Intersections of Disability Studies and Critical Trauma Studies: A Provocation

Daniel R. Morrison, Monica J. Casper


In this essay, we explore possible affinities between disability studies and trauma studies. We suggest that a fruitful engagement between these fields should start with the meanings of trauma and disability in their embodiment. We offer theoretical provocations alongside a comparative cultural analysis of traumatic brain injury and obstetric fistula. Ironically, while many disability studies scholars have worked to dislodge definitions of "abnormal" from the body, a conceptual focus on stigma still keeps the disabled body partially in view. Yet wounds, impairment, and pain are erased, and in many framings, the object of analysis is an individual being, whose now-disabled body is socially constructed, and whose agency is posited as being in struggle and resistance against the normative culture. We suggest that the body itself provides a link between disability studies and critical trauma studies, arguing both for the significance of representations as well a materialist understanding of breach, for a notion of the organic, fleshy body as it is damaged, sometimes profoundly, in its operations of life.

Keywords: Disability studies; Trauma studies; Traumatic Brain Injury; Obstetric Fistula; Theory


Disability studies; Trauma studies; Traumatic Brain Injury; Obstetric Fistula; Theory

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Copyright (c) 2012 Daniel R. Morrison, Monica J. Casper

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ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)