- Disability and Disciplines 2017, Liverpool Hope University
The Centre for Culture and Disability Studies (CCDS) now holds its conference at Liverpool Hope University every two years. In 2017 more than 100 delegates came from countries all over the globe, including Canada, Germany, Ireland, India, New Zealand, Poland, and Taiwan, as well as the UK and the US. Eighty-one papers were presented across twenty-nine panels, chaired by CCDS members such as Ana Bê, Marie Caslin, David Feeney, Manel Herat, Ella Houston, Erin Pritchard, and Irene Rose.
Attended by all delegates were the three keynote and two plenary sessions. One of the plenary panels was given by Rod Michalko, Devon Healey, and Tanya Titchkosky (University of Toronto) on knowledge and disability simulation; the other showcased ongoing research conducted by myself, Ria Cheyne, and Claire Penketh as core CCDS members (Liverpool Hope University). The first of the keynote speakers was Robert McRuer (George Washington University), whose paper "Crip Times: Disability Politics in a Post-Truth Era," gave a taste of his now-published new book. On the second day, Katherine Runswick-Cole (University of Sheffield) delivered an emotive opening presentation "Looking Back, Looking Forward: Re-Making Mothering Through Critical Disability Studies," and in the concluding keynote session David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder (George Washington University) addressed posthumanism in "The Matter of Disability." These keynotes and the plenary panels have been published on the CCDS YouTube channel.
After the third CCDS Conference in 2015, a collective Comment from the Field was crowdsourced, an approach that helped to represent the spirit of community promoted and evident at the event. The exercise was repeated after the fourth conference, 5–6 July 2017, and in this Comment I share an edited sample of the voices of those delegates who offered a contribution about some of the panels.
Attending the conference, for Kathryn Cowley (Liverpool Hope University), was an amazing experience. Writers, academics, and independent researchers [End Page 369] gave an array of presentations on the topic of disability, focusing on disabled individuals, how we navigate the world, and how the world navigates us. In a focused panel, Using the Tripartite Model of Disability, Ella Houston's (Liverpool Hope University) paper about "Kairotic Spaces in the Academy" discussed the nature of writing in academia. Students, as Houston pointed out, are encouraged not to share their opinions of their work as if they are their own, but rather to offer them up as impartially as possible; in a contradictory, often confusing manner. Suzanne Angus's (Liverpool Hope University) paper focused on the representation of disability in George R. R. Martin's book, A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire. The intriguing analysis determined that Martin's representation of disability is highly nuanced and progressive in that disabled characters actively engage in reclamation of slurs and self-empowerment in spite of a world that would seek to disenfranchise them. Harriet Dunn's (Liverpool Hope University) paper, "Disability Studies and Art Education," was based on research about the experiences of visually impaired students in compulsory education. Dunn noted that students with visual impairments were almost always marginalized in comparison with their peers and, applying her own knowledge of education, focused on the barriers present within education systems to access for visually impaired students. Cowley reflected that she learned new things, heard new ideas and concepts, and reconsidered a few old ones as well.
Olga Tarapata (University of Cologne) commented on a panel entitled Methods and Madness, which tackled figurations of disability and terminologies of mental health across different media. The combination for her was as much inspiring as it was challenging. From Ann-Marie McManaman's (University of Illinois at Chicago) pointed attentiveness to mad narrative strategies and the mutually formative powers of madness and language in Moby Dick; to Ta-Wei Chi's (National Chengchi University) culture-specific structural changes in the adaptations of Jane Eyre for Chinese audiences; to Manel Herat's (Liverpool Hope University) self-descriptions of post-First World War ex-servicemen vis-à-vis the terminological shifts and diversifications in DSM Manuals, the papers resonated in their shared reflection on translational processes regarding registers, cultures, and time periods.