Disability is a universal human experience. Like gender, race, class, and sexuality, disability affects everyone in multiple ways, shaping and informing our notions of normality, family, community, fitness, and worth. Disability Studies, one of the fastest growing interdisciplinary fields in the humanities, social sciences and health sciences, examines abilities in the context of societies and cultures as they change over time. The symposium will consider the pervasive (though often unnoticed) influence of disability on and in the performing, visual, and literary arts, in philosophy and religion, in political and economic life, and in everyday language, as we explore when and how minds and bodies “misfit.”

On April 4-6, 2019, Misfitting: Disability Broadly Considered, will bring leading disability scholars from diverse disciplines to discuss the relevance and importance of disability to their respective fields. Co-directed by Douglas Baynton (History) and Tricia Zebrowski (Communication Sciences & Disorders) with support from graduate students Hope Gerlach (Communication Sciences & Disorders) and Corey Hickner-Johnson (English), the symposium will feature lectures, panels, and performances with:

  • Nina G., comedienne and advocate/educator around issues of stuttering and dyslexia
  • Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, a professor of English and Bioethics at Emory University; author of Staring: How We Look
  • Michele Friedner, Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago; author of Valuing Deaf Worlds in Rural India
  • Margaret Price, English, Ohio State University; author of Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life
  • Sami Schalk, Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison; author of the newly published Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction
  • Joseph Straus, Music, City University of New York; author of Extraordinary Measures: Disability in Music

We regret that Susan Schweik of the University of California-Berkeley has had to cancel her attendance at the conference and will no longer be speaking.



Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation—including sign language interpretation—in order to participate in this program, please contact the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies in advance at 319-335-4034 or obermann-center@uiowa.edu.