This three-part lecture series addresses discourses of disability in the medieval and early modern periods. Recent studies of physical, mental, and sensual difference have directed attention to the ableist assumptions underlying much of art historical scholarship. The cultural and political contestation of the human body challenges the “normative” framework of our discipline as shaped by such notions as spectatorship and embodiment, the eye and the hand, contemplation and engagement, commonly modelled around a “median” Western body. While disability quickly gained traction in historical, literary, sociological, and media scholarship, art history has been slower to respond, particularly within earlier periods of study and non-European contexts. 

Our three distinguished speakers will elucidate historical understandings of the body and disability from a variety of perspectives that invite a more inclusive conversation. We hope to encourage a broader discussion about exciting materials that speak to the methodological and ethical stakes, as well as global perspectives of disability studies.

The lecture series is organized by Jess Bailey (UC Berkeley) and Felix Jäger (Bilderfahrzeuge Project / Warburg Institute), and complements a workshop and a public keynote presentation centered on “technologies of disability” in the Wellcome and Warburg collections currently scheduled for early June 2021.