Making Accessible Futures Disabling the Life Course in 21st Century America – University of Copenhagen

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Making Accessible Futures Disabling the Life Course in 21st Century America

The Graduate Program in Medicine, Culture and Society and Centre for Medical Science and Technology Studies,  University of Copenhagen announces the seminar.

Professor Rayna Rapp and Professor Faye Ginsburg (New York University)

: Center for Sundhed og Samfund (CSS), Øster Farimagsgade 5, Bygning 10, Room 5.0.22

Time: August 24, 2016, 15.00 – 16.30

The room will be accessible to wheelchairs and power chairs.
 As the talk includes images and film clips,
please do not hesitate to inform us of visual
or audial needs in advance, thank you.

 ABSTRACT: Over the last 8 years, we have been conducting research in New York City across a variety of sites where the presence of disability is dramatically increasing, transforming consciousness of this form of human variation. Since the late 20th century, medical, legal and cultural institutions have embraced a recognition of disability as a form of life worth living. This stands in the shadow of the hegemonic grip of earlier 20th century eugenic ideologies that often removed people with disabilities from public space and from life itself.  The book we are writing, entitled Disability, Personhood, and the New Normal in the 21st Century, is based on our multi-sited fieldwork that examines how those with disabilities, and their kin and allies, are claiming lives worth living in this new contexts. In locations as diverse as schools, medical laboratories, film festivals, homes and religious institutions, we have learned how families form new kinship imaginaries around the fact of disability; how disability publics emerge through a variety of media forms and art activism; how scientists are rethinking cognitive diversity; how schools engage with and too often fail in launching students with disabilities into the world.

Our paper addresses questions of demographics and futurity. Following our subjects and our topic longitudinally across multi-sited domains, we have come to appreciate how ubiquitous disability is as a social fact in contemporary North America. The number of disabled citizens, currently estimated at almost 20% of the US population, is predicted to increase significantly over the next decade, both as an expanding portion of the population and a growing absolute number. Enhanced medical care has changed experiences of reproduction, the survival of children with biomedical challenges, adults with chronic illness, and frail elderly into extreme old age.  Consequently, there is an inevitable increase in disability, raising questions about caregiving and interdependency, thus changing and disrupting the very understanding of the life course itself. Along with many disability scholars/activists, we consider how "accessible futures” will remain under constant negotiation in an increasingly neo-liberal era where U.S. public expenditures are constantly at risk.