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Home 2018-05-17T22:41:38+00:00

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Author’s Bios: Olga Tarapata specializes in North American literature with an emphasis on contemporary fiction. Her research and teaching interests include disability studies, literary theory, cultural constructivism, and new materialism. Her dissertationExtraordinary Bodies in the Work of William Gibsonexamines literary representations of the human body and disability in William Gibson’s fiction from the late 1970s until today. Olga presented at The International Conference on Educational, Cultural, and Disability Studies 2017at Liverpool Hope University and her latest essay is published in The Matter of Disability: Biopolitics, Materiality, Crip Affect, a selected volume by David Mitchell, Susan Antebi, and Sharon Snyder.

Abstract: Wearing a shiny black bodysuit, Dior shoes, and a collar, Kylie Jenner stares aimlessly downward, her unflexed arms lending no movement to the luxuriously golden wheelchair in which she sits. Because Jenner is able-bodied, this appearance on a December 2015 Interviewcover incited critical reactions from the disability community. Disabled bodies are not generally associated with high fashion, making the use of a wheelchair in a fashion shoot is rare. While my work, like previous research on the Jenner family, considers Jenner’s role as sex symbol, here I am also interested in her performance of cripping upand disability simulation, in which Jenner appropriates the wheelchair from communities who see it as a symbol of access and independence. Jenner’s position in the fashion industry as a beautiful, sexualized woman is an interesting juxtaposition with her appropriation of the wheelchair, given that disabled individuals are so often portrayed as asexual. In this work, I position disability as a performance contextualized by culture, a perspective characterized by an understanding of disability as an embodied, enacted identity that is institutionally enforced. Understanding disability as performance allows a perspective on Jenner’s use of the wheelchair as part of a dramatic scene, while understanding that Jenner does not have the same societally-enforced or embodied experience of a person who uses a wheelchair because of physical need. I argue that Jenner’s performance, photographs taken in response to her shoot, and the discourse surrounding the controversy construct boundaries of what ethically acceptable wheelchair use should be, particularly with regard to media portrayals.

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Author’s Bio: Jessica Benham is currently working on her Ph.D. in the Department of Communication at University of Pittsburgh, as well as pursuing an MA in Bioethics. She received her Master of Arts in Communication Studies from Minnesota State University, Mankato and her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Political Science from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her primary research interests lie in investigating the rhetorical constructions of gender and disability in media and in social movements.

Abstract: Since the introduction of the gender dysphoria (GD) diagnosis, previously marginalized trans individuals, such as emancipated minors, incarcerated individuals, and individuals with cognitive disabilities that are deemed able to participate in their various medical treatments, have been invited to have an autonomous role in their decisions to access medical methods of gender affirmation. It is important to note that trans individuals with psychiatric diagnosis/es in addition to GD are prohibited to this sense of autonomy since they are deemed to be incompetent due to these comorbid ‘psychiatric’ diagnoses. I investigate the creation and consequences of a hierarchy of treatment that is created by conceiving of the trans phenomenon as a psychiatric disorder which prioritizes effective management of the non-GD diagnosis/es before validating the gender identity through both social and medical methods. This hierarchical creation invariably leads to a pathologization of the trans phenomenon as medical professionals attempt to prove through causation the actual ‘true’ diagnosis embedded within the comorbidity. The consequences of this hierarchy of treatment denies a trans person with a multiplicity of psychiatric diagnoses access to gender affirming medical methods in favor of uncovering the truth of their pathology, which can exacerbate emotional distress, distress that can potentially have lethal physical manifestations, that an individual is already experiencing. The medical institution needs to reevaluate the principle “first, do no harm,” to understand how their resistance to grant autonomy to trans individuals with comorbid diagnoses can, in actuality, create the most harm. In order avoid further marginalization of this sub-population within the trans community, I propose an eradication of any diagnosis that attempts to depict the trans phenomenon in favor of a new reimagining of reimbursable medical methods of gender affirmation that privileges the autonomy of trans individuals.

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Author’s Bio: Emerson Parker Pehl Graduating from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and gender studies with a certificate in queer and sexuality studies, Emerson (they/them/theirs) has presented at the Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) Annual Meeting, the 52ndAnnual Comparative World Literature Conference, and the 5thAnnual Dean Hopper New Scholar Conference. In addition, Emerson has an extensive career working within the psycho-medical institution at both Boston Children’s Hospital and Youth Villages- Germaine Lawrence. Currently a graduate student at both Simmons College (M.A. Gender/Cultural Studies) and Widener University (M.S.W./M.Ed. – Sex Therapy Track) Emerson’s research interests include intersectional analyses of the effects of the psychiatric industrial complex’s discourses on trans identity with regards to disability and race and they hope to expand upon this to examine psychiatry’s “de-transition” phobia.

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Abstract: Transhumanists are futurists who aim to upgrade the human into a posthuman species by supporting the use of reproductive technologies. The transhumanists Nick Bostrom, John Harris, and Julian Savulescu are bioethics scholars who identify as “new” eugenicists. They disavow the beliefs and practices of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century—here referred to as the “old” eugenics. They claim that contrary to these outdated eugenic principles it is individuals, not governments, who should determine the use of biotechnology. However, the new eugenicists insist that human beings are obligated to pursue the posthuman.In this paper, I contend that the principles of the new eugenic movement are not identical, but still worryingly similar to those of the old eugenics. The individualism of the new eugenics does not change the fact that its implications are strikingly similar to the old eugenic ideal of the able-bodied person. The new eugenicists suggest that the posthuman state aspires for the transcendence of the human body, and the elimination of dependence and chronic pain. Hence, they argue for a moral obligation to use biotechnology to prevent the births of many people with conditions that they consider to be disabilities. The new eugenicists defend their claims by supporting an antiquated medical model of disability that solidifies their connection to the old eugenics, and conflates disability with genetics, disease, and impairment. The feminist disability theorist Melinda Hall has challenged their contentions with a cultural model of disability. This paper will use the feminist disability theorist Jackie Leach Scully’s position on vulnerability to lend support to Hall’s argument. Hall and Scully show that the new eugenic position on disability is ableist and untenable, and much closer to the ideals of the old eugenics than Bostrom, Harris, and Savulescu admit.

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Author’s Bio: Nikila Lakshmananrecently received her undergraduate degree at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She double majored in Philosophy and the Study of Women and Gender. Nikila’s main research interest is in feminist philosophy. Nikila currently works as a paralegal in Washington, D.C.

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