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Disability Studies and Twentieth Century Literature

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Organizer: Debarati Das

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In the aftermath of the activism that arose in the US and the UK from the 1970s to challenge the medical model of disability that had been present till then, Disability Studies has created a formidable discourse which has, across the years, re-interpreted and traced the role of the capitalist economy in establishing disability as a historical construct to fuel profits, while at the same time, producing the discourse of a pathological disability as justification for European imperialism across Asia and Africa. The discourse has also shown how evolutionary science and medicine helped in subjugating the female body as being incapable of participating in skilled waged labour, and it has detailed how systemic homophobia helped in policing sexuality to preserve ‘family values’ which maintained devalued reproductive labour for capitalist surplus. Poverty due to unemployment, the subsequent crime and violence that it engenders, and an environment of diseases owing to lack of medical access across both the metropole and the colonies, enforced the idea of disability as a pathological condition rooted in the ‘deviance’ of the lower classes. Disability Studies has also delineated how the modern forms of institutionalization which started in the late seventeenth century across Europe continued on in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries across the world through systems of oppression passed down through colonialism. Seen against this background, Disability Studies is an important critical lens through which complex questions about twentieth century literature may be asked which can open up the issue of complicity while also further enriching the discourse of disability through special attention to the literature from the previous colonies.

  The seminar invites papers which hope to deal with the above concerns. Interdisciplinary approaches are welcome. 


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