Philosophy of Disability and the Global Pandemic

As readers and listeners of BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY know, in the last several years I have published articles, reviews, and a book that both outline the social and professional position of disabled philosophers and motivated the institutional and disciplinary emergence and current status of philosophy of disability. Most of this work can be found here.

In 2018, I published “Philosophy of Disability as Critical Diversity Studies” in the inaugural issue of The International Journal of Critical Diversity Studies (IJCDS), a publication of the WITS Centre for Diversity Studies (WiCDS) at the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg. Last October, at the kind invitation of Melissa Steyn, the Director of WiCDS and Editor-In-Chief of IJCDS, I delivered a keynote lecture entitled “Situating Disabled Philosophers and Philosophy of Disability in Philosophy” to an audience at Disabling Normativities, the outstanding conference that WiCDS organized. Photos of the conference are here.

Now, as guest editor, I will be teaming up with Melissa and IJCDS to produce a special issue on philosophy of disability and the global pandemic.

Notwithstanding the posts about COVID-19 that have appeared on this blog since the outset of the pandemic (e.g., here, here, here, and here), philosophical discussions with respect to disability and the pandemic have been largely medicalized, depoliticized, and decontextualized, primarily shaped by bioethicists who repeatedly obscure the myriad of social and political questions and concerns that disability raises in the context of COVID-19 (and even before and beyond its occurrence), reducing their complexity to choices about preferred (bio)ethical frameworks for “triage” protocols.

This special issue of IJCDS will go some distance to change the way that disability is framed in discussions about the pandemic that circulate in philosophy, drawing attention to the historical, social, and political precursors and mechanisms that have produced this largely medicalized understanding of disability in the context of COVID-19 and the social, economic, and political circumstances that this understanding of (the apparatus of) disability conceals and reconstitutes.

As early as next week, I will circulate a call for abstracts to this exciting special issue of IJCDS. The special issue will be international in scope, with contributions from disabled philosophers of disability situated in a variety of global contexts. The deadline for abstracts to the issue will be the end of June; so, you should start to think seriously about what urgently needs to be said about disability and the pandemic and how you will say it. The publication of this special issue will be your chance to push back against the mainstream (nondisabled, white, male, cis, and propertied) perspectives that have dominated philosophical and other academic discussions about disability and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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