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Cassandra Hartblay


Assistant Professor
Director, Centre for Global Disability Studies

Phone: 647-601-4457
Location: HL 222


Dr. Hartblay joins UTSC’s Health Studies Program from Yale University where she was a 2017-2018 Postdoctoral Associate at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. She is an award-winning scholar of critical disability studies, with a global research focus on contemporary Russia. Dr. Hartblay is a cultural and medical anthropologist whose research practice includes transdisciplinary performance ethnography methods. Her original documentary stage play, I WAS NEVER ALONE, tells the stories of adults with disabilities in Russia in their own words. It was most recently performed in 2017 at Yale University, and in 2016 at UC San Diego’s Theatre District at La Jolla Playhouse. The play script will be published in Dr. Hartblay's first book that combines the script with scholarly analysis drawing on disability studies, disability anthropology, and performance ethnography (University of Toronto Press, fall 2020). Dr. Hartblay is currently at work on a manuscript that tells the story of Russia’s first post-Soviet generation coming of age based on a multi-year ethnographic project investigating disability as a sociopolitical identity and the politics of accessible design in the context of global postsocialism and post-Soviet infrastructure.

Dr. Hartblay is the Director of the Centre for Global Disability Studies.


Ph.D, M.A., Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

B.A., Bachelor of Arts, Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota



  • Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES)
  • American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR)
  • Society for Disability Studies (SDS)
  • NWSA
  • American Anthropological Association (AAA)
    • Soyuz: Postsocialist Research Interest Group
    • Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA)
    • Disability Research Interest Group (Steering Committee, 2014-2016)
    • Association for Queer Anthropology
    • American Ethnological Society
    • Society for Cultural Anthropology


Teaching Interests

  • Health Humanities
  • Global Disability Studies
  • Medical Anthropology / Disability Anthropology
  • Performance Studies
  • Decolonizing postsocialism
  • Queer / Crip / Feminist Studies
  • Health, Disability & Critical Design
  • Qualitative and arts-based methods

Research Interests

  • Health Humanities
  • Ethnography
  • Critical Disability Studies
  • Performance Ethnography, Research Creation, and arts-based inquiry
  • Critical Design Studies / Anthropology of Design and Infrastructure
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Health and socialism / postsocialism
  • Russia and the former Soviet Union
  • Russo-Finnish borderlands
  • Whiteness, Ethnicity, and Debility
  • Queer/Feminist Transdisciplinary Research
  • Documentary practices
  • Critical social theory
  • Epistemology


Awards & Grants


2019-2020 University of Toronto Connaught New Researcher Award

2016 UC San Diego Frontiers of Innovation Scholarship (FISP)

2015 Summer Research Scholar, Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington DC.

2013 Irving K. Zola Award for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies

2010-2013 Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP) for Cultural Anthropology, National Science Foundation of the USA.



“Disability Expertise: Claiming Disability Anthropology.” Current Anthropology, Wenner-Gren Symposium Series. S21: February 2020.

"After Marginalization: Pixelization, Disability, and Social Difference in Digital Russia." South Atlantic Quarterly. 118(3): July 1 2019.

Keywords for Ethnography and Design.” Edited collection with Joseph D. Hankins and Melissa Caldwell for the ‘Theorizing the Contemporary’ series on the Cultural Anthropology website. March 2018.

“This is not thick description: Conceptual art installation as ethnographic process.” Ethnography 19(2): 2018.

“Good Ramps, Bad Ramps: Centralized Design Standards and Disability Access in Urban Russian Infrastructure.” American Ethnologist 44(1): January 9 2017.

"Disabling Structures: Perspectives on Marginalization in a Russian Cityscape," Landscapes of Violence 3(1) 2015.

*this is a photo essay that combines text and photographs, compiled as a large, image-based PDF file; please message me if you would like a text-based version of this publication with image descriptions.

"Welcome to Sergeichburg: Disability, Crip Performance, and the Comedy of Recognition in Russia" in Journal of Social Policy Studies 12(1) 2014. In English and Russian translation.

"A Genealogy of (post-)Soviet Dependency: Disabling Productivity."  2013 Zola Award Article, Disability Studies Quarterly, 34(1), 2014.