CFP - Normalcy and Disability: Intersections Among Norms, Law, and Culture

CFP: 'Normalcy and Disability: Intersections Among Norms, Law, and Culture’

A Special Issue of Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies
Published 2017

Guest Editors: Dr Linda Steele (School of Law& Legal Intersections Research Centre, University of Wollongong), Professor Gerard Goggin (Department of Media and Communication Studies, University of Sydney) & Dr Jessica Robyn Cadwallader (independent scholar)

Deadline for abstracts: 1 October 2015

There is increased scholarly attention to the positioning as ‘abnormal’ of people with disability, as well as people possessing other dimensions of marginalised identity (such as queer, chronic illness, racial and Indigenous minorities, poverty and criminality). Scholars have critiqued the cultural and material role of technologies of diagnosis and therapy, and discourses of biomedicine and science, in the construction of abnormality, as well as the significant and primary role of disability in the positioning of other dimensions of identity as abnormal. In critiquing abnormality, scholars are increasingly drawing attention to the converse: ‘normalcy’. Normalcy is a privileged, yet strikingly vacant and difficult to define, category which gains its existence and status from its relationship to the constitution and ‘abjection’ of abnormality. 
At the same time as this increased scholarly attention to disability, abnormality and normalcy, there have been political and legal advancements in the recognition of these marginalised groups as requiring enhanced human rights and legal protections, reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (‘Disability Convention) and various domestic law reform inquiries.  Law also has the capacity to support the development of technologies that can assist and support people with disability, as well as limiting their development and availability. Yet there are a number of contemporary circumstances that run counter to these political developments. One set of circumstances is technological advancements are making it more possible to give ‘objective’, scientific certification of individuals and categories of individuals as abnormal, echoing existing normative designations in the dominant cultural imaginary. Another set is geopolitical conditions such as armed conflict, forced migration and international development that are themselves generating disability, extreme poverty and dislocation. A third set of circumstances is shifting economic conditions which are demanding the measuring of the economic worth and productivity of abnormal individuals and categories. Together these circumstances are placing people with disability and other abnormal individuals in greater precariousness and legitimating their subjection to violent interventions in their lives and bodies even to the point of death or the prevention of existence.
This special edition of Continuum will consider the place of law in these political, social, scientific and biomedical developments relating to disability and other categories of ‘abnormality’. The special edition will include consideration of how categories of abnormality relate to the privileged position of ‘normalcy’ and how legal interventions in abnormality relate to existing normative designations in the dominant cultural imaginary. This special edition is concerned with how law produces cultural meanings, norms, representations, artefacts and expressions of disability, abnormality and normalcy, as well as how law responds to and is constituted by cultures of disability, abnormality and normalcy circulating in society more broadly. We are interested in papers from a range of disciplinary approaches which critically examine the relationships between law, disability, abnormality and normalcy, such as:

  • The legal construction of disability and/or other dimensions of marginalised identity in terms of abnormality and normalcy
  • The roles of medical discourse, scientific discourse and diagnostic and therapeutic practices in the legal construction of normal and abnormal legal subjectivity
  • The tensions and relationships between legal, media and advocacy representations of disability and/or other abnormal dimensions of identity in relation to rights and law reform developments
  • The role of disability and abnormality in the construction of foundational concepts of law
  • The normal legal subject
  • The roles of normalcy and abnormality in ordering law and legal subjects and in legitimating operation of power and violence (over the normal and abnormal)
  • The relationships between normalcy, equality and discrimination
  • Intersections between dimensions of abnormality, particularly the role of disability in the positioning of other dimensions of marginalised identity in relation to normalcy
  • The relationships between abnormal categories and legal discourses of vulnerability, risk and deviancy
  • Shifts in legal constructions of normalcy and disability over historical periods and between different areas of law or jurisdictions
  • Legal strategies for contesting normalcy
  • Human rights and the construction of or contestation of abnormality and normalcy
  • The cultural effects on abnormality of recent policy shifts such as the Disability Convention, National Disability Insurance Scheme, and other law reform developments
  • The relationship between law, abnormality and normalcy and technological, scientific and biomedical advancements relating to people with disability
  • Legal boundaries between disability and normalcy
  • The role of law in mediating assistive technologies and other dimensions of disability culture

Please submit an abstract of 300 words by 1 October 2015 to all three editors:;;
If invited, a full paper of no more than 6000 words will be due by 15 February 2016. All articles will be subject to a blind refereeing process.  
Authors are strongly encouraged to contact the editors with any questions or to discuss their proposed topic in advance of submitting an abstract.