Celebrating 20 Years of Corporealities

by Charles Watkinson on October 11, 2016

On October 11 author Ann McGuire gives the inaugural Tobin Siebers Prize Lecture at the University of Michigan. Professor McGuire is the winner of the inaugural Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies, named in honor of the pioneering scholar and father of disability studies. In the blog post below, Professor David Mitchell of George Washington University, co-editor of the successful book series Corporealities (in which McGuire’s book appears) reflects on the series’ contribution to the field.

Corporealities: Discourses of Disability Series Overview will turn 20 years old in 2017. It is now the longest running academic book series devoted exclusively to disability studies and has resulted in several spin-off series.

In 2007 series editors, David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder, were asked by Executive Editor, LeAnn Fields, to write a vision statement to accompany a proposal for a new book series in disability studies. The series was titled, “Corporealities: Discourses of Disability.” This is how the opening write up addressed the new terrain to which the series aspired:

Corporealities: Discourses of Disability promotes a broad range of scholarly work analyzing the cultural and representational meanings of disability. Definitions of disability underpin fundamental concepts such as normalcy, health, bodily integrity, individuality, citizenship, and morality – all terms that define the very essence of what it means to be human. Yet, disabilities traditionally have been treated as conditions in need of medical intervention and correction. Rarely has disability been approached as a constructed category forwarded by social institutions seeking to legislate the slippery line that exists between normative biologies and deviant bodies. In addition to identifying the social phantasms that have been projected upon disabled subjects in history, the series aims to theorize the shifting coordinates of disabled identities.

We’re not sure a more compelling statement could replace this original explication.

When the series began, disability studies wasn’t a field much less a valid mode of study in graduate schools. Now there are more than 300 programs in the Americas and Europe. These academic programs are cosmopolitan gathering points for students in higher education hailing from every continent. The series has not only been a beacon but also a staple source of research materials for libraries, the general public, teachers, and scholars. To date, it has published 26 titles (more than an average of one book per year) with more manuscripts “in press” as they say. The editors have sought these titles out at international academic conferences and symposia, invited lectures and workshops, but the manuscripts have also sought out the series as prior publications have inspired a vast body of work. Further, UMP’s strategic participation in key conference venues has drawn many manuscripts to the series’ shores.

Hence, the series began with The Body and Physical Difference as a foundational collection for exploring a range of topics and methodologies to approach disability in the Humanities. Nearly every contributor to that volume went on to write books of their own. In keeping with its global outreach the series first published a translation of Henri-Jacques Stiker’s socio-history of disability from its French original (Corps Infirmes et Sociétés). “Corporealities” has not only remained true to its roots in the Humanities, but has also published books in military studies, policy studies, and the social sciences.

When the editors began the series after graduating from the University of Michigan in American Studies and English/Women’s Studies respectively, they were living in the snowy Upper Peninsula of Michigan alongside with their Ojibwa neighbors. “Corporealities” is a true home-grown product of Michigan from its inception. Yet this local flavor has also proven a launching pad for the global and cross-disciplinary origins that have defined disability studies from the start. Thus, the books that make up the series have continued to be informed by the continual push outward into the world-making significance of the analysis of disability studies. The editors fourth and most recent book, The Biopolitics of Disability: Neoliberalism, Ablenationalism, and Peripheral Embodiment, performs at the high traffic intersections of queer studies, disability studies, animal studies, and ecocriticism. The continuing global reach of the field proves evident in its most recent efforts to establish footholds in Poland, Russia, Italy, and Thailand institutions of higher education. While the series could have made either either coast its home, the editors believed that the Midwest and the University of Michigan Press would play a most proactive role while being nurtured in the great American middle.

Series books continue to win major awards that include: Choice Book recommendations, 2006 Best Book Award from the Association for Theater in Higher Education, the DAAD/German Studies Association book prize, Conference on College Composition and Communication’s Outstanding Book Award. Its sponsorship of the Tobin Siebers Prize recognizes the influence of one of the series’ most valuable contributors and supporters at the University of Michigan. It also embraces the audacity of LeAnn Fields who knew when few others knew that disability studies would continue to address pressing issues of social justice and keep higher education from falling into a state of irrelevancy. “Corporealities” affirms UMP’s commitment to publishing materials that effect human lives and find value in our shared condition of vulnerability.

 

Photo of author Anne McGuire (left) with Executive Editor, LeAnn Fields (right) by Jenny Geyer.

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