Calls for Contributors

Burning Borders: Disability Brought to Bear

The Activist History Review invites proposals for our October 2019 issue, “Burning Borders: Disability Brought to Bear.”

The Activist History Review invites proposals for our October 2019 issue, “Burning Borders: Disability Brought to Bear.”

To border is to boundarize, to carve up, to mark the outer limits of spaces, objects, and concepts. It cuts our landscapes and shapes our subjectivities; it is as much a process of signifying that which is, as that which is not. Bordering is, in short, a creative act that generates a profound yet arbitrary abstraction: boundary. And, as supposedly immutable yet intrinsically vulnerable demarcations, boundaries demand our attention.

This is nowhere more evident than in the pursuit of disability as a line of academic inquiry. Disability Studies (DS) and Disability History (DH), after all, would not exist without distinction between that which concerns some scholars but not others. As subsidiaries of already-bounded disciplines, these fields are brought into being by demarcating between ability and disability—a province historically tended by religious leaders, medical and legal professionals, bureaucrats and statisticians. This knowledge now takes shape within a mesh of tenure and academic libraries, research funding and peer-review, healthcare and life insurance, exorbitant tuition and student debt, contingent faculty and corporate contracts. 

The result is what we call, ontologically speaking, “disability”: a term buttressed by nation-states, hemispheres, and historical periods; with certain ethnicities, races, and languages, but not others; and with subjects who lay claim to disability by way of a privileged set of impairments that do not present significant ethical dilemmas in and of themselves. Cerebral palsy—not sickle cell anemia; deafness—not diabetes; victimized, innocent, and willful subjects—not violent, guilty, or disavowing subjects. What we call “disability,” in other words, is safeguarded by accessibility regimes that seek to manage who should and should not know or speak about disability.

Kathleen Brian, “Burning Borders,” September 11, 2019.

And so, The Activist History Review seeks submissions that engage irregular epistemologies, reconnoiter deviant histories, and transgress inveterate boundaries—all in service to bringing disability’s pasts to bear on the present. What are the boundaries, both abstract and material, that have defined disability as lived experience, epistemology, and object of inquiry? How have these boundaries been ignored or disavowed, reified or reconfigured, disrupted or destroyed? How can all of this be brought to bear on the present, and on present imaginings of future possibilities? And, not least of all, what might happen if our borders burned? 

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • genealogies of accessibility regimes.
  • disability and geographic or socioeconomic borders.
  • disability as it interacts with race, ethnicity, age, gender, and sexuality.
  • mobility, immobility, and immobilization.
  • disability, epistemology, and boundaries between academic fields.
  • disability history, archival access, and HIPAA restrictions.
  • disability, disavowal, and transgression.

We hope, moreover, that you will transgress traditional boundaries of scholarly writing, which is to say: experiment please! We invite submissions not only in essay form (1250-1500 words), but also guidebooks, audio files, teaching documents, autotheory, cartography, cartoons, dialogues, speculative fiction, photography, and otherwise.

Please submit a 250-word proposal to guest editors Kathleen Brian ( and Alexandria Einspahr ( no later than Monday, September 23 at 11:59 pm. Accompanying said proposal should be a brief bio of roughly 100 words. For collaborative projects, please submit a brief bio for each contributor.

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