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“Gender, Queerness, and Disability in the Ancient World”

Organizers: Sydney Hertz, Alicia Matz, and Debby Sneed

Deadline: Wednesday, March 1, 2023

The Women’s Classical Caucus invites abstracts for the 2024 WCC panel on “Gender, Queerness, and Disability in the Ancient World.” Aristotle believed that “the female is like a deformed male” (Generation of Animals 2.737), and responding to that, papers in this panel will examine the intersections of gender, sexuality, and disability in the ancient world, broadly defined.

The composition of dominant and marginal bodily and sexual identities depends on a variety of cultural narratives that can be complicated, unsettled, and re-written by disability (McRuer 2006).

What is more, major feminist issues—from reproductive technologies and the particularities of oppression to the place of bodily difference and the ethics of care—are intricately entangled with disability (Garland-Thomson 2002). This panel will consider the ways that disability, as both a lived reality and a “pervasive cultural system that stigmatizes certain kinds of bodily variations,” can enrich our analyses of gender and sexuality in antiquity (Garland-Thomson 2002, p. 5), as well as how gender and sexuality complicate our understandings of disability.

This is a fruitful area of examination that has thus far been underexplored in the field of ancient studies. And yet, feminism seems to be a perfect companion to critical disability studies, as “the notion of the personal as political has been a cornerstone of the feminist and disability rights movements, and feminist disability studies scholars embrace praxis by taking the complex, lived experience of disability as a starting point for theoretical inquiry…there is also a commitment to addressing epistemic privilege and problematizing certain conceptions of authority and objectivity in the production of knowledge” (Carson 2021, p. 519). Further examination of this, in combination with queerness, reveals parallel processes in which the normative body is formed, as “the system of compulsory able-bodiedness, which in a sense produces disability, is thoroughly interwoven with the system of compulsory heterosexuality that produces queerness” (McRuer 2006, p. 2).

We believe, like Hirsch (1995, p. 3) that “the introduction of a disabled/nondisabled dimension into historical studies brings to light new issues not revealed by familiar categories such as gender, class, race, ethnicity, age, occupation, or rural versus urban settings.” We encourage presenters to engage deeply with feminist disability studies and crip theory, as well as with theories developed within the long history of scholarship on women, gender, and sexuality in the ancient world to consider the ways that intersectional studies reveal new means of (de)stabilizing normative concepts of the body and identity. With this panel, we will examine questions surrounding bodily autonomy and its intersectionality. Is the female gender a category of disability in antiquity? What can an analysis of the treatment of disabled, queer, and feminine bodies in antiquity contribute to modern disability and gender studies? Our goal is to extend current ideas about diversity, intersectionality, and identity and rewrite the history of the body and embodied experience in antiquity.

We invite submissions on topics such as (but not limited to):

● Analyses of the lives of disabled women in the ancient world through studies of art, literature, graffiti, legal texts, inscriptions, mortuary contexts, etc.

● Comparative analyses of male versus non-male depictions of disabled bodies in ancient societies

● The queering of disabled or non-male members of ancient societies

● The performance of disability and gender, both on stage and in daily life

● The gendering of either the ‘cared for’ or ‘caretaker’ in the ancient world

● Depictions of ancient disabled bodies in classical receptions

● Comparative approaches to the study of gender, sexuality, and disability

Abstracts must be no more than 500 words (excluding bibliography) and follow the SCS guidelines for authors of abstracts. In addition to following these guidelines, the abstract file attachments themselves must be anonymous to be considered, so please do not reveal yourself in your abstract or in the file name. Finally, we encourage you to consult the SCS Brief Guide to Disability Terminology as you write your abstract.

Please submit your anonymized abstract as a PDF file attachment by email to with the subject line: “2024 WCC Panel: Gender, Queerness, and Disability”.

The deadline for submission is Wednesday, March 1, 2023. The organizers will review all submissions anonymously.

Works Cited

Carson, Licia. 2021. “Feminism and Disability Theory.” In The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Philosophy. 517-530.

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. 2002. “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory.” NWSA Journal 14.3, pp. 1-32.

Hirsch, Karen. 1995. “Culture and Disability: The Role of Oral History.” The Oral History Review 22: 1-27.

McRuer, Robert. 2006. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability.