Disability Studies and Narrative Cinema

deadline for submissions: 
August 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Society for Cinema and Media Studies
contact email: 

Disability Studies and Narrative Cinema

Society for Cinema and Media Studies

April 1st-5th, 2020

Denver, CO


We invite abstracts for papers that critically address the topic of disabled lives in cinema for a proposed SCMS panel, “Disability Studies and Narrative Cinema.” Disability Studies has been gaining momentum in the humanities since the 1990s. The field invites us to look at dis/ability through a social model rather than--or in addition to--a medical model. While the latter proposes disability as an individual problem to be cured, the former asks: how does society construct the disabled person as such--and does the disabled person actually want or need a “cure”? 

Much of the scholarship on disability in storytelling thus far has tended to focus on the representational politics of characters with apparent disabilities (e.g. the depiction of stereotypes, “inspiration porn,” disability as metaphor, casting). While these readings are welcome, this panel aims to bridge the discourse/experience binary (Herndl) by centering film analyses that connect disability or impairment to distinct histories, cultures, phenomenologies, epistemologies, and corporeal experiences, as well as film criticism that connects disability to other axes of power. 

Following Anne Waldschmidt’s “cultural model of disability,” we view media as a supplement to a social model of disability as it “implies a fundamental change of epistemological perspective since it does not deal with the margin but rather with the ‘centre’ of society in culture” (25). As intersectional, transnational feminist film scholars, we seek to interevene in visual depictions of power, lived experience, and identity. Points of entry might include Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s dynamic concept of “misfit”; Robert McRuer and Alison Kafer on Crip Theory; or Snyder and Mitchell’s notion of a “Eugenic Atlantic.”

Topics of interest

Film criticism, analysis or theory that engages with any of the following:

  • Neurodiversity
  • Community formation and body/neurodiverse cultures
  • Individual experiences of dis/ability (e.g. phenomenology, materiality, corporeality)
  • Madness Studies, Trauma Studies, Affect Theory
  • The Medical Humanities
  • Feminist Disability Studies, Cultural Disability Studies, Crip Theory
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Postcolonial Studies


Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. "Misfits: A Feminist Materialist Disability Concept." Hypatia, vol. 26, no. 3, 2011, pp. 591-609.

Herndl, Diane P. "Disease Versus Disability: The Medical Humanities and Disability Studies.” PMLA, vol. 120, no. 2, 2005, pp. 593-598.

Kafer, Alison. Feminist, Queer, Crip. Indiana University Press, 2013.

McRuer, Robert. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability. New York: NYU Press, 2006. 

Snyder, Sharon L., and David T. Mitchell. Cultural Locations of Disability, University of Chicago Press, 2006. 

Waldschmidt, Anne. “Disability Goes Cultural: The Cultural Model of Disability as an Analytical Tool.” Culture - Theory - Disability: Encounters between Disability Studies and Cultural Studies, edited by Waldschmidt, Anne, et al., Transcript Verlag, 2017, pp. 19-27.

Guide for authors
Please submit abstracts (less than 2500 characters), a bibliography of 3-5 sources, and a short author bio (less than 500 characters) as a single attachment to both panel organizers, Ashley Barry (ashley.barry[at]stonybrook.edu) and Joy C. Schaefer (joy_schaefer[at]gvsu.edu), by Aug. 1. We will notify you of your acceptance status by Aug. 13.