Composing Disabilities Conference at the George Washington University

Composing Disabilities Conference at the George Washington University

It has been a couple of very busy weeks for me academically. I submitted a couple of paper proposals to conferences scheduled for the coming fall. Their topics, and also their locations, are very appealing. I think they would be fascinating to attend as well as provide a great opportunity for me to share some sections of my dissertation work with a wider audience. I'm particularly hopeful that one of them will result in a presentation opportunity for me. Getting those abstracts finished and sent off was a great step forward and helped me feel like my dissertation project has legs to stand on. It was only a few days later that the time to pack up arose and so I headed off from sunny San Diego to a few days in Washington DC.

It was great to get back to DC as it always feels a little like home to me. I taught a little to some excellent students and enjoyed working in familiar surroundings. While there, I attended a wonderful conference titled "Composing Disabilities" and it was a fantastic experience. There were so many highlights for me. A few talks included the talk on cross-species identification by David Mitchell, a keynote on common ground between disability and animal studies by Sunaura Taylor, and a interesting paper on service animals by Haylie Swenson. The first has kindled a strong desire to read Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the second has really helped me better understand pieces of my dissertation project that I had been really struggling with, and the third took me back to the great book titled Animal Stories

All three of the scholars, and the conference more generally, really drove home for me the importance of a community. It was an inspirational few days to be around so many activists and writers. It all helped inspire, challenge, and motivate me in my studies and activism. In fact, I was so energized that I worked through revisions of my dissertation prospectus on the flight home, eager to continue digging deeper and wider in my project. Yesterday, I submitted the first draft of my dissertation prospectus to a faculty member and it was extremely exciting. I know full well that I might be waiting on the edge of my seat for some time but to be on the other side of having hit the "send" button, and with so many new and different trajectories to consider after the conference, is a wonderful feeling.

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the most lasting and significant impression the past few weeks has left on me is the importance of the digital humanities. While familiar and supportive of the many, various meanings, initiatives, and ideas about the digital humanities prior to these past few weeks, there was something very powerful about this recent conference that helped solidify for me just how powerfully enabling so many of the digital technologies can be. It was as if I really felt, quite viscerally, just how exclusionary so many traditional material can be. I guess put simply, I had a real awakening to just how far and wide ableism spreads.

I did not find myself departing in despair, however. There were simply too many people doing too much good work for me to depart DC feeling anything less than inspired, hopeful, and grateful.