ANTHRO 234: Disability and Culture (Fall 2012)
Instructor: Karen Nakamura Last Offered: Spring 2009 Next Offered: Fall 2012 Class Times: TBA Location: TBA

Short Course Description
Brief Course Description
What does it mean to be deaf in Japan, a wheelchair user in the United States, or mentally ill in the former Soviet Republic? Through examples drawn from around the globe, this course explores disability from a cross-cultural perspective including the development of disability identity, disability culture, disability law, and disability politics.

Extended Course Description

Disability Studies understands disability as a cultural construct. This does not mean that physical or mental impairments are not real, but that conceptions of the body and its possibilities and impossibilities, normativities and abnormalities are constantly mediated through social norms and mores, as well as the physical and social institutions in which we move. Disability Studies examines the contigency of the disability category from social, legal, institutional, biomedical and personal perspectives, using both transhistorical and cross-cultural analysis. As with the allied disciplines of Women’s Studies and Queer Studies, Disability Studies has an intimate and often fraught relationship with activist communities, state actors, non-governmental organizations, and other mechanisms of social stasis and change.
Using examples drawn from various points in history, various countries around the world, and various disability categories, we will examine the contigency of the disability category from social, legal, and personal perspectives. Students will read a variety of ethnographies, autobiographies, and case studies in order to understand the variety of the disability experience, including psychiatric/psychosocial and intellectual disabilities. We will also explore disability legislation in various parts of the globe, including the failures of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the creation of the new United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This class will draw from critical disability studies, feminist, and queer theory.
The course will be organized as a seminar with weekly response papers and a final research paper. There are no prerequisites for the class and students from any major are welcome to attend. Readings include Nora Groce's
Everyone here spoke sign language, Karen Nakamura's Deaf in Japan, and Ingstad and Whyte's Disability and Culture.

Prerequisites and Requirements
None. All students in all majors at all levels are welcome in the class. However, if the class is at capacity then priority will be given to anthropology majors and then to juniors and seniors.

Textbooks and Course Readings
The required textbooks are available at the Labyrinth Bookstore. Course readings in the forms of articles will also be distributed in class, usually via the Classes V2 server.
  • Groce, Nora Ellen (1985). Everyone here spoke sign language: hereditary deafness on Martha's Vineyard. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • Davis, Lennard (2006). Disability Studies Reader (2nd edition). New York: Routledge
  • Finger, Anne (2006). Elegy for a Disease: A Personal and Cultural History of Polio. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Reading Responses
Final Paper

Additional Readings from:
Monaghan, Leila, Constanze Schmaling, Karen Nakamura, and Graham Turner, eds. Many Ways to be Deaf: International Linguistic and Sociocultural Variation Mansucript galley proofs.
Nakamura, Karen.
Deaf in Japan. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 2006.
Saks, Elyn R. 2007 The centre cannot hold : a memoir of my schizophrenia. London: Virago.
Schiller, Lori, and Amanda Bennett. 1994 The quiet room : a journey out of the torment of madness. New York: Warner Books.

Articles (on eReserve):
Battison, Robbin. "Signs have parts: a simple idea." In
Linguistics of American Sign Language. C. Valli and C. Lucas, eds. pp. 215-225. Washington: Gallaudet University Press. 1995 ISBN 1563680424.
Baynton, Douglas C. "A silent exile on this earth." In
Disability studies reader. L. J. Davis, ed. pp. 128-152. New York: Routledge. 1995. ISBN 0-415-91471-X (pbk).
Brusky, Amy Elizabeth. "Making decisions for deaf children regarding cochlear implants: the legal ramifications of recognizing deafness as a culture rather than a disability."
Wisconsin Law Review:235-270. 1995.
Carmel, Simon J., and Leila F. Monaghan. "Studying Deaf culture: an introduction to ethnographic work in Deaf communities."
Sign Language Studies 73. 1991.
McDermott and Varenne, "Culture as Disability" Anthropology and Education Quarterly 26:323-348, 1995. Available online:
Mirzoeff, Nicholas. "Framed: the deaf in the harem." In
Deviant bodies: critical perspectives on difference in science and popular culture. J. Terry and J. Urla, eds. pp. 49-77. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1995. ISBN 0-253-20975-7 (pbk).
Mitchell, David T., and Sharon L. Snyder. "Introduction: Disability Studies and the Double Bind of Representation." from
The body and physical difference: discourses of disability. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1997. ISBN 0472-06659-5 (paper). Pp 1-31.
Murphy, Robert. "Encounters: the body silent in America." In
Disability and culture. B. Ingstad and S. R. Whyte, eds. pp. 140-158. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1995. ISBN 0-520-08362-8.
Padden, Carol, and Tom Humphries. "Chapter 5: A changing consciousness." In
Deaf in America: voices from a culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1988. ISBN 0-674-19424-1 (pbk). Pp 71-90.
Perlmutter, David. "Topic: comment: no nearer to the soul."
Natural Language and Linguistic Theory (4):515-523. 1986.
Searls, Susan C., and David R. Johnston. "Growing up Deaf in Deaf families: two different experiences." In
Cultural and language diversity and the deaf experience. I. Parasnis, ed. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1996. ISBN 0521645654. pp. 201-224.
Stokoe, William C., Dorothy C. Casterline, and Carl G. Cronenberg. "Introduction to the Dictionary of American Sign Language." In
Linguistics of American Sign Language. C. Valli and C. Lucas, eds. pp. 226-240. Washington: Gallaudet University Press. 1995/1976/1965. ISBN1563680424.
Wiley, Norbert. "The politics of identity in American history"
. In Social theory and the politics of identity. C. Calhoun, ed. pp. 130-149. Oxford: Blackwell. 1994. ISBN 1-55786-473-X.
Wilson, Frank R. "The Articulate Hand. Chapter 10" from
The hand: how its use shapes the brain, language, and human culture, pp. 182-209. New York: Pantheon Books. 1998. ISBN 0679412492.
Winata, Sunaryana, I Nyoman Arhya, Sukarti Moeljopawiro, et al. "Congenital non-syndromal autosomal recessive deafness in Bengkala, an isolated Balinese village."
Journal of Medical Genetics 32:336-343. 1995.

Library and Internet Resources

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