“Disability’s Hidden Twin: Discourses of Care and Dependency in Literature”

deadline for submissions: 
January 31, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
D. Christopher Gabbard
contact email: 

Call for abstracts for a volume of critical essays: “Disability’s Hidden Twin: Discourses of Care and Dependency in Literature”

Volume editors: Talia Schaffer (English, Graduate Center and Queens College, CUNY) and Chris Gabbard (English, Univ. of North Florida)

We are calling for abstracts for papers examining Anglophone imaginative literature (precluding memoirs) that engages in some fashion with care ethics and disability theory. We are seeking a range of representation from different eras and regions.

The title of the volume comes from Jennifer Natalya Fink, who writes that “[c]are work is the hidden twin of disability.”[1] And yet, the relationship between carers and cared-fors is vexed. The question of care is controversial for many disabled self-advocates, who view the practice of caregiving with profound suspicion, since care has frequently been a site of oppression for disabled people, both in institutional and environments. Yet care is necessary for the survival of people who are dependent on others for dressing, bathing, hygiene, transportation, nutrition, and social interaction. Care relations are also controversial inasmuch as family members, frequently female, are time and again forced into the position of caretaker without training or renumeration, and paid caregivers are often migrants from the global south or lower socioeconomic backgrounds who must leave behind their own cared-fors. How has imaginative literature parsed this relationship? What texts give us insights into disabled cared-fors’ need for agency, or caregivers’ feelings about their charges, or the quality of the relationship between them?

Anglophone literary texts from different periods and regions might demonstrate historically alternative practices and expectations regarding the care relationship. We are particularly interested in representations of care in Indigenous, global, African American, Latinx, and Asian culture, and in eras that predate modern medical professionalism, and we look forward to analysis that draws out the gendered and sexual elements of care. We are also interested in the structure of the care community as it develops in literature against the heteronormative couple and the nuclear family, and look forward to submissions that identify and parse care communities and collectives in literature.

Abstracts of approximately 350 words should be submitted as a word document to Chris Gabbard at cgabbard@unf.edu by January 31, 2023. A CV or bio should be included.

Initial selections will be based on the abstract and will be announced no later than April 3, 2023. The deadline for full papers (6,000-8,000 words) is January 5, 2024. Papers will be subject to peer review.

The volume editors are in conversation with series editors at the University of Michigan Press (Corporealities: Discourses of Disability) and Routledge (Interdisciplinary Disability Studies).

[1] Jennifer Natalya Fink, All Our Families: Disability Lineage and the Future of Kinship, Beacon Press, 2022.