Dedicated to advancing knowledge by, about, and for people with disabilities.

The UW Disability Studies Initiative is a transdisciplinary program dedicated to advancing knowledge by, about, and for people with disabilities. Disability studies explores models and theories that examine social, political, cultural, and economic factors that define disability and help determine personal and collective responses to difference.

Disability studies scholars at UW concentrate on the culture, experiences, history, and contributions of people with disabilities across time and geography. Drawing upon the humanities, arts, social sciences, medicine, policy, and practice, we seek to better understand how disabilities are experienced in our world. UW Disability Studies embraces difference and diversity as strengths and considers disability in interaction with gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and socio-economic status.

UW Disability Studies directly embodies the Wisconsin Idea by actively encouraging participation by disabled students and faculty and by partnering with disability communities across the state to transform public understandings of disability. UW Disability Studies is committed to physical and intellectual access and the principles of universal design.

Book cover for Monstrous Kinds, with a sketch of a two-headed woman
University of Michigan Press, 2019

Elizabeth Bearden wins the 2017 Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities

Elizabeth B. Bearden has been awarded the 2017 Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities by the University of Michigan Press for her book manuscript Monstrous Kinds: Body, Space, and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability. 

Dr. Bearden is a Professor of English at UW–Madison. She earned her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University in 2006. Her first book, published in 2012 by the University of Toronto Press, is The Emblematics of the Self: Ekphrasis and Identity in Renaissance Imitations of Greek Romance.

This project examines disability in the Renaissance in conduct books and treatises, travel writing, and wonder books. The cross-section of texts is comparative, putting canonical European authors such as Castiglione into dialogue with transatlantic and Anglo-Ottoman literary exchange. Its methodology takes a formal and philosophical approach to pre-modern formulations of monstrous bodies, spaces, and narratives, which continue to shape our understandings of disability today. Her book is forthcoming in 2019.