Archival artistry: exploring disability aesthetics in late Twentieth Century higher education

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Lauren Beard (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Risa Applegarth

Abstract: This thesis posits an innovative framework for rhetorically (re)analyzing disability history in higher education by overlapping disability rhetoric with disability aesthetics. In Academic Ableism Jay Dolmage argues that an institution’s aesthetic ideologies and architecture denote a rhetorical agenda of ableism. In Disability Aesthetics, Tobin Siebers argues that disability is a vital aspect of aesthetic interpretation. Both works determine that disability has always held a crucial, critical role in the production and consumption of aestheticism, as it invites able-bodied individuals to consider the dynamic, nonnormative instantiations of the human body as a social, civic issue (Siebers 2). Disability, therefore, becomes an indispensable aspect of both aesthetic representation and human experience. With this framework, I rhetorically analyze both institutional aesthetic rhetoric, as well as students’ aesthetic resistance to this rhetoric, at a mid-sized state institution in the late 20th century when Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was finally signed into law, and universities confronted a legal demand to no longer deny students access based on their disability. Rhetorical disruption occurs at these sites of student aesthetic resistance, and so scholars can in effect utilize disability aesthetics to expose academic ableism. Ultimately, this thesis seeks to demonstrate how disability scholars and historiographers can widen the view of disability history in higher education.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Aesthetic, Archival, Disability, Feminism, Higher Education, Rhetoric
Disability studies
Education, Higher $z United States $x History $y 20th century

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