English N135

Literature of American Cultures: Race, Ethnicity, and Disability in American Cultures

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
1 Summer 2010 Susan Schweik
MTuTh 4-6 200 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Readings will include: Adams, M et. al., Readings for Diversity and Social Justice; Barclay, R., Melal: A Novel of the Pacific; Domurat Dreger, A., One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal; Garcia, L., Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America; Moraga, C., Heroes and Saints and Other Plays; and a xeroxed course reader.


This course will analyze the categories of “disability,” “race” and “ethnicity” critically. “Disability” as an identity category is always raced, whether we attend to that intersection or not, and people defined in racial terms are also always placed on axes of disability and ability, well and ill, normal and abnormal, malformed and well-formed. Much work on that ambiguous umbrella term “disability” treats disabled people as ungendered (that is, male), unraced (that is, white), without nationality (that is, native-born American but barely a citizen), and unsexualized (that is, heterosexual, but only in default). My aim in this course is to set up situations in which you can think about several of these categories simultaneously in the context of American cultures present and past.

To this end, we will take three familiar cultural figures as case studies: beggars, freaks and victims. Each of these illustrates how racism and ableism have intertwined (along with class issues) in American (dis)ability cultures. A variety of guest speakers, including performance artists and activists, will visit us, and we’ll view a series of films.

Requirements:  Written requirements: two papers and a final exam.

Note that this class satisfies U.C. Berkeley's American Cultures requirement. 

This course is taught in Session A, from May 24th to July 2nd.

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