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Saturday, 21 December 2019

New Book: Discours et représentations du handicap. Perspectives culturelles

Critical Disability Studies is flourishing in Anglo-American academia but it is still an emerging discipline in France. Four years ago I was delighted to speak at a ground-breaking French conference on the subject. Now I'm equally pleased to have my work included in the wonderfully wide-ranging collection of essays from the conference. This collection is an important testimony to the diversity and vibrancy of Critical Disability Studies in France and will prove essential for anyone working on disability in a French context. The book (32 euros), or individual chapters (2-3 euros each) can be ordered here. The bibliography is available free of charge here. Most of the essays are in French with a couple in English.

Below I list the essay titles with their English abstracts. Bonne lecture!

Discours et représentations du handicap. Perspectives culturelles, edited by Céline Roussel and Soline Vennetier (Éditions Classiques Garnier, 2019)

Introduction (
Céline Roussel and Soline Vennetier)
This introduction, which critically examines the development of Disability Studies and draws on the definitions of the notions of discourse and representation related to social and cultural practices, explores links between the contributions by researchers from various backgrounds. Using an terdisciplinary approach, it investigates the methods and tools of analysis from Disability Studies and probes their adaptations and equivalents in the French academic field.

Tammy Berberi – The Role(s) of Art and Literature in (Re)making Disability 
These remarks explore the pleasures of the unexpected as they continue to shape the author’s experiences as an American traveling in France and a disability studies scholar working in French and English. In literature as in life, the spaces in which people live, work, and imagine shape how they navigate their communities and themselves: barriers that foreclose on some experiences give rise to others, enriching one’s identity and disability as lived and studied around the world.

Anne Waldschmidt – Conceptualiser le modèle culturel du handicap comme dis/ability : perspectives interdisciplinaires et internationales / Disability Studies and the Cultural Model of Dis/ability. Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives Drawing on interdisciplinary and international debates, this essay develops a cultural model of disability in order to provide a framework to analyse dis/ability with the help of methodologies and approaches from Cultural Studies. As a necessary supplement to the social model of disability, the cultural model can help to understand better the relationships between society, culture and dis/ability. With it the intersections of 'normality' and 'disability' become the actual object of research.

Pierre Ancet – Handicap et culture. La culture comme travail de réflexion / Disability and Culture: Culture as Reflective Work
Culture fosters encounters – encountering the other and the unknown within oneself. To be cultivated means to cultivate distance from one's own certainties, which may prove salutary when one is different, or when one believes oneself to be “normal compared to others.” Disability offers an unusual experience of both the body and the world. Disability will be examined in relation to scientific and artistic culture, the practice of arts, and the mutual discovery of people’s humanity.

Michael Schillmeier – Le handicap (visuel) – des perspectives exclusives aux différences inclusives / (Visual) Disability: from Exclusive Perspectives to Inclusive Differences
Drawing on the practices of blind people in a visual culture, this paper introduces the concept “inclusive differences” of disability, suggesting that disability is the outcome of historically specific, embodied human and non-human configurations fabricated within the conduct of everyday life. This concept question the attempt of exclusive perspectives that try to divide analytically “disability” into an individual (natural) bodily impairment or a purely socio-cultural attributed disability.

Sébastien Durand – Parole et musique d'aveugle : la correspondance de Maria-Theresia von Paradis (1759-1824) avec Johann-Ludwig Weissenburg (1752-1800) / Blind People's Words and Music: the Correspondence Between Maria-Theresia von Paradis (1759-1824) and Johann-Ludwig Weissenburg (1752-1800)
In the 18th century, an Austrian young blind woman, Maria-Theresia von Paradis, aroused admiration for both her musical talents and her social adaptability. She started up a regular correspondence with Johann-Ludwig Weissenburg, an erudite blind man, who became her tutor. These texts, partly published in the newspapers of the time, disclose a wealth of information about the lives of blind people from the affluent upper classes of European Enlightenment society.

Flora Amann – Disability Studies, histoire de la littérature française et histoire des représentations : surdité et Révolution dans le roman sentimental français / Disability Studies, Literary History and History of Representations: Deafness and Revolution in the French Sentimental Novel
This study of the figure of the mute aristocrat and his relationship to discourses on deafness in sentimental novels after the French Revolution offers an enriching analysis to the disciplines of Literary History and Disability Studies. It contributes to the history of representations of deafness through time, and it offers a better understanding of the ways that themes and forms in these novels are inflected with their social and political context.

Mathilde Villechevrolle – Donner corps à ses frayeurs. Discours médical sur la surdité et anthropologie de la démocratie / Embodying one's fears. Medical Discourse on Deafness and Anthropology of Democracy
Medical discourses on deafness in the 19th century France have to be analyzed in relation to the development of political post-revolutionary democratic ideals, and to the “passion de l'égalité” it nurtures. The junction between vitalism and empiricism on the one hand, and the political inclination for a non-hierarchical society on the other hand, cristallizes into the figure of the deaf, and reeducating his/her speech becomes an aim where the political and the medical mingle.

Marion Chottin – Les aveugles des philosophes de l’Âge classique aux Lumières : aléas d’une pensée de la cécité entre rationalisme et empirisme / Philosophers' Blind People from the Classic Age to the Enlightenment: Hazards of a Thought on Blindness Between Rationalism and Empiricism.
This paper proposes a solution to a paradox of the Enlightenment, a century when both the French Royal Institute for the Blind was created, and the Empiricist philosophers, including John Locke, argued that ideas came from the sense of sight. Although this philosophy did indeed produce a negative notion of blindness, Empiricism also generated an alternative view, specifically in the work of George Berkeley, Denis Diderot and  d’Alembert, that in fact favoured the education of blind people

Barbara Fougère-Danezan – Take Shelter (USA, 2011) : l'implant cochléaire au cœur de la tempête, ou la surdité comme prisme d'analyse cinématographique / Take Shelter (USA, 2011): Cochlear Implant in the Eye of the Storm, Or Deafness as Prism for Cinematographic Analysis
In his ecofiction titled Take shelter (2011), the American director Jeff Nichols sets up a parallel between an ecological disaster and a young deaf girl being fitted with a cochlear implant. By doing so, he sets up a narrative system which plays on the tensions between Nature, Culture and Technology, that will be approached drawing on methodological and conceptual frameworks from Disability studies.

Olivier Schetrit – Le théâtre tremplin des Sourds : enjeux identitaires et esthétiques à travers l'exemple de l'International Visual Theatre / Theatre as a Springboard for Deaf People: Identity and Aesthetic Issues Through the Example of the International Visual Theatre
The Deaf Awakening of the 1970s was a pivotal historical period. The creation of the International Visual Theatre in 1976 offered an important micro-space for the expression of Deaf culture through various ways of staging sign language, and for valuing Deaf identity. The stage remains a privileged space in Deaf art for expressing freely one's art and Deaf culture, beyond normative judgement.

Marie Astier – Mise en scène et mise en jeu du handicap mental sur la scène contemporaine française. L'Empereur c'est moi ! : un spectacle qui invite à un changement de paradigme / Mental Disability on Stage and at Stake in the Contemporary French Drama. L'Empereur c'est moi !: a Stage Adaptation Inviting to a Shift of Paradigm
This paper focuses on the analysis of L’Empereur c’est moi!, a stage adaptation of the autobiographical book written by Hugo Horiot, who defines himself as having Asperger’s. Performed by the author himself, and by the deaf actress Clémence Colin, these neurological and sensorial differences move the performance away from dramatic form, as defined by Peter Szondi, to draw closer to what Hans-Thies Lehmann has called “postdramatic theater”.

Nidhal Mahmoud – Les Emmurés de Lucien Descaves : un exemple de typhlophilie littéraire / Lucien Descaves’ Les Emmurés: An Example of Blind-friendly Literature
Though they appear in some great works of classical literature, blind characters are generally represented as cloaked in misfortune, deprivation and darkness. By associating them with the figure of the beggar, art and literature have often abetted their exclusion from social life. Lucien Descaves rebels against such depictions in Les Emmurés (1894), an engaged, playful and original novel in which he strives to rehabilitate characters whose damnation revolts him.

Hannah Thompson – Reading Blindness in French Fiction through Critical Disability Studies 
Critical Disability Studies’ desire to celebrate blindness for its own sake finds an echo in fictional representations of visual impairment. Two key French representations of blindness, Lucien Descaves, Les Emmurés (1894) and Romain Villet, Look (2014), show how these writers’ positive attitudes to blindness demonstrate the socially, and culturally, constructed nature of disability, offering a useful, and timely, means of disassociating blindness from its hitherto negative connotations.

Bertrand Verine – La nuit et le noir, clichés métaphoriques de la cécité / Night and Darkness: Clichéd Metaphors of Blindness
A survey of discourses and practices in French blind culture reveals the persistence of metaphors of “night” and “darkness” to signify perception of the world without sight. Analysis suggests that these are visual metaphors that convey primarily an obsession with discovering or recovering absent light. Yet this dominant imaginary is subverted by some writers who express the possibility of existing beyond visual perception and the binary opposition of light versus night.

Ella Leith – Performing "Hearing-ness": Representations of the “signing impaired” in Contemporary British Sign Language Storytelling and Signart 
This paper focuses on the way “hearing culture” (i.e. non-deaf and non-signing people's ways of being) is represented in British Sign Language (BSL) vernacular performance arts, otherwise called “Signart”, through four illustrative examples of BSL performance-texts from the repertoire of an Edinburgh-based performance group, Visual Virus. It considers how cultural hearing-ness is portrayed in a way which contests hearing-centred discourse on deafness.

Julie Chateauvert – Intermédialité et proxémie : propositions pour une méthodologie d'analyse de la création en langue des signes / Intermediality and Proxemy: Towards a Methodology to Analyze Sign Language Creation
Although currently referred to as “poetry”, narrative creation in sign languages draws on aesthetic devices which resonate with art forms other than literature such as bodies in movement, performing arts, and image work. Beginning with an epistemological contextualization, this paper provides a political and aesthetic study of Jolanta Lapiak's work in order to showcase a method of analysis, which is capable of responding to the complexity of works considered as intermedial objects.

Kyra Pollitt – La « langue » et la « poésie » représentent-elles la « poésie en langue des signes » ? / Do Language and Poetry Represent Sign Language Poetry?
What evidence shows that academic discourses can alter perceptions of real-world phenomena? Using the case study of creative language forms in British Sign Language communities, the analysis explores what difference a name makes. What are the real-world implications of using the terms ‘sign language poetry’ or ‘Signart’?

Anne-Lyse Chabert – De la nécessité de changer notre manière de regarder le handicap / How and Why we Need to Consider Disability Differently
Which is the most useful perspective when talking about “disability”? Is an external, internal, or combined point of view enough in itself? The analysis of these three different points of view suggests that one fails to recognize the plenitude of a disabled person’s existence. Shouldn'tt we try to reclaim this plenitude by beginning with what he/she has to offer, independent of “disability” and his/her point of view?

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