Expert Comment: The Tobin Siebers Disability Arts and Culture lectureMonday 18 July 2016
Earlier this month, Liverpool Hope University’s Centre for Culture and Disability Studies (CCDS) hosted a special guest lecture in memory of Tobin Siebers. For nearly a decade Professor Siebers served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, whose institutional base is in the CCDS.
He reviewed numerous submissions over those years and guest edited a special issue with Dr Alice Hall just before he sadly died in 2015. His widely published work is some of the most important in the field, as acknowledged by the University of Michigan Press and the University of Michigan Department of English Language and Literature in their annual Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities.
I’m also very grateful to our special guest Professor Petra Kuppers, a University of Michigan colleague of Professor Siebers, for accepting our invitation to give this lecture. In ‘Disability Arts and Culture: Collaboration and Improvisation’, Professor Kuppers discussed arts-based research methods in disability culture. Her passionate and interactive lecture considered how these methods are recognised in received epistemology (by which I mean the knowledge that is readily accepted as such). ‘What are the politics and pedagogies of community-engaged creative work in the academy?’ That was the central question explored at this, the final CCDS event of the academic year. Of course in these troubled times the question takes on new significance, given the social divisions around the world that seem to be deepening rather than disappearing. But amid terror attacks, votes for so-called independence, and too many other cloaked expressions of hate, the appreciation of interdependency characteristic of disability studies surely becomes more important than ever.
The CCDS certainly constitutes a community and as such collaboration is key in all that we do. Like the late Professor Siebers, for example, Professor Kuppers served on the inaugural Editorial Board of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, which now comprises more than 50 disability scholars. Indeed, in the first 10 volumes, Professor Kuppers has guest edited, authored, and reviewed so much and so effectively for the journal that she will now join Professor Michael Davidson, Professor Robert McRuer, and Professor David T. Mitchell as board members formally recognised for their outstanding work by Liverpool University Press.
As principal organiser of an event so focused on collaboration I am very keen to acknowledge the input of a number of people. I must thank the whole Liverpool Hope team, all the attendees, as the Department of Disability and Education and the Disability Studies MA were both well represented alongside a number of external visitors. Most importantly, though, I must take this opportunity to thank Mrs Siebers for giving her blessing to the organization of an event that demonstrated a great legacy on so many levels.