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

The Art of Flourishing: Conversations on Disability

Director: Erik Parens
Co-director: Joel Michael Reynolds

Associate director: Liz Bowen
Chief Project Advisor: Rosemarie Garland-Thomson

Funder: National Endowment for the Humanities

The Art of Flourishing: Conversations on Disability convenes 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 will feature a range of scholars, artists, writers, and thought leaders with disabilities to engage in conversation about how they use and refuse technology in their work and lives. Each conversation will focus on an art form, such as a memoir, dance, or documentary, that explores how technology promotes or thwarts their flourishing and feeling at home in the world. Each event will begin with a presentation by the creator, followed by responses from humanities scholars, and then an in-depth conversation with the audience, both in-person and via livestream. If modern technologies are to deliver on their promise of a better life, then it is crucial to appreciate how they in fact promote or thwart a meaningful life.

Presenters include: Elizabeth Barnes (author of the The Minority Body: A Theory of Disability); Julia Watts Belser (who brings disability culture into conversation with the Jewish tradition and queer theory); Michael Berube (author of Life As We Know It: A Father, A Family, and an Exceptional Child; Emily Rapp Black (author of the memoir The Still Point of the Turning World);  Teresa Blankmeyer Burke (the first signing deaf woman in the world to receive a doctorate of philosophy); Eli Clare (writer, speaker, activist, and author of Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure); Haben Girma (disability rights activist, champion of new technologies to promote the flourishing of people with disabilities, and the first Deafblind person to graduate from the Harvard Law School); Georgina Kleege (author of More Than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art);  Rachel Kolb (author of “Sensations of Sound”); Rod Michalko (author of the memoir The Two in One: Walking with Smokie, Walking with Blindness); Anand Prahlad (author of the memoir The Secret Life of a Black Aspie); David James Savarese (a non-speaking person with autism who co-created Deej, a documentary about his life); Ralph Savarese (author of Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption (Other Press 2007); Alice Sheppard (choreographer of, and dancer in, Doors, in which the wheelchair and crutches she uses to ambulate in her day-to-day life become prominent elements); Leah Smith Stramondo (disability activist featured in the documentary Far from the Tree): Joseph Stramando (philosopher, bioethicist, and disability studies scholar also featured in the documentary Far from the Tree); Gregor Wolbring (professor of disability studies, whose reflections were featured in the documentary film Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Enhancement); Alice Wong (founder of the founder of the Disability Visibility Project, which was created on the 25th anniversary of the ADA to collect oral histories of people with disabilities in the United States).

Learn more.

(Pictured above: Alice Sheppard, in her wheelchair, rolls into a shoulder stand. Photo by Britten Traughber)

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