June 6, 2019 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

King’s University College was well-represented at the inaugural Southwestern Ontario Disability Scholars Workshop, held on May 23 at the University of Windsor.

“This conference was a chance to bring together local academics from the Southwestern Ontario region working in the field to share their current research agenda and to look for collaborative opportunities,” says Dr. Jeff Preston, Assistant Professor in Disability Studies.

Dr. Preston’s presentation, “Cool Story, Bro: Disability Memetic Histories, Subjectivities and Possibility,” outlined his developing interdisciplinary model on finding, tracking and analyzing digital memes about disability and how these memes help to clarify dominant perceptions of disablement, loss and impairment.

Dr. Preston enjoyed the discussions that arose from his presentation about the potential digital memes may have to shift political dialogue in more productive directions and the ways social media platforms have helped shift the roles of consumers of media to producers of media.

Dr. Madeline Burghardt, Assistant Professor in Disability Studies, presented on “Uncovering stories of ‘difference’: Complicating popular understandings of Canadian nation-building,” which discussed alternate understandings of Canada's post-World War II history and discourse of “nation” through the experiences of people who have been marginalized.

Dr. Pamela Cushing, Assistant Professor in Disability Studies, presented on the unique inquiry-based approach of the Disability Studies program at King’s, including some of the innovative ways that she has been trying to build a particular pedagogical platform for Disability Studies at King's to honour the life and work experiences students bring to the classroom. “The response from my peers at other universities was very positive,” says Dr. Cushing.

The workshop, hosted by the Law, Disability & Social Change Project and the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law, brought together a dozen academics in Southwestern Ontario who are either working and teaching in Disability Studies, or bring Disability Studies into their areas of scholarship, such as law, legal studies, literature, etc.

“This small size created a collegial atmosphere in which it was easy to present ideas and foster discussion,” says Dr. Burghardt.

Topics at the Workshop included the connection between eugenic practices and the development of Canadian universities; reflections on the conflation of race and disability through stories of immigration; connections between treatments for autistic children and other 'conversion' therapies, etc.

“It was good to hear that, like my experience at King's, universities are waking up to the value of Disability Studies and its power to illuminate an as-yet-understudied area of policy, programming, law and structural exclusion,” said Dr. Cushing.

For more information on the workshop, please visit https://lawdisabilitysocialchange.com/2019/05/17/southwestern-ontario-disability-scholars-workshop-paper-titles-participant-bios/.