, such as Hildegard von Bingen and Mechthild von Magdeburg
  • ‘Madness’ in Romantic literary texts
  • Hermaphroditism, gender assignment, and the pathologization of the non-normative body in Karl M. Baer’s Aus eines Mannes Mädchenjahren (1907)
  • The portrayal of ableist policies and the persecution of chronically ill and disabled people in the Third Reich, such as in Ich Klage an, dir. Wolfgang Liebeneiner (1941)
  • The figure of Oskar in Günter Grass’ Die Blechtrommel (1959)
  • The figure of Theo in Max Frisch’s Mein Name sei Gantenbein (1964)
  • The portrayal of deaf culture in Jenseits der Stille, Caroline Link (1996)
  • The figure of Klaus in Maria Knissel’s Drei Worte auf einmal (2012)
  • Alexander Görsdorf’s autobiographical Taube Nuss. Nichtgehörtes aus dem Leben eines Schwerhörigen (2013)
  • The disabled community of Neuerkerode in Mikael Ross’ Der Unfall (2018)

Please send a 350-word abstract to both panel organizers, Alexandra M. Hill (hilla@up.edu) and Didem Uca (uca@sas.upenn.edu), by January 10, 2019.