In her work, The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public, Susan Schweik explores how "ugly laws"--municipal legislation which barred "any person who was diseased, maimed, or mutilated in any way" from "expos[ing] him [or herself] to public view,"-- spread throughout the United States and abroad during the nineteenth century, reflecting society's fears of the effect of "imperfect" or disabled bodies on/in an urban populace. Indeed, from fears of degeneration in turn of the century London to questions over the nature of self reliance in America, society has seen disability as something needing to be controlled and quarantined, lest the "contagion (s)" contained in the disabled body could spread in the densely packed confines of the city.
As Schweik correctly notes, however, many of the practices and attitudes contained in the "ugly laws"--such as the segregation of disabled individuals in public schools, restricting panhandling , etc.-- carry over into the present and have emerged in other cultures under different names. This panel--which will run at NeMLA in Toronto in 2015--welcomes submissions from any genre or time period that examine the intersections between urban planning , anxiety, and constructions of disability in literature. Preference will be given to submissions that explore representations of disability in regards to any of the following urban concerns: criminality, vice, fears of the "racial other" in cosmopolitan environments, promiscuity, changing meanings of ableism in an industrial economy, differences of sensory perception(the intense sights, sounds, and sensations of city life, for example) in an urban environment and the perceived relationship to madness, and concerns regarding the polluted environment of cities. Similarly, essays may examine representations of "ugly laws" as attempts to shield disabled individuals from the negative influences of the city, insofar as disabled individuals have been seen as particularly susceptible to these environmental influences.
Interested scholars may go to www. nemla.org, and follow the instructions there to create an account and submit an abstract for the session (15205) no later than September 30, 2014. Please direct any further questions about this process, or the panel to Dotterman@Adelphi.edu.
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