CFP: CAS Graduate Student Conference on Disabilities in the Ancient World

Disabilities in the Ancient World

CAS Graduate Student Conference, February 22-23, 2019
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

 The definition of disability might initially seem to be self-evident, yet it is contested, fluid, and influenced by a multiplicity of processes of differentiation, distinction, exclusion, and oppression. Monolithic definitions of “disability” have been invented and regulated by state-organized medicine and hygiene and state-sanctioned violence and do not represent notions about disability that are accurate, universal and unchanged over periods of time and geographical regions.

Consequently, to conceptualize disability in the ancient world, it may be helpful to frame it in terms of definition, perception, and action. How did ancient peoples explain an atypical body or sensory impairment that they possessed or encountered? How did people with disabilities view themselves and their relationships to society and what kind of reactions did people without disabilities have towards disabled people? Who might be included in or excluded from participation in the institutions of ancient societies based on societal attitudes towards disability? What can we learn about disability in the ancient world from art, literature, archaeology, and other types of evidence?

Possible subjects include but are by no means limited to:

  • Non-stigmatizing readings of disability; disability as an exceptional characteristic or a marker of status; self-representation of people with disabilities
  • Care, cure and the concept of normalcy
  • Artistic and literary representations of disability; the rhetoric of disability
  • Disability and divinity: karmic debt, divine punishment, miraculous healing and spiritual transcendence
  • Disability and women: femininity, fertility, abortion, and infanticide
  • Notions of purity and impurity pertaining to bodily impairment
  • Philanthropy and institutional accommodation for people with disabilities
  • Criminality, punishment, stigma, and mutilation
  • Occupational opportunities and capabilities of disabled individuals; infirmity, incapability and the value of participation in the labor force
  • Disability and philosophy; asceticism and the disabled body
  • Marginalization and fear of, pity for, and anxiety about disabled people
  • Madness, mental illness, speech disorders, social disabilities, and other types of disability in the ancient world

Proposals should include a title and an abstract of no more than 250 words that summarizes the work, identifies its methodology, and states primary conclusions. Send the proposal along with a short bio to with the subject heading CAS Abstract: APPLICANT NAME. Please include your affiliation in the body of the email. The deadline for abstracts is December 01, 2018 (EST). Applicants will be notified of the status of their papers by the third week of December. The Center for Ancient Studies strives to bring together scholars from different disciplines engaged in the study of pre-modern civilizations. However, the organizing committee of CAS Graduate Student Conference regrets that travel subsidies for participants are not available. Instead, we are able to provide 2-day lodging and meals to panelists. If you have any inquiries, please feel free to contact the organizing committee via For more information, please visit our website at: