The Biopolitics of Disability, Illness, and Animality: Cultural Representations and Societal Significance (BIODIAL)
The interdisciplinary core of the project was to link disability and illness studies with animal and animality studies within the overarching framework of biopolitics, despite the fact that disability studies and animal studies have often resisted biopolitical intersections between them.
This theoretical background can illuminate cultural attitudes and problems related to disability, illness, and animality, as well as policy discussions and debates in the Norwegian public sphere and beyond.
This project sought to advance research in the humanities and social sciences by further developing disability studies and animal studies and the ways in which these new interdisciplinary branches of inquiry intersect with key questions of biopolitics and bioethics.
It brought interdisciplinary and intersectional attention to the ways that certain lives can be considered somehow less than “human”—whether disabled human beings, or nonhuman animals, or dehumanized and animalized human populations. Biopolitics is a theoretical field that offers new ways of bringing together disability studies, animal studies, and posthumanism, including Foucauldian-inspired work on social constructions of “life” that have become politicized terrain. The result of these constructions include dominant discourses about which forms of life should be allowed to live or die, as well as stigmatization and discrimination based upon what is considered “normal” or “natural”.
These issues connect disability, illness, and animality to gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and class, as well as educational policies, workplace conditions, and legislation regarding issues such as: discrimination, accessibility, accommodation, euthanasia, assisted suicide, abortion, prenatal testing, health care, vivisection, animal experimentation, factory farming, animal welfare, animal rights, and veterinary medicine.
The methodological focus of the project was critical discourse analysis of literary and cultural texts, analyzing representations of disability, illness, and animality in relation to broader social issues.
The project was financed by The Norwegian Research Council (FRIPRO/FRIHUMSAM)
1 September, 2017, to 30 June, 2021.
Disability in Dialogue with Animality: The BIODIAL Project
What do disability studies and animality studies have in common? Join us for a series of dialogues focused on the BIODIAL project. Team members will present research findings from the project, and consider implications for broader discussions and debates in the Norwegian public sphere and beyond!
Tid og sted: 17. nov. 2021 15:00–16:30, Scene HumSam
Considering a person to be somehow less than human can help to legitimize indifference, if not also neglect, discrimination, or even death. People with disabilities and chronic or terminal illnesses have long been dehumanized in this way, despite the ongoing efforts of disability advocates and activists. Parallel structures of oppression can perhaps be found in the treatment of animals, in the sense that not being human becomes the justification for violence and death for certain species.
But advocates for people with disabilities and advocates for animals sometimes seem to be at odds with each other, particularly if animality is seen as something to avoid (for people with disabilities) or if animal advocates remain insufficiently aware of how offensive it can be simply to equate animals with people with disabilities. At the same time, linked discourses continue to make it possible for both human and nonhuman lives to be subject to problematic kinds of treatment, if not also violence with impunity.
The research project BIODIAL: The Biopolitics of Disability, Illness, and Animality has explored these issues, particularly in relation to the ways that literary and cultural texts negotiate the intersections of disability, illness, and animality.
This event invites the public into a discussion about what has been learned and how to move forward from The BIODIAL Project.
Program for the event
Join us for a series of dialogues featuring:
- Michael Lundblad - Primary Investigator, Professor of English-Language Literature, UiO
- Jan Grue - Co-investigator, Associate Professor of Sociology and Human Geography, UiO
- Tom Bradstreet - PhD Fellow (BIODIAL); currently Associate Professor in English Literature at the University of South-Eastern Norway
- Mexitli Lopez Rios - PhD Fellow, Department of Literature, Area Studies, and European Languages, UiO
Commentaries and dialogues will be led by:
- Tone Druglitrø - Associate Professor, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, UiO
- Chiara Montalti - Erasmus PhD Fellow, University of Florence
The event will take place at Scene HumSam in Georg Sverdrups hus, and will also be streamed.
The BIODIAL Project
Team members have explored a wide range of novels, memoirs, films, and TV series, including Avatar, Game of Thrones, World War Z, The Shape of Water, The Athena Club mysteries, and Still Alice (see The BIODIAL Blog). Bringing together the academic fields of disability studies, animality studies, and posthumanism, the project has foregrounded the theoretical insights of biopolitics, which studies the ways in which certain forms of life are socially constructed as less valuable than others. This theoretical background illuminates cultural attitudes and problems related to disability, illness, and animality, as well as policy discussions and debates in the Norwegian public sphere and beyond.
The project opens up questions related to gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and environment, as well as educational policies, workplace conditions, and legislation regarding issues such as discrimination, accessibility, accommodation, euthanasia, assisted suicide, abortion, health care, vivisection, factory farming, animal welfare, and veterinary medicine.
Webinar: Launch Event for Special Issue of New Literary History on 'Animality/ Posthumanism/ Disability'
On March 19, 2021, the launch of a special issue of New Literary History on 'Animality/ Posthumanism/ Disability' was marked by a live webinar.
As the BIODIAL project nears its completion, we are delighted to announce the publication of a special issue of New Literary History on the theme of 'Animality/ Posthumanism/ Disability'.
The special issue foregrounds the potential and pitfalls of thinking through critiques of "the human" in relation to animality and disability within the framework of posthumanism, broadly conceived. It is edited by the director of the BIODIAL research project, Michael Lundblad, and features contributions from Rachel Adams, Neel Ahuja, Judith Butler, Matthew Chrulew, Nirmala Erevelles, Jan Grue, Jack Halberstam, Michael Lundblad, David Mitchell, Sara Orning, Jasbir Puar, Sunaura Taylor, Dinesh Wadiwel, and Cary Wolfe.
On March 19, 2021, the special issue was launched at a webinar featuring various contributors to the publication, all of whom focused on keywords arising from the special issue and discussed its interventions within the fields of disability studies, posthumanism, and animal studies. The event was hosted by the New Literary History Forum at the Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures at the University of Virginia. Participants included:
- Bruce Holsinger, Linden Kent Memorial Professor of English, and Editor of New Literary History, University of Virginia
- Michael Lundblad, Professor of English-Language Literature, University of Oslo
- Rachel Adams, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
- Nirmala Erevelles, Professor of Social and Cultural Studies in Education, University of Alabama
- Christopher Krentz, Professor of English and Director, Disability Studies Initiative, University of Virginia
- David Mitchell, Professor of English and Cultural Studies, George Washington University
- Sara Orning, Postdoctoral Fellow for BIODIAL: The Biopolitics of Disability, Illness, and Animality, and Senior Lecturer, Centre for Gender Research, University of Oslo
Symposium: "Posthuman Entanglements"
“Posthuman Entanglements: Disability, Illness, Animality” was an international symposium that was held at Litteraturhuset in Oslo on 15 May 2018.
Time and place: May 15, 2018 1:00 PM–6:30 PM, Litteraturhuset
The general goal was to bring disability and illness studies into better dialog with posthumanism and animality studies, exploring ideas such as vulnerability, animacy, immunity, precarity, diversity, advocacy, and biopolitics.
The symposium featured academic panels, as well as two internationally renowned speakers: Cary Wolfe, who is the Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Professor of English at Rice University; the author of numerous books, including Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame and What Is Posthumanism?; and the editor of the “Posthumanities” book series at the University of Minnesota Press; along with Mel Y. Chen, who is Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley; the author of Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect; and the co-editor of the “ANIMA” book series at Duke University Press.
The symposium was funded through the Norwegian Research Council’s support of BIODIAL: The Biopolitics of Disability, Illness, and Animality, as well as UiO:LifeScience and FrittOrd.
MLA Annual Convention
Special session on Posthumanist Disability.
Time and place: Jan. 4, 2018 5:15 PM–6:30 PM, New York City
- Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
- The Best and Worst of Human Existence: Liberal Eugenics, Procreative Liberty, and Individual Human Rights
- Jan Grue and Michael Lundblad
- The Biopolitics of Disability and Animality in Harriet McBryde Johnson