October 29, 2019 - "Disabled People are the Experts": Lessons from Disability Studies


Abstract: Disability is typically defined as a chronic impairment that significantly impacts the daily life of a given individual. Yet, as disability activists and scholars of disability studies have argued since the mid-20th century, having a disability often means living a more difficult life not only because of one’s own bodily impairment, but often largely because of the way that the social world is configured for non-disabled people, who are, in turn, taught to pity disabled people who are imagined as prone to suffering. Thus, one way that people with disabilities have called for more just futures is by demanding that professionals in medicine, education, and design recognize the unique expertise of people living with disabilities to define the problems and navigate solutions in their own lives. But the problems that people with disabilities face are not universal, but vary across culture, in relation to other social systems of oppression such as classism and sexism, and over time. These core insights are illustrated in this talk - from the activist-led, interdisciplinary field of disability studies, using examples from popular culture and from my ethnographic research with adults with mobility and speech impairments in Northwestern Russia.

Cassandra Hartblay: Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society & Anthropology

Dr. Hartblay is an assistant professor of Anthropology and Health Humanities at the University of Toronto Scarborough. She is a member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, and an affiliate faculty member at the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. Dr. Hartblay received her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has held postdoctoral appointments at Yale University and with the University of California Collaboratory for Ethnographic Design. Dr. Hartblay received the Irving K. Zola Award for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies in 2013. She has worked as an applied qualitative researcher with the Soros Foundation, contributing to a collected volume on inclusive education in Central Asia; as a studio coordinator at Interact Center, an arts and theatre center for adults with disabilities in Minneapolis, MN; and as an arts manager organizing cultural exchange programs for dancers, writers, and filmmakers between the United States and Russia.