HomeFrom disability to human variation. Old narratives, new narratives

HomeFrom disability to human variation. Old narratives, new narratives

From disability to human variation. Old narratives, new narratives

Du handicap aux variations humaines. Récits anciens, nouveaux récits

De la discapacidad a la variación humana. Viejos y nuevos relatos

European and American societies 19th-21st centuries

Sociétés européennes et américaines (XIXe-XXIe siècles)

Sociedades europeas y americanas (siglos XIX-XXI)

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Published on Thursday, September 15, 2022


The title of this issue of Amnis journal, ‘From disability to human variation’, reflects the concern of disability studies to move away from thinking of disability as a stigma and to consider it within a vast field that embraces all forms of bodily, sensory and cognitive diversity within the human community. In order to address the question from a broad spectrum, papers should focus on the following areas: Disabilities, struggles and social movements (from exclusion to ‘nothing about us without us’), Disability policies (national and/or transnational historical approaches), Disabled bodies and ideological constructs, Disability and identity, a category to be understood in an intersectional way.



  • Elena Chamorro, Aix-Marseille Université
  • Crystel Pinçonnat, Aix-Marseille Université


Since its emergence in the 1980s as a consequence of the disability rights movement in the United States and Great Britain (1960s-1970s), the field of disability studies has contributed to a considerable evolution in the approach to disability. It has been accompanied by a true epistemological revolution, which has consisted in changing the paradigm. Since the 19th century, the ‘medical model’ has driven an interpretation of disability that centres on a lack or loss in relation to the ‘norm’ – a non-disabled body and intelligence described as ‘neurotypical[1]’. Countering this approach, disability studies has highlighted the fundamentally political and social dimensions of disability: ‘disability refers to a collective situation of oppression affecting those who cannot Generated by a certain type of social organisation and environments that are not fully accessible, the ‘medical model’ results in the exclusion of a whole section of the population considered to be ‘atypical’. In this sense, while disability studies involves a radical critique of the medical approach to disability and the hegemonic nature of its discourse to define and categorise non-normative subjects, it also implies specific positionings. The so-called anti-ableist struggle, for example, ‘is characterised by belonging to a group struggling for autonomy’[3].

For a long time, the question of disability was confined to specialist editorial fields. As recently as 2016, Stiker[4] commented that only a small number of French generalist journals (he was thinking of Le Débat, Commentaire, Les Temps modernes) had devoted a special issue or even just a few one-off articles to the subject. With this new issue, Amnis seeks to contribute to the debate on disability. Because it demands an approach that is both relational and interdisciplinary, the subject fits well with Amnis’s primary purpose of encouraging dialogue between different disciplines. Indeed, in addition to the fact that the question extends across all the social sciences, its primary characteristic is its situation at the intersection[5] of various problematics. It lies at the interface of the individual and the social (disability is certainly a social construct, an ideological framework, but it is also an individual experience), of different disciplines (sociology, anthropology, law, history, philosophy, aesthetics, literary and film studies), of plural identities defined in an intersectional way based on notions such as gender, social class, race and sexual orientation, of contemporary problematics (including civil rights, feminism, speciesism, ableism) and of research and activism (remember the slogan ‘Nothing about us without us’). Confronted with such a research object, it is essential to decompartmentalise the disciplines and to try to reduce the fragmentation of approaches. This is at least what Amnis aims to do in this new issue while remaining faithful to the journal’s traditional research fields, namely European and American societies from the 19th to the 21st centuries.

In 2001, the historian Baynton wrote: ‘Disability is everywhere in history, once you begin looking for it, but conspicuously absent in the histories we write[6]’. To reverse this trend, this issue of Amnis encourages a subversion of the traditional historiographical approach by relocating what was for a long time situated on the margins, in a state of liminality, to a central position. By adopting a disabled perspective that is rich in ‘situated knowledge[7]’, we will be able, on the one hand, to develop a different viewpoint on our environment and, on the other, to increase our collective knowledge on the question of disability.

The title of this issue, ‘From disability to human variation’, reflects the concern of disability studies to move away from thinking of disability as a stigma and to consider it within a vast field that embraces all forms of bodily, sensory and cognitive diversity within the human community. The subtitle, ‘Old narratives, new narratives’, seeks to clarify the perspective adopted. The word ‘narrative’ is to be understood here in the broad sense. To elucidate this, we refer to Harris’s article ‘The Aesthetics of Disability[8]’, which shows how ‘integration’ has become the watchword orienting all disability policies in the United States. This notion of integration is driven by a narrative generated by the work of social scientists, who consider what they call ‘intergroup contact’ to be an effective solution from a cognitive point of view to the problem of segregation. It holds that negative stereotyping and ignorance can be counteracted within a dominant group through association with members of a minority group. This narrative on the cognitive nature of prejudice was originally mobilised to shape civil rights legislation on the race issue but subsequently migrated to the question of disability. However, as some researchers argue, it is more hypothetical than theoretical and is far from being systematically true. In fact, recent studies have shown that the ‘integration’ situation is more complicated with regard to disability than the classical narrative claims: ‘Similar to racial integration, the physical integration of students with disabilities in neighborhood schools largely resulted in shared physical place rather than inclusion[9]’.

Through the notions of ‘old narratives’ and ‘new narratives’, the aim is therefore to highlight the ideological preconceptions that have historically driven and shaped the different discourses on disability.

In order to address the question from a broad spectrum, papers should focus on the following areas:

  • Disabilities, struggles and social movements (from exclusion to ‘nothing about us without us’)
  • Disability policies (national and/or transnational historical approaches)
  • Disabled bodies and ideological constructs
  • Disability and identity, a category to be understood in an intersectional way
  • The representation of disability. Disability and empowerment. Consider, for example, autobiographies and fictions that adopt a disabled perspective (The Way He Looks [2014] by Brazilian Daniel Ribeiro, the Argentinean mini-series 4 Feet High by Rosario Perazolo and Belén Poncio). 
  • The crip[10] culture and its manifestations

Submission guidelines

Proposals for articles (30 lines) can be written in French, English or Spanish. They should be submitted (with a Curriculum Vitae) to the following address: amnis@revues.org.

before 15 December 2022.

Accepted articles must be received by 15 June 2023 at the latest. Following submission to the journal’s scientific committee and two external reviewers, the articles will be published on the journal’s website in 2023.

Scientific committee

  • Angel Alcalde, University of Melbourne, Australie, Histoire.
  • Óscar Álvarez Gila, Universidad del País Vasco, (Vitoria), Espagne, Histoire.
  • Sylvie Aprile, Université de Paris-Ouest Nanterre, France, Histoire.
  • Avner Ben-Amos, Université de Tel-Aviv, Israël, Histoire.
  • Zoraida Carandell, Université de Paris-Ouest Nanterre, France, Littérature et culture espagnoles.
  • Martine Chalvet, Aix Marseille Université, France, Histoire.
  • Paulo Bernardo Ferreira Vaz, Universidad Federal de minas Gerais, (Belo Horizonte), Brésil, Communication Sociale.
  • Alec G Hargreaves, Florida State University (Tallahassee), Director Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, Etats-Unis, Littérature française et études francophones.
  • Pierre-Cyrille Hautcœur, EHESS, École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris), France, Sciences Economiques.
  • Jérôme Jamin, Université de Liège, Belgique, Sciences politiques.
  • Gerd Krumeich, Université de Düsseldorf, Allemagne, Histoire.
  • Stéphane Michonneau, Université de Lille, France, Histoire.
  • Ellen McCracken, UCSB, (University of California Santa Barbara), Etats-Unis, Littérature et etudes culturelles latino-américaines.
  • Mónica Moreno Seco, Universidad de Alicante, Espagne, Histoire.
  • Edilma Osorio Pérez Flor, Facultad de Estudios Ambientales y Rurales, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Colombie, Sociologie, Anthropologie.
  • Maitane Ostolaza, Université Paris Sorbonne, France, Civilisation espagnole.
  • Manuelle Peloille, Université d’Angers, France, Civilisation espagnole.
  • Alejandro M. Rabinovich, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Universidad Nacional de La Pampa (UNLPam), Argentine, Histoire.
  • Mario Ranalletti, Instituto de estudios históricos, Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, Argentine, Histoire.
  • Jean-Robert Raviot, Université de Nanterre (Paris X), France, Civilisation russe.
  • Philippe Schaffhauser, Centro de Estudios Rurales. Colegio de Michoacán, Mexique, Sociologie et anthropologie sociale et culturelle.
  • Pierre Schoentjes, Université de Gand, Belgique, Littérature française.
  • Leonard V. Smith, Oberlin College (Ohio), Etats-Unis, Histoire.
  • Taline Ter Minassian, INALCO, (Paris), France, Histoire.
  • Dominic Thomas, UCLA, (University of California Los Angeles), Etats-Unis, études culturelles et politiques des mondes francophones.
  • Amarela Varela Huerta, Academia de Comunicación y Cultura, Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México, Mexique, Sociologie.
  • Luis Veres, Universidad de Valencia, Espagne, Littérature latino-américaine.


[1] This term was coined by the autistic community and is now used by neurodiversity activists and the scientific community to refer to any person with neurological functioning that is considered to be the norm and who does not have a specific neurological condition.

[2] Pierre Dufour, ‘Être public, être privé: l’expérience d’hommes en fauteuil roulant’, Anastasia Meidani et al., La santé: du public à l’intime, Presses de l’EHESP, ‘Recherche, santé, social’, 2015, p. 55-67, p. 57. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations from French sources have been translated into English.

[3] Zig Blanquer and Pierre Dufour, ‘Sexualités et handicaps: les terres promises d’un bonheur conforme’, Empan, vol. 2, no 86, p. 55-61, p. 58.

[4] Henri-Jacques Stiker, ‘Pour une recherche renouvelée sur le handicap’, La nouvelle revue de l’adaptation et de la scolarisation, vol. 3, no 75, 2016, p. 11-17.

[5] We have taken this idea from Stiker, ibid.

[6] Douglas C. Baynton, ‘Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History’, Paul K. Longmore and Lauri Umanski (ed.), The New Disability History, 2001, p. 52; document available online: https://courses.washington.edu/intro2ds/Readings/Baynton.pdf, accessed 28 March 2022.

[7] This expression was first used by North American feminist researchers who conceptualised the feminist theory of ‘situatedness’, which challenges the dogma of scientific neutrality and considers the ‘epistemic privilege’ of female experience as a source of knowledge (see Nancy Hartsock, ‘The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminist Historical Materialism’, Sandra Harding [ed.], Feminism and Methodology, Social Science Issues, Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana University Press & Open University Press, 1987).

[8] Jasmine E. Harris, ‘The Aesthetics of Disability’, Columbia Law Review, May 2019, vol. 119, no 4, p. 895-972, p. 906; available online: https://columbialawreview.org/content/the-aesthetics-of-disability/, accessed 23 March 2022.           

[9] Jasmine E. Harris, ‘The Aesthetics of Disability’, op. cit., p. 913.

[10] For activists reclaiming this appellative, the term ‘crip’ (short for ‘cripple’) reverses the stigma. The crip identity ‘comprises three requirements: a valorisation of the often overlooked capacities of the crip community in all its diversity; an in-depth critique of the sexist, heteronormative, racist and classist world; and an explicit position of solidarity with other marginalised groups (women, queers, people who are racially discriminated and poor people in general), while acknowledging the particularity of the crip identity’. (Roberto Domingo Toledo, ‘Aux États-Unis, les plus marginaux mettent le centre aux marges’, Charles Gardou, Le Handicap et ses empreintes culturelles, Paris: Érès, ‘Connaissances de la diversité’, 2016, p. 99-116, p. 111).


  • Thursday, December 15, 2022


  • handicap, récit, disability studies, diversité corporelle, sensorielle et cognitive, Europe, Amérique


  • Severiano Rojo Hernandez
    courriel : severiano [dot] rojohernandez [at] univ-amu [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Severiano Rojo Hernandez
    courriel : severiano [dot] rojohernandez [at] univ-amu [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« From disability to human variation. Old narratives, new narratives », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, September 15, 2022, https://calenda.org/1015788

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