Deaf World/Hearing World

As some of you may have gathered from my Tweets, my paper has been selected for the Deaf World/Hearing World: Spaces, Techniques, and Things in Culture and History Conference to take place on December 10-11 in Berlin. The conference is sponsored by the Max Planck Institute and Project Biocultures at the University of Chicago.

The history of deafness presents an exemplary model of a community’s mobilization for the recognition of a cultural identity. It is also an unequaled history of divisions across a broad range of pedagogy, techniques, and scientific inventions. Across the last four centuries at least, constructions of deafness as a cultural identity and/or as a disability have lead to opposite claims. Deafness became a focal point for arguments over citizenship, eugenics, language, theories of the mind, and the like. A different set of categories was produced to give voice to these claims and the dialogue between their supporters has been extremely difficult for lack of a common stake. Depending on the approach, one can say such a heated debate has given the question of deafness a very specific place among human variations. Sign language, in particular, has lead many to question the relationship between mind, body, and language. Topics include the use of objects and techniques for creating a space of encounter, conceptions of the relationship between humans and language, language and thought, or language and society across time and space. We are seeking explorations of the dialectic between hearing and silence, deaf and hearing as well as the technologies and ideologies that intervene between the deaf world and the hearing world, the deaf person and the hearing person.

My paper abstract:

Institutional Boundaries: The Early Years of the Royal Dispensary for Diseases of the Ear (est.1816)

The issue of medicalizing the deaf has been a primary source of conflict between the D/deaf community who regard medical treatments as an infringement to their culture, and medical practitioners who impose their paternalistic authority through medical and surgical treatments. The source of the tensions, however, goes beyond technological cures and is embodied in the historical role and conflict between medical and social efforts to cultivate “isolated” deaf individuals for social integration. This paper establishes roots in this historical picture by illustrating the early history of the Royal Dispensary for Diseases of the Ear (RDDE), founded in 1816 by the aurist-surgeon John Harrison Curtis (1784-1852) as the first nationally-recognized institution in Britain providing specialized care for deafness. In particular, this paper will demonstrate that the RDDE occupies a central place within the history of nineteenth century aural surgery, for it provides an interesting historical insight into the dialectic of spaces for deafness and hearing, as the objectives of the institution blur the boundaries between duty and philanthropy, as well as medicine and technology.

Founded at 38 Carlisle Street, London, near Soho Square, the RDDE was founded upon two main objectives: to expand on benevolent charity for a class of sufferers often neglected by society and medicine, and to provide a base whereby aural surgery could establish itself as a specialty, provide proper training to interested practitioners, and experiment with less invasive procedures for treating deafness. It was thus a space where the deaf population could go for medical advice, receive free or inexpensive hearing devices (e.g. trumpets, ear cornets), and even participate in a community conditioned largely by charity. In the first year of its establishment, 364 patients were admitted, 89 of which were cured, and 75 “relieved” of their maladies. By the end of 1820, the RDDE admitted 1,863 patients. As London society congratulated Curtis for rescuing a neglected class of diseases from ignorance and empiricism, the institution’s reputation grew more prominent; Royal patronage secured the reputation of the institution and it relocated to larger grounds at 10 Dean St., Soho, where it remained until 1876. By examining the discrepancies between the two objectives, a close history of the RDDE reveals the extent to which deafness was taken seriously as a medical and social ill and to which a cure was desperately sought within institutional boundaries.

Super excited!

CFP: “The Regimen of Bodily Health: Nourishment and Natural Knowledge”

“The Regimen of Bodily Health: Nourishment and Natural Knowledge”
HAPSAT 7th Annual Conference

“The body” as both a material object and metaphor, provides a rich source of inspiration for both philosophical and historical studies of the production and transmission of knowledge. Lawrence and Shapin’s influential anthology, Science Incarnate: Historical Embodiments of Natural Knowledge (1998) broke new ground in this area with discussions of bodies as tools for philosophical inquiry, what it means for knowledge to be “embodied” in physical artifacts, and how bodily self-presentation can generate disembodied knowledge. The body also presents an arena for interplay of ideas about proper management of health and diseases and the application of scientific and medical expertise. Seventeenth century physicians, for instance, recommended a mixture of medicine and dietetics for consumptive patients; proper dietary regimes were often based on theoretical ideas about nourishment and health. Moreover, the body and our ideas of the body have been a political battleground: within the “culture of dissection” and public executions; as displays of ecclesiastical value and status; as technologically manipulable aspects of the self; as and as subjects of experimental philosophy.

On Friday March 18, 2011, HAPSAT, the Graduate Student Society at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto, will host its seventh annual conference, The Regimen of Bodily Health: Nourishment and Natural Knowledge.

This year’s distinguished keynote is Steven Shapin (Dept. Of History of Science, Harvard University): “The Long History of Dietetics: Thinking about Food, Expertise, and the Self.” The keynote is jointly hosted by HAPSAT and the IHPST Colloquium Series.

We invite graduate students and recent graduates working in fields such as HPS, STS, history, sociology, philosophy, public health, anthropology, gender studies, and law, to submit paper and panel proposals that critically engage with this theme. For papers please email abstracts of up to 250 words to by December 1, 2010. For panels, please email a document with a 250 word abstract describing the panel as a whole in addition to individual abstracts for each paper (also 250 words). Each presenter will be given 20 minutes.

We welcome papers addressing, but not limited to, the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between embodied lives and disembodied knowledge?
  • How have health regimes influenced historical or philosophical ideas about the body?
  • Do philosophical ideas about the nature of the self, identity, and human agency affect society’s treatment of bodies?
  • To what extent have technologies of the body influenced science in practice (e.g. technologies of blood transfusion)?
  • How are food, bodies, and personal and institutional authority related within the modern medical establishment?
  • What is the relationship between personal appearance and epistemic authority?
  • How have ideas about the degenerate body (e.g. monsters, deformity, disease) been shaped by cultural or social beliefs?
  • How do different modes of food production and consumption affect the political relationships between bodies?
  • What sorts of new political relationships, and political philosophies, are likely to arise if technological advancement makes the transhumanist dream a reality?

We hope to be able to offer billeting and small travel subsides for graduate students travelling to Toronto for the conference.

For more information, visit the conference website (to be updated shortly). The pdf poster is also available.

CFP: Canadian Science Policy Conference 2010

The Canadian Science Policy Centre invites proposals for presentations at the upcoming Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC 2010) in Montreal, QC, from October 20-22, 2010.

CSPC is an annual event, specifically designed as a multi-sector forum for fostering science policy discourse in Canada. Those who attend, organize, and fund CSPC come from diverse sectors of the Canadian science policy community – from government and industry officials to business people, scientists, and academics – and the hope is that panel presentations will be similarly inclusive of Canada’s diverse interests in national, provincial, and municipal science policy. Thus, we will consider submissions from Canadian science policy stakeholders of quite diverse backgrounds.

Abstracts of no more than 300 words will be accepted until August 10, 2010. Please note that all proposals must be submitted under one of the five conference themes:

  • Increasing the Productivity of Canada’s Economy using Science and Technology
  • Global Perspectives on Science and Technology
  • Creating and Retaining Scientific Talent in Canada
  • A Glance at BioScience in Canada
  • Major Issues in Canadian Science Policy

Fifteen minutes will be allotted for each presentation, and each panel will be followed by a discussion period.

If you would like to present, please visit to submit an abstract.

Early bird registration for CSPC 2010 is now open.

For more information on science policy in Canada visit

Thank you,


CFP: Disability & the Victorians: Confronting Legacies

30th July-1st August 2012,  Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies, UK

Announcement and First Call for Papers

The nineteenth century was the period during which disability was conceptualised, categorised, and defined. The industrial revolution, advances in medicine, the emergence of philanthropy and the growth of asylums all played their part in creating what today’s society describes as the medical model of disability.

Disability can be traced through many forms: in material culture and literary genres; scientific, medical and official inquiries; art; architecture; the history of disabled charities; disabled people’s experiences; the legacy inherited by disabled people today of phrenology and physiognomy; events such as the 1880 Milan Conference, and the taxonomies and categories of disability – the handicapped; the deaf and dumb; the feeble minded; the blind; the imbecile and the cretin. The legacy of the relationship between the body, the scientific and the literary text; the intersection of disability, theories of evolution and anthropology, gender and degeneration. How can we draw disabled voices and testimonies together to construct ‘the long view’? What are the advantages and the challenges of teaching about disability and the disabled in the Victorian period?

Proposals for papers, panels, posters and other forms of presentation (e.g. creative writing) are invited that open up new lines of research and inquiry relating to any aspect of Disability in the Victorian period. Possible themes might include:

*       Resistance, conformity, subversion, transgression.
*       Freak shows and circuses.
*       The visibility and invisibility of disability: beggars, street sellers, hawkers; Victorian institutions, charities, asylums, schools and clubs.
*       Taxonomic practices.
*       Disabled heroes and villains; male vs. female invalidism; the school of pain.
*       Victorian technologies, prostheses, the emergence of audiology, the development and spread of Braille.
*       The revival of folkloric changelings.
*       Portrayals of children and childhood.
*       Disability as a moral force for improvement, theology and spiritual enlightenment/development.
*       The formation of Victorian national identity and national efficiency, empire, ‘race’ and colonialism.
*       Disability and the fear of loss, eugenics and degeneration.
*       The medical and scientific text.
*       Victorian social policy and legal frameworks.

Those with an involvement in disability, either through work, teaching or direct experience, and papers that adopt a comparative frame, shifting across the normal boundaries of history, literary studies, the history of medicine, the history and philosophy of science, art history, etc. are especially sought, but studies with a narrower focus seeking to challenge Victorian legacies in this field are also welcome.

The deadline for the submission of proposals for panel sessions (no longer than 500 words) and proposals for individual 20-minute papers and presentations (200-250 words) is October 4, 2010. At this stage your proposal/enquiry may be exploratory. A second and final call for papers will be issued in June 2011.

Please send a short biographical note together with your proposal. Prospective panel organisers should also send the panelists’ names, paper titles, and a short biographical note for each panelist and their contact details.

Support workers and carers are exempted from the conference registration fees. Papers will be circulated in advance of the conference. Please indicate by July 2011 if you would like LCVS to supply a sign language interpreter. Please indicate by April 2012 if you would like LCVS to supply an escort or support worker. All assistance dogs are welcome. If you have any enquiries regarding facilities and services for disabled people, or would like this Call for Papers in large print, please contact Joy Hamblin.

Proposals, or enquiries relating to these, should be sent to Karen Sayer

General enquiries to:

Karen Sayer, Senior Lecturer in History, Leeds Centre for Victorian
Studies, Leeds Trinity University College, Brownberrie Lane, Leeds, LS18
5HD; e-mail; tel. 0113 2837212

Or, Joy Hamblin, Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies, Leeds Trinity
University College, Brownberrie Lane, Leeds, LS18 5HD; tel. 0113 2837305

Oh yes…I will be participating.

DIY: Critical Making and Social Media

If you know me very, very well, you know that I enjoy conference-organizing. Here is yet another one I’m working on. I’m not familiar with the academic exploration of social media or “critical making” but I imagine it should be especially interesting, since the call for paper encourages submissions consisting different types of media. I’m all about what my sister calls “up-to-dateness” and I strongly believe this is one grand conference you don’t want to miss. Check out the CFP:

DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media
Centre for the Study of the United States, Munk School of Global Affairs
University of Toronto
Nov 12-14, 2010

Call for papers/presentations: due May 20, 2010

Plenary speakers include: Anne Balsalmo, Suzanne de Castell, Ron Deibert, Paul Dourish, Henry Jenkins, Jennifer Jenson, Natalie Jeremijenko, Steve Mann, Trebor Scholz.

Conference Organizers: Prof. Megan Boler, Associate Chair, Department of Theory and Policy Studies in Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto; Prof. Matthew Ratto Assistant Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto; Director, Critical Making Lab, University of Toronto

A renewed emphasis on participatory forms of digitally-mediated production is transforming our social landscape. Making has become the dominant metaphor for a variety of digital and digitally-mediated practices. The web is exploding with independently produced digital content such as video diaries, conversations, stories, software, music, video games ”all of which are further transformed and morphed by modders,hackers, artists and activists who redeploy and repurpose corporately-produced content. Equally, communities of self-organized crafters, hackers, and enthusiasts are increasingly to be found online exchanging sewing and knitting patterns, technical guides, circuit layouts, detailed electronics tutorials and other forms of instruction and support. Many of these individuals and collaborators understand their work to be socially interventionist. Through practices of design, development, and exchange they challenge traditional divides between production and consumption and to redress the power differentials built into technologically-mediated societies.

DIY Citizenship invokes the participatory nature of these diverse do-it-yourself modes of engagement, community, networks, and tools”all of which arguably replace traditional with remediated notions of citizenship. The term critical making refers to the increasing role making plays in critical forms of social reflection and engagement.

This interactive conference seeks to extend conversations about new modes of engaged DIY citizenship and politics evidenced by the exponential increase of DIY media,user-generators , prosumers, hacktivists, tactical media interventionists, and other maker identities. We invite scholars, activists, artists, designers, programmers and others interested in the social and participatory dimensions of digitally-mediated practices, to engage in dialogue across disciplinary and professional divides. All methodological and theoretical approaches are welcomed. Submissions may include paper proposals, works of art and/or design, short video or audio segments, performances, video games, digital media, or other genres and forms. Potential topics include: the relation between social media and the making of new forms of citizenship engagement”thus, for example, making movements; making community; making news; making play; making bodies; making health; making public; making education; making networks.

For the full conference call, see: