CFP: ‘The Forgotten Other: Disability Studies and the Classical Body’, London

CFP: The Forgotten Other: Disability Studies and the Classical Body

Location: Kings College London

Date: 18th–19th June 2018

Deadline: 31st July 2017


  • Ellen Adams (Lecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology, Kings College London)
  • Emma-Jayne Graham (Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies, The Open University)

The influence of the classical bodily ideal on Western notions of beauty has been vast. But what of the broken body, as so many classical marble sculptures have become? While philosophical explorations of the body and the senses may reference the ancient world as a starting point, there is generally little engagement with the sensory body that is impaired or progressively failing. If we are interested in the body, past or present, experienced or represented, we must look to what happens when it ‘breaks’ – the challenges posed and met, the hurdles overcome or un-surmounted, and the remarkable strategies adopted to mitigate any disabling effects of physical and sensory impairments – by both individuals and their societies. Studying the disabled in the ancient past has yet to engage with Disability Studies in a way comparable with other areas of identity politics, such as gender, sexuality and race. Classics, and its cognate disciplines, has nevertheless played a role in shaping the modern concepts of impairment and disability that form the basis of contemporary Disability Studies, and this relationship deserves further exploration.

This conference seeks to explore shared ground by examining what modern debates concerning impairments and disabilities can add to our understanding of ancient bodies and identities. It will question why ‘non-normative’ bodies are so rarely brought into the mix by classicists, historians and archaeologists studying ancient social and cultural contexts, and how doing so can offer suggestive new ways of understanding the complex relationship between bodies, identities and divergent experiences of the world.

We invite papers which explore these issues from the standpoint of both Classical Studies and Disability Studies (of all periods). Plenty of time will be dedicated to discussion and, where possible, the organisers hope to ‘pair up’ speakers from different disciplinary backgrounds in order to encourage greater reflection on the synergies and differences of each approach. Free-standing papers will also be welcomed. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • The ableism inherent in the Humanities
  • Reference to the classical world and ancient thinkers in Disability Studies
  • ‘Fixing’ impairments (including aids)
  • The tension between ‘disabled’ and ‘unable’
  • The terminology of disabilities
  • Moving beyond etic objectification to the emic voice of the (impaired) person
  • The application of social, medical and interactional models to the classical world
  • Other approaches to treating disabilities (e.g. ritual)
  • The phenomenology of impairment, including movement and kinaesthesia
  • Sensory impairment and embodied experience
  • The disabled ‘beautiful body’ and the beautiful disabled body
  • Experiences of and attitudes towards progressive disabilities and sensory impairments.

Confirmed speakers include: Patty Baker, Eleanor Betts, Lennard Davis, Jane Draycott, Edith Hall, Brian Hurwitz, Helen King, Christian Laes, Michiel Meeusen, Georgia Petridou, Tom Shakespeare, Michael Squire, Hannah Thompson.

Papers should be 20 minutes in length and abstracts of approximately 200-300 words should be submitted to either Ellen Adams ( or Emma-Jayne Graham ( by 31st July 2017. Successful contributions may be considered for publication in a conference volume. Funding may be available to support travel and accommodation for speakers where necessary.

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