Language, disability, and pop culture may seem like three disparate issues, but the connections between them are palpable and real. Disability rights leader Justin Dart once said, “You cannot be responsible for your own family without being responsible for the society and environment in which you live.” Contained within this statement are ways to connect the ideas of disability, language, and popular culture. Disability may be seen or unseen, it may be physical, mental, or emotional, but it is never just about one person; it is about the social reality that everyone lives in everyday.
Scene from Glee
Language and pop culture are ways that we understand our social reality. It is how we talk about ourselves and others and the ways we interact with media such as television, movies, and the internet. These are ways we normalize certain bodies and minds while at the same time limiting others.
Glee wheelchair dance
Currently, the television show “GLEE” is in the spotlight for addressing issues like a student who uses a wheelchair, a deaf choir, and even more transient (though truly many disabilities are fluid) ideas of disability such as pregnancy and an assumed stutter. While this show may have growing pains as it addresses disability, it is a coming together of the ideas of disability, language, and pop culture to make a wide audience think about what it means to experience disability and challenge the ways we talk to each other about these ideas. The science fiction author Ursula LeGuin tells us, “together we can try to hear and speak that language in the world, we who speak for a world that has no words but ours” (p. 159).
Language helps define our social reality and being understood in the world is mediated by accepted definitions of pop culture and disability thus a critical reading of the three of these issues together brings a more nuanced insight to the ways they work together and individually.
Glee characters: clip illustrates many of the problematic issues
Our group is concerned with the construction of the disabled/abled identity through and within language and popular culture and the implications of that construction on education, educational institutions, and access to education. “We all regularly use tools– physical and social privileges– in our teaching and learning, but we expect them to the degree that we do not even really see them,” asserts Kristina R. Knoll in “Feminist Disability Studies Pedagogy” (2009). Our goal as a group aims to raise awareness of the privileges experienced or denied within education based on an identification of ability or disability.
This clip highlights the problematic nature of simulations,
yet the possible power of simulations
Here are our readings for class, and other suggested readings that we considered (all are PDF files):