Disability, Race, and the Politics of Care (MLA 2022)

deadline for submissions: 
March 10, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Davy Knittle, University of Pennsylvania and Declan Gould, Temple University
contact email: 

This panel gathers papers that consider relational models of disability and histories of systemic racism in the U.S. to read quotidian practices of care. We situate care across scales, as we ask how care relationships between individuals are embedded in larger practices of identifying and resisting racialized harm in contexts including medical access, environmental racism, housing inequality, and economic justice. How, as disability and race scholars, can we consider individual and everyday acts of care as sites at which to identify and resist structural conditions of ableist, racialized physical and psychological harm and reimagine the dynamics of vulnerability and difference? How can our analyses of care expand the language of disability to address the many registers on which writers consider accounts of debility?  


Our conversation builds upon work like Alison Kafer’s “political/relational model of disability” to draw out the entanglement of racialization and physical, neurological, and psychiatric disability that inhere “in built environments and social patterns that exclude or stigmatize particular kinds of bodies, minds, and ways of being.” Following recent work by scholars including Therí Pickens on Blackness and madness, Anna Mollow on disparities in access to healthcare along racial lines, and Sami Schalk on disability as racialized metaphor, this panel asks: how might reading encounters with Western medicine and individual acts of care as sites of exposing and refusing ableism and racism help us to develop a range of interlocking approaches to the ideas of disability and race implicit in literary engagements with care work and technologies of care?


We hope that the papers in this panel contribute to a conversation that reads the entanglement of disability and race to expand upon Pickens’s claim in her 2019 book Black Madness :: Mad Blackness that rather than being exceptional, “the experience of being raced and being disabled are mundane. For that reason, one cannot have race without disability, nor disability without race.” In this panel we aim to situate quotidian manifestations of disability, race, and care as important interlocutors in contemporary work in feminist theory, environmental humanities, medical humanities, Black studies, critical race theory, and queer and trans studies. Please send an abstract of 250-300 words and a short bio to declangould@temple.edu and dknittle@sas.upenn.edu by March 10th, 2021.