This text follows various Disability Studies readers (Goodley; Davis), responding to "need for plurality of perspectives on disability" (Baglieri et al.) and building on the foundation of Disability Studies in Education (Connor et al.). Applying methods like those described in other collections (e.g. Gabel), Bolt's accessible work connects cultural disability studies and disability studies in education to create a new framework, Cultural Disability Studies in Education. Within the new interdisciplinary field of CDSE, David Bolt argues for use of a "tripartite model of disability" (3) framework and demonstrates this framework's usefulness in a series of eight case studies. The usefulness of the framework as an analytical tool, he advises, depends on it being employed alongside another field's theory. Bolt illustrates successfully that, when the CDSE framework is used in concert with other interdisciplinary field's theoretical framework, the two overlap to reveal a vector that points to a richer understanding.

Though the book was composed in the UK, its use is broader. Bolt clarifies terminology for UK and US audiences, and the book will benefit an audience of students and newer scholars, as well, due to its extensive but focused use of core terminology (supported by a glossary of 17 key terms), the artful illustration of concepts, and the well-researched bibliographies at the end of each chapter. Overview of critiques and interpretations of the primary texts, of interdisciplinary fields, and of Disability Studies concepts (like embodiment, narrative prosthesis, Speech Act theory, and performativity (51)), are especially instructive.

Coherence is intentionally reinforced via consistent reflections about teachers and tutors who may use these materials with students, as well as via links between chapters and sections where the same terminology appears in different contexts. For instance, a link back to Chapter Two in Chapter Three, regarding reflectionist traps and the process of representation, and documentary form/genre, unifies the text. Another example occurs when, during a helpful walkthough of the special connection between Disability Studies (DS) and Holocaust Studies (HS), Bolt reminds readers how language works as a tool to construct meaning. Additionally, tidy wrap-ups to each chapter include a summary of preconceptions that appear in the primary works, as well as "indicative questions" and "highly recommended reading" for student or scholarly readers, inviting them to engage chapter ideas.

The book's effort toward accessibility creates an on-ramp to a multilane interstate highway of fast-moving interdisciplinary discourse. One vehicle for navigating these lanes is the concept of "cripistemologies" (6), which Bolt explains is an "enabling pedagogy, a theory and practice of teaching that posits disability as insight" (6). Cripistemologies, like inclusive models of translingualism and multilingualism, for example, emphasize the power inherent in different ways of experiencing and thinking about the world. Bolt's definition of social aesthetics and incorporation of it into the framework of the text's project is useful to me – putting words to ways of thinking that I am exploring and developing, making it easier for me to recognize my own biases, become more mindful and intentional in the classroom, meeting room, and other campus learning and social spaces.

Furthermore, the array of literary, film, pop culture (music), and advertising case studies exemplifying how ableism/disableism is socially constructed are also widely accessible. Analysis of classic literature and film blended with analysis of more contemporary ephemera create a wide appeal and make it easier to use the text in a variety of classes perhaps not focused entirely on disability studies but nonetheless practicing inclusivity of viewpoints. Deeply researched, short-ish chapters provide built-in recommendations for teaching applications, e.g. chapters about advertising campaigns, 19th-century British literature, contemporary American literature, and TV shows.

A bright spot in the book is the attention devoted to happiness and cultural codings of happiness, namely happiness and employment: "…a disabled person is indeed more likely to be unemployed but this is often because employment opportunities are too frequently conceived in line with normative positivisms: to be envisaged beyond the normative divide is to be assumed unemployed if not unemployable" (52). Here I appreciated the analysis of and attention to emotions, as well as their relationship/ connection to labor in culture in terms of unemployment, employability, and unhappiness. The chapter highlighted how disability/ difference is negatively constructed and coded in terms of work ethic. Bolt offers concise, cogent analysis of how unquestioned, uncritical non-normative negativisms and normative positivisms (conveyed to viewers/readers via cultural artifacts) uphold the normative divide, contributing to a disabling culture.

The book is especially useful and remarkable for its emphasis on Holocaust studies: both HS and DS are "underpinned by embodied, experiential knowledge; both are universally relevant in their focus on human interaction; and both are particularly sensitive to social norms and related current issues around hate crime. Like disability studies, moreover, Holocaust studies explores questions about historical epistemology as well as contemporary challenges" (37). Bolt fervently insists that "A disability studies course that does not refer to the Holocaust is patently deficient" (37), and the reason why is immediately convincing: "Designed for killing disabled people, the very gas chambers in the psychiatric hospitals of Nazi Germany were subsequently dismantled and shipped east to be used against Jewish people… In other words, the 'feasibility of mass murder and the development of genocidal killing technologies' in Nazi Germany were 'first practiced and perfected upon the bodies of disabled people'" (42). Thus readers find an especially urgent reason to connect DS and HS. Bolt notes that the ease and ability to contact and communicate with survivors diminishes over time; this point increases the feeling of urgency and persuasiveness of argument.

Bolt's inclusion of Holocaust Studies lenses creates an opportunity to share a useful definition of "representation" followed by engagement with survivor narrative by Primo Levi: "the reflectionist trap I tend to invoke and explore is that tutors and students may come to regard Holocaust writing as a means of sampling the true horror, after which we can feel triumphantly knowledgeable and without a real need to learn more" (39). Indeed this concept is useful in all of DS. This especially strong chapter also buttresses Bolt's multivalent, multi-multidisciplinary approaches to analyzing texts (or "texts"): analysis of such dizzying, immense-of-scale, horrific historical moments, fresh again to the public during the current political climate of xenophobia, calls for "a polyphonic approach" (40), a need recognized by Levi, and a respect for the power of "artifactuality" (44) in both HS and DS. When dealing with trauma, a researcher or learner must have an appreciation of complexity because it is only through a complex array of perspectives that the truth can be approximated.

A small lacuna appears during Chapter 4's analysis of Bobbie Ann Mason's "Shiloh," specifically where Bolt craftily analyzes the infantilization of Leroy, a man whose semi rig's crash leaves him with a damaged body and who occupies himself doing arts and crafts, recreating his rig in lamp form, and creating a log cabin out of popsicle sticks (53). The text shifts to psychoanalytic perspectives, mentioning castration, emasculation, uselessness, discursive castration—relationship problems and unhappiness, "erosion of desire" (53). Here is a missing acknowledgement (aside from a passing mention of asexuality) of asexual/ aromantic/ grey-spectrum sexualities and instead privileging of or assumption of sexual desire as normal. This would have been a great place to at least footnote how sexual desire is assumed to be the norm or default, and the role that this assumption plays in the cultural construction of disability and happiness.

The book also lacks emphasis on perspectives from race studies and post-/anti-colonial lenses; those perspectives have a phantom presence (e.g. in mentions of eugenics and intersectionality) but are not brought to the fore and directly addressed, which leaves them peripheral, marginalized. Therefore, it is necessary to read the text and to present it to learners alongside works like Campbell's "Exploring Internalized Ableism Using Critical Race Theory" and Cheu's Diversity in Disney Films: Critical Essays on Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality, and Disability as well as other more recent texts that do not get a nod (Connor et al.) because the book's centering of whiteness may be invisible otherwise. But the book still has much value and use, as long as that limitation is acknowledged up front. And that isn't too hard to do, due to the text's insistence on the value of complexity, multipleness, and overlapping of interdisciplinary perspectives.

Works Cited

  • Annamma, Subini A. DisCrit: Disability Studies and Critical Race Theory In Education. Teachers College Press, 2016.
  • Baglieri, Susan, et al. "Disability studies in education: The need for a plurality of perspectives on disability." Remedial and Special Education 32.4 (2011): 267-278. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741932510362200
  • Connor, David J., et al. "Disability studies and inclusive education—implications for theory, research, and practice." International Journal of Inclusive Education 12.5-6 (2008): 441-457. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603110802377482
  • Davis, Lennard J. The disability studies reader. Routledge, 2016. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315680668
  • Gabel, Susan Lynn, ed. Disability Studies in Education: Readings in Theory And Method. Vol. 3. Peter Lang, 2005.
  • Goodley, Dan. Disability studies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction. Sage, 2016.
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