Black and white photo of wheelchair dancer Alice Shepard, with Alice, a white woman, on the ground and her wheelchair in the air.

Public Events Series: The Art of Flourishing: Conversations on Disability

The Art of Flourishing: Conversations on Disability is a series of six public events in New York City during 2019 to 2021 that will explore how technologies can be used to promote or thwart meaningful, flourishing lives. Because people with disabilities are especially proficient at living in a world not built for them, they are often experts at negotiating technologies to seek their own flourishing.

The events, organized by The Hastings Center and supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, feature a range of scholars, artists, writers, and thought leaders with disabilities engaging in conversations about how they use — and why they may refuse — technology in their work and lives. The events are free and open to the public, and they are accessible to people with disabilities. (Pictured above: Alice Sheppard, in her wheelchair, rolls into a shoulder stand. Photo by Britten Traughber)

Event 5. Enjoying: Disability as a Creative Force

To experience disabled joy is to feel pleasure, abundance, and fulfillment because of—not despite—disability. Whether through engaging with artworks, wandering in the wilderness, or sharing a meal with friends, disability often opens up forms of movement and relation that would not otherwise be possible. In this webinar, artists, and writers Jerron Herman, Georgina Kleege, and Julia Watts Belser will discuss how being disabled is a source of creativity, experimentation, and community in their own lives and work.

Access note: CART captioning and ASL interpretation was provided.

Transcript — Enjoying. Disability as a Creative Force Transcript generated from speech recognition software and may contain errors. 

Black and white photo of Jerron Herman, a dark-skinned Black man with a beard, wearing a white button up looking into the camera with a slight smile. Photo by Fernando VillelaJerron Herman is a disabled dancer and writer who creates works to facilitate welcoming. Jerron regularly writes on art and culture and currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Dance/USA as Vice Chair. He’s currently a member of disability arts collective Kinetic Light. His awards include a 2020 Disability Futures Fellowship by the Ford and Mellon Foundations respectively, as well as the Grants to Artists Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts and a Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship from the Jerome Foundation, both in 2021. 

Georgina Kleege, a white woman with a short white bob haircut, beams at the camera with a wide smile, holding her white cane in front of her.Georgina Kleege teaches in the English department at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of the personal essay collection Sight Unseen (1999), a classic in the field of disability studies, as well as Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller (2006). Kleege’s latest book, More than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art (2018) is concerned with blindness and visual art: how blindness is represented in art, how blindness affects the lives of visual artists, how museums can make visual art accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired. She has lectured and served as consultant to art institutions around the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London.

A portrait-style photo of Julia Watts Belser, a white, curly-haired woman, sitting happily in her wheelchair in front of a garden with pink flowers. She's wearing a patterned red blazer and red kippah (beret) to match.Julia Watts Belser (she/her) is a scholar, rabbi, activist, and spiritual teacher.  She is associate professor of Jewish Studies at Georgetown University and core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies program, where she brings Jewish texts into conversation with queer, disability, and feminist ethics. Her most recent scholarly book is Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem. She co-authored the Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities, developed in collaboration with disability activists from 42 countries, to help challenge the root causes of poverty, gender violence, and disability discrimination.  She also directs an initiative on disability, climate change, and environmental justice—and she’s a passionate wheelchair hiker and lover of wild places.

CO-ORGANIZERS

Erik Parens is director of The Hastings Center’s Initiative in Bioethics and the Humanities, co-editor with Adrienne Asch of Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights, and author of Shaping Our Selves: Technology, Flourishing, and a Habit of Thinking.

Joel Michael Reynolds is a senior advisor at The Hastings Center, assistant professor of philosophy and disability studies at Georgetown University, a senior research scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, and core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies Program. He is also the founder of The Journal of Philosophy of Disability, which he edits with Teresa Blankmeyer Burke.

Liz Bowen is the 2020-2022 Rice Family Postdoctoral Fellow in Bioethics and the Humanities at The Hastings Center. Her scholarly work explores the intersections of disability studies, the environmental humanities, bioethics, and American literature. She is also the author of two poetry collections dealing with disability and chronic illness: Sugarblood (2017) and Compassion Fountain (2021).

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson is a professor emerita of English and bioethics at Emory University and a senior advisor and fellow at The Hastings Center. She is co-editor of About Us: Essays from the Disabilities Series of the New York Times (2019), a book based on The New York Times’s pioneering series.

Event 4. Questioning Cure: Disability, Identity, and Healing

Should cure be the ultimate aim of health care? Sometimes aiming at cure entails trying to fix disability rather than enabling disabled people to flourish. Sometimes it obscures the goal of healing. And sometimes aiming at cure entails failing to distinguish between disease and difference. In this webinar, disabled writers and educators Anand Prahlad, Ann Millett-Gallant, and Karen Nakamura discuss how the idea of cure has shaped their own lives and how we can think beyond cure.

Transcript — Questioning_Cure_Disability_Identity_and_Healing Transcript generated from speech recognition software and may contain errors. 

Featured guests:

Anand Prahlad, a Black man with long dreadlocks, looks directly at the camera with a big smile on his face.

Anand Prahlad is a Curators’ Distinguished Professor emeritus in the department of English at the University of Missouri. He is a folklorist, literary author, disability activist, and musician. His books include Reggae Wisdom: Proverbs in Jamaican Music, a scholarly study; As Good as Mango, a collection of poetry; and The Secret Life of a Black Aspie, a disability memoir.

 

Ann Millett-Gallant, a white woman wearing a pink and green shirt, sits at a table and smiles. Her arms, which end below the elbow, are placed on the table in front of her.

Ann Millett-Gallant is an art historian and disability studies scholar who teaches in the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal and Interdisciplinary Studies program at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She is the author of Re-Membering, a memoir about being congenitally physically disabled and experiencing traumatic brain injury, as well as The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art, the first scholarly monograph to cross the disciplines of art history and disability studies. Her teaching practices and research analyze representations of disability and its intersections with multiple identities as portrayed in two- and three-dimensional artwork.

 

Karen Nakamura holds a beagle wearing a service dog vest in her arms. She has a relaxed smile on her face as both she and the dog gaze into the camera.

Karen Nakamura is a cultural and visual anthropologist at the University of California Berkeley. Her first book was titled Deaf in Japan: Signing and the Politics of Identity (2006). Her next project resulted in two ethnographic films and a monograph titled, A Disability of the Soul: An Ethnography of Schizophrenia and Mental Illness in Contemporary Japan (2014). While finishing a book on the intersections of transsexuality and disability politics in postwar Japan, Nakamura is currently collaborating on research involving the impact of artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) on disability communities.

 
CO-ORGANIZERS

Erik Parens is director of The Hastings Center’s Initiative in Bioethics and the Humanities, co-editor with Adrienne Asch of Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights, and author of Shaping Our Selves: Technology, Flourishing, and a Habit of Thinking.

Joel Michael Reynolds is assistant professor of philosophy and disability studies at Georgetown University, a senior research scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, and core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies Program. He is also the founder of The Journal of Philosophy of Disability, which he edits with Teresa Blankmeyer Burke.

Liz Bowen is the 2020-2022 Rice Family Postdoctoral Fellow in Bioethics and the Humanities at The Hastings Center. Her scholarly work explores the intersections of disability studies, the environmental humanities, bioethics, and American literature. She is also the author of two poetry collections dealing with disability and chronic illness: Sugarblood (2017) and Compassion Fountain (2021).

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson is a professor emerita of English and bioethics at Emory University and a senior advisor and fellow at The Hastings Center. She is co-editor of About Us: Essays from the Disabilities Series of the New York Times (2019), a book based on The New York Times’s pioneering series.

Event 3. Disrupting Ableism with Artful Activism

What will it take to bring about lasting justice for disabled people in the United States? When will every body—and every voice—be indispensable? Poets and activists Lateef McLeod and D.J. Savarese imagine a society led by people with disabilities and show how disabled communities are already building this world through creative forms of resistance.

 

 

 

Transcript — Disrupting_Ableism_with_Artful_Activism Transcript generated from speech recognition software and may contain errors. 

FEATURED PRESENTERS:

Lateef McLeodLateef McLeod, a Black man wearing a blue jersey, is caught in the middle of laughing. His eyes are pressed shut and a smile stretches across his face. is a poet, blogger, activist, and PhD candidate in the Anthropology and Social Change Doctoral program at California Institute for Integral Studies. His poetry, activism, and scholarship are all informed by his experience living in the Bay Area with cerebral palsy. He published his first book of poetry, A Declaration of a Body af Love, in 2010, and his second poetry book, Whispers of Krip Love, Shouts of Krip Revolutionin 2020.

 

David James SavareseDJ Savarese, a white man with short, dark hair, poses contemplatively against a gray wall. His hands are raised before him as if in motion, one of them holding a pen. is an artful activist and founder of Listen2Us: Writing Our Own Futures. The recipient of an Open Society Foundations Human Rights Initiative Community Youth Fellowship in 2017-2019, he is also co-producer and narrative commentator of the Peabody award-winning documentary Deej: Inclusion Shouldn’t Be a Lottery. A graduate of Oberlin Collegehe has published widely, including his chapbook, A Doorknob for the Eye, and a notable essay in the 2018 Best American Essays, “Passive Plants.”

 

CO-ORGANIZERS

Erik Parens is director of The Hastings Center’s Initiative in Bioethics and the Humanities, co-editor with Adrienne Asch of Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights, and author of Shaping Our Selves: Technology, Flourishing, and a Habit of Thinking.

Joel Michael Reynolds is assistant professor of philosophy and disability studies at Georgetown University, a senior research scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, and core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies Program. He is also the founder of The Journal of Philosophy of Disability, which he edits with Teresa Blankmeyer Burke.

Liz Bowen is the 2020-2022 Rice Family Postdoctoral Fellow in Bioethics and the Humanities at The Hastings Center. Her scholarly work explores the intersections of disability studies, the environmental humanities, bioethics, and American literature. She is also the author of two poetry collections dealing with disability and chronic illness: Sugarblood (2017) and Compassion Fountain (2021).

Ralph James Savarese is the author of four books, including Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption, and See It Feelingly: Classic Novels, Autistic Readers, and the Schooling of a No-Good English Professor. He teaches at Grinnell College. 

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson is a professor emerita of English and bioethics at Emory University and a senior advisor and fellow at The Hastings Center. She is co-editor of About Us: Essays from the Disabilities Series of the New York Times (2019), a book based on The New York Times’s pioneering series.

See resources for the series. Previous events listed below.

Event 2. Navigating: On Disability, Technology, and Experiencing the World
September 29, 2020

[00:00-38:40 SPEAKER VIEW, 38:41-2:00:00 GALLERY VIEW]

Transcript for the event is available here. Transcript generated from speech recognition software and may contain errors. 

Featuring:

Yomi S. Wrong. Wrong is a health care professional, freelance journalist, and disability justice activist whose talk will explore the relationship between assistive devices, agency, and desirability. She will identify a moment in childhood where she learned a hard truth about access to mobility equipment being central to identity development. And she will ask, what happens when assistive technology is stripped away or foisted on us? The ways disabled folks navigate and the experiences we have in the world qualitatively shift based on the tools at our disposal. The right devices can liberate us, provide a sense of identity and esteem, and offer clarity about who we are.

WATCH: Q&A with Yomi Wrong and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson.


Rod Michalko. Compared to most, navigating the world is different for Michalko. He is blind. Smokie, his guide dog, guided him for years; now he uses a white cane. Both ways bring the world to Rod and each takes blindness into the world differently. As a sociologist, he has written many books and articles about his experiences navigating–his favorite, The Two in One: Walking with Smokie, Walking with Blindness. He will speak of these experiences.
WATCH: Q&A with Rod Michalko and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson.

Kim Q. Hall. For Hall, queerness and childhood surgery shape a limping-swaggering mode of navigating the world that is situated between disability and ability. Hall considers the relation between heteronormativity, ableism, and technologies aimed at curing/eliminating disability. Hall is Professor of Philosophy and a faculty affiliate of the Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies program at Appalachian State University.
WATCH: Q&A with Kim Q. Hall and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson.

Event 1. Belonging: On Disability, Technology, and Community
December 3, 2019

Featuring

Haben Girma, The first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Haben believes disability is an opportunity for innovation. She travels the world teaching the benefits of choosing inclusion, and has received numerous honors for her work. She is the author of the bestselling new book Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law.

Rachel Kolb, Rachel Kolb is a writer and a PhD candidate in English literature at Emory University, where her work explores ideas about deafness, language, the senses, and communication in American literature and culture. She graduated from Stanford University and was the first Deaf Rhodes scholar at Oxford. Her writing has been featured in The New York Times and The Atlantic, and she gave a TED talk at TEDx Stanford in 2013.

Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, The first signing Deaf woman in the world to receive a PhD in philosophy, Blankmeyer Burke is an associate professor of philosophy and faculty administrator of professional development at Gallaudet University. She characterizes her work as “deaf philosophy — the space where philosophy intersects with Deaf studies.” 

Erik Parens, senior research scholar at The Hastings Center, director of the Center’s Initiative in Bioethics and the Humanities, and author of Shaping Our Selves: Technology, Flourishing, and a Habit of Thinking, will introduce the event.

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, professor of English and bioethics at Emory University and co-editor of About Us: Essays from the Disabilities Series of the New York Times, a new book based on The New York Times’s pioneering series, will moderate the conversation among the panelists.

Joel Michael Reynolds, the Rice Family Fellow in Bioethics and the Humanities at The Hastings Center and an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and author of Ethics After Ableism: Disability, Pain, and the History of Morality, will facilitate the sustained conversation with the audience.

Resources for this event:

Burke, Teresa Blankmeyer, “Gene Therapy: A Threat to the Deaf Community?” Impact Ethics blog, March 3, 2017. https://impactethics.ca/2017/03/02/gene-therapy-a-threat-to-the-deaf-community/

Brenda Brueggemann, Deaf Subjects: Between Identities and Places, New York University Press, 2009.

Michael Chorost, Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human. Mariner Books, Reprint edition, 2006.

Haben Girma, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard, 2019.

Sarah Katz, “Is There a Right Way to Be Deaf?”, New York Times, November 7, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/opinion/health/is-there-a-right-way-to-be-deaf.html.

Rachel Kolb, “Sensations of Sound,” New York Times, November 3, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/opinion/cochlear-implant-sound-music.html.

Rachel Kolb, “The Deaf Body in Public Space,” New York Times, September 28, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/28/opinion/the-deaf-body-in-public-space.html.

Rachel Kolb and Little Moving Pictures, “Can You Read My Lips?”, 2015. https://vimeo.com/148127830.

Laura Mauldin, Made to Hear: Cochlear Implants and Raising Deaf Children. University of Minnesota Press, 2016.

Sara Nović, “Sign of the Times,” Guernica, March 14, 2016. https://www.guernicamag.com/sara-novic-sign-of-the-times/.

Sara Nović, “A Clearer Message on Cochlear Implants,” New York Times, November 28, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/21/opinion/deaf-cochlear-implants-sign-language.html.

Gerald Shea, The Language of Light: A History of Silent Voices, Yale University Press, 2017.

Christine Sun Kim, “The Enchanting Music of Sign Language,” TED Fellows Retreat, August 2015. https://www.ted.com/talks/christine_sun_kim_the_enchanting_music_of_sign_language.

(Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this event do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.)