Critical Conversations towards disability justice

The Crip, The Fat and The Ugly in an Age of Austerity: Resistance, Reclamation and Affirmation 

Journal snapshot Kirsty and Jen

This month has been full of critical conversations towards disability justice – that which ‘has the power to not only challenge our thinking about access but to fundamentally change the way we understand organizing and how we fight for social change’ (Mingus, 2011) – in various guises. Firstly, I’m proud to say that the Special Issue of Review of Disability Studies (RDS) Jen Slater, Sheffield Hallam, and I have worked on, along with many brilliant article authors, has recently been published.

Our Special Issue entitled, The Crip, The Fat and The Ugly in an Age of Austerity: Resistance, Reclamation and Affirmation (Vol. 14, No. 2), invited contributions that troubled the impacts of neoliberal austerity upon the bodies and minds of marginalised others:

Our original desire in putting out this call was to critically explore the processes and politics of austerity upon diverse and marginalized embodiments in neoliberal and advanced capitalist times. Global austerity has a far reach, often into, around, behind, beyond and alongside the body. Global austerity routinely categorizes body-minds[i] in terms of productivity, value, cost, ability and aesthetics. Body-minds are positioned vis-a-vis global austerity as a site for social order, economic possibility, progression, and big business. Whereas “[a]n able body is the body of a citizen; deformed deafened, amputated, obese, female, perverse, crippled, maimed and blinded bodies do not make up the body politic” (Davis, 1995, pp. 71–72). In devising this forum, we yearned for space to contemplate the aesthetics, experiences and the reification of body-minds – how capitalism makes sense of and shapes body-minds; the ways in which austerity both marks and produces bodies and selves, and the means through which these are further shaped by disability, race, class, gender, age, size, sexuality, and nation. Although we explore aspects of these in our own work (Liddiard, 2018; Slater, 2015), we wanted to create a space to connect with others and think about diverse and marginalized embodiments in austere times. In this introduction, we story the process through which we put the issue together, from our original decision making and putting out the call, to supporting authors to revise their contributions. We do so because we feel it’s a fitting way to speak to the inclusions and exclusions made in this forum. At the same time, we feel it offers a broader commentary as to the “state” of global disability studies today’.

Slater and Liddiard (2018)

We had the following intriguing and insightful contributions from an exciting collection of authors:

  • My Infectious Encounters as an Autistic Epidemic, Jessica L. Benham (2018)
  • Reclaiming the Margins in the Face of the Quantified Self, Gabi Schaffzin (2018)
  • NoBody’s Perfect: Charm, Willfulness and Resistance, Maria Tsakiri (2018)
  • Working to Feel Better or Feeling Better to Work? Discourses of Wellbeing in Austerity Reality TV, Rowan Voirrey Sandle, Katy Day, Tom Muskett (2018)

Unfortunately, the Review of Disability Studies operates behind a paywall, so if you would like access to these articles or our introductory essay, please get in touch:

Disabled Under-18s: Rights to Online Information/Communication about Sexual Relationships, European Children’s Rights Unit, University of Liverpool

On Wednesday 13th June, I was invited to speak to the European Children’s Rights Unit at the Liverpool Law School, University of Liverpool. I spoke about my research on the intimate lives of disabled people, and more specifically, the ways in which online spaces, cultures and worlds can serve as sites of access to love, sex and intimacy for disabled young people. In addition, I shared the ways in which our current ESRC arts-informed co-produced project, Life, Death, Disability and the Human: Living Life to the Fullest is centring online methods of inquiry and virtual research leadership in ways that are enabling young disabled people with shorter lives to co-lead research that is about their lives and futures.

Using stories from my new book, The Intimate Lives of Disabled People (2018, Routledge), I emphasised online and virtual worlds as potential accessible spaces that offer opportunities to build identity, and access community and emerging forms of cyber-citizenship. My contributions asked vital questions of future inquiry on the intersections of disability, children’s and young people’s rights, and their sexual and intimate citizenship. For example, how can online spaces, cultures and worlds open up more radical or emancipatory forms of sexual citizenship and selfhood for young disabled people, and how might we support young people to access these?

Attendees included academics and researchers, education professionals from mainstream and SEND schools, representatives from Brook and other sex, youth and disability organisations, and community members and activists. The aim now is to further build the critical dialogues that emerged into planning for future research – so watch this space!

To follow the European Children’s Rights Unit on Twitter, see @LIVEChildRights



  • Davis, L. (1995). Enforcing normalcy: Disability, deafness, and the body. London and New York: Verso.
  • Liddiard, K. (2018). The intimate lives of disabled people. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Mingus, M. (2011) Changing the Framework:Disability Justice. Online. Available from: [Accessed 14/6/2018]
  • Slater, J. (2015). Youth and disability: A challenge to Mr Reasonable. Interdisciplinary Disability Studies. London and New York: Routledge.

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