UPDATE: Read my account of the conference's impact here.
I have only recently realised that blindness is a subject worthy of academic research. My previous academic work focuses on the body first in the novels of Emile Zola, and then in the nineteenth-century novel more widely, but I have only 'come out' as a disabled scholar - and a scholar of disability - in the last 18 months.
My work on blindness is both personal and professional. The wonderful writings of Cathy Kudlick and Georgina Kleege have inspired me to see my own blindness in a positive way, whilst the crucially important history of blindness in France, Vivre Sans Voir (The Blind in French Society) by the majestic Zina Weygand demonstrates how crucial it is that the blind are able to both write and read a history of our own. Thanks to Cathy, Georgina and Zina I can feel an urgency behind my own research into how blindness and the blind are represented in French culture which comes from both a need to change the way blindness is perceived and a desire to finally speak a history which has been neglected for far too long.
I hope that the International Colloquium on the History of Blindness and the Blind which takes place in Paris next month will change both public and academic perceptions of blindness. As a member of the organising committee I have been able to put my new-found belief in the importance of blindness into practice by helping to organise a major historical and cultural event which pushes blindness to the forefront of the academic agenda. As a speaker at the conference I will have the chance to meet and talk with leading historians of blindness from around the world. Now all I have to do is write my paper.
Attendance at the conference, which takes place in Paris from 27-29 June is free but advance registration is essential by emailing: email@example.com