Disability in the Disciplines Conference

April 25-26, 2019 | Rubenstein Arts Center at Duke University

Accessible Venue | Food Provided | Free Registration


The field of disability studies suggests that our vulnerabilities and weaknesses are what make us human. Starting from the essential perspective that disability rights are human rights, the study of disability helps us to realize that difference is, perhaps paradoxically, the one thing we all have in common. How do our definitions of “health” shift when we accept that there is no “normal”? How does the centering of disability alter our disciplinary assumptions, and enrich our educational, medical, legal, and artistic practices?

Explore these questions at “Disability in the Disciplines,” a two-day conference at Duke University on April 25-26, 2019. Organized by the Disability and Access Initiative, an interdisciplinary faculty working group within the Health Humanities Lab, the conference will engage Duke faculty across the schools and departments, as well as students and members of the community.

Click here for the full, accessible program!

Images from Marina's Tsaplina's interactive puppetry performance

Image description: On the left, an image of Marina Tsaplina crouching alone on a dark stage lit with blue light, holding a puppet that looks like a large flower with a long green stem and purple petals. A thick red string runs through the puppet. On the right, a circle of audience members now hold strands of red string, all of which connect to the flower-puppet at the center of the stage. Audience members smile and dance.


DATES: April 25-26, 2019

LOCATION: Rubenstein Arts Center at Duke University | 2020 Campus Dr, Durham, NC 27708

Thursday, April 25

5:00-6:00 PM (Film Theater): Keynote by Lennard Davis, author of Enforcing Normalcy and “The Biocultures Manifesto”

  • PLEASE NOTE: Our registration numbers for the Keynote are over capacity! Please arrive early to get a seat. The Film Theater seats 100. View the filmed keynote here.

6:00-6:30 PM (Multipurpose Studio 124): Catered Reception by Comfort Cuisine

6:30-8:00 PM (Von der Heyden Studio Theater): Premiere of Illness Revelations by Marina Tsaplina: an embodied inquiry into the eugenics impulse and the nature of care, oppression, illness and healing. Read an article about Puppetry and Disability Aesthetics by Marina Tsaplina here!


Friday, April 26:

8:30-9:00 AM (Multipurpose Studio 124): Breakfast catered by Foster’s Market, with coffee by Beyu Blue

9:00-10:15 AM Faculty-led breakouts sessions on:
• Neurodiversity & Mental Health (Von der Heyden)

  • Tara Chandrasekhar, MD (Duke Neurodiversity Connections, Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development)
  • Qin Hu, PhD (Duke Neurodiversity Connections, Counseling & Psychological Services)
  • Jeffrey Baker, MD, PhD (Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine)
  • Sam Aldave (Duke Divinity School)

• Medical Ethics & the Culture of Care (Ruby Lounge)

  • Neil Prose, MD (Duke Global Health Institute, Duke Health, Health Humanities Lab Co-Director)
  • Jen Ansley, PhD (Thompson Writing Program)
  • Jennifer Hawkins, PhD (Philosophy, Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine)
  • Priscilla Smith (National Domestic Workers Alliance, We Dream in Black)

10:45-11:45 AM (Von der Heyden): Community Engagement Plenary

  • James Davis (Durham Neighborhood Improvement Services)
  • Ricky Scott (Raleigh Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities, North Carolina Statewide Independent Living Council)
  • Chris Rivera (Alliance for Disability Advocates, Triangle Thunder Wheelchair Basketball)
  • Susan McSwain (Reality Ministries)

11:45AM – 12:45PM (Multipurpose Studio 124): Lunch by Comfort Cuisine

12:45-2:00 PM(Von der Heyden): Student-Led Plenary on Accessible Pedagogy

  • Logan Welborn (Duke ’22)
  • Simran Prakash (Duke ’22)
  • Andrew Toig (Founding President of Duke Law Students for Accessibility)
  • Victoria Nneji (MEM and PhD candidate in Robotics)

2:30-3:45 PM Faculty-led breakouts sessions on:
• Disability and Design: Experiences in Higher Education (Ruby Lounge)

  • Kevin Caves, MEM (Department of Surgery, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine)
  • Deja Barber (North Carolina Statewide Independent Living Council, Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living)
  • Tara Moore, MSW (Intellectual/Development Disabilities Care Coordinator, Alliance Health)
  • Kate Simmons, Consumer
  • Marisha Madhira, BME Student (Department of Biomedical Engineering)
  • Richard Goldberg, PhD (Department of Applied Physical Sciences, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

• Theater & The Arts (Von der Heyden)

  • Jules Odendahl-James, PhD (Theater Studies, Academic Advising Center)
  • Ann Fox, PhD (English, Davidson College; Society for Disability Studies)
  • Dan Ellison, JD (Theater Studies, Durham Audio Described Art project)
  • Monet Marshall (Artist, Director, Playwright, Performer)
  • Kali Quinn (Artist, Violinist, Performer; Compassionate Creativity)

4:00-5:15 PM Faculty-led breakouts sessions on:
• Disability Law & Human Rights (Ruby Lounge)

  • Adam Rosenblatt, PhD (International Comparative Studies)
  • Catherine Reilly, PhD (Literature)
  • Judge Craig Brown, JD (Adult Drug Treatment Court)
  • Ed Rizzuto, JD (Vision InSights)

• Language, History, & Representation (Von der Heyden)

  • Marion Quirici, PhD (Thompson Writing Program, Health Humanities Lab Co-Director, Faculty Advisor of Duke Disability Alliance)
  • Ashley Elrod, PhD (History, Northeastern Illinois University)
  • Eileen Anderson, PhD (Romance Studies)
  • Ann Millett-Gallant, PhD (Art History, University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

5:30-6:30 PM (Multipurpose Studio 124): Student Art and Research Showcase 

Catered by Comfort Cuisine


  • Durham Audio Described Art Project
  • Martha Hoelzer (photographer)
  • Ann Millett-Gallant (painter)
  • Out of the Blue (Duke’s oldest all-female a cappella group)

Organized by the Disability & Access Initiative

Hosted by The Health Humanities Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute and Duke Disability Alliance

Co-Sponsors: The Neurohumanities Research Group, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, Duke Arts, Theater Studies, the Vice Provost for the Arts, the Rubenstein Arts Center, the Division for Head and Neck Surgery, and the Student Organization Finance Committee.

Image Credit: Maria Lulo Abinader, Duke ’21