Joanne D Woiak
Focused, comparative examination of topics in rights.
Disability and Citizenship: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. In the current U.S. political and cultural climate, debates over issues such as anti-discrimination laws, marriage and reproductive rights, and immigration and welfare reforms illustrate that ideas about who qualifies as a citizen and the very concept of citizenship itself are continually being contested and reformulated. The purpose of this course is to study how democratic societies have decided what kinds of people count as citizens and on what grounds they should be granted rights, and to problematize those traditional definitions of citizenship through analyzing recent scholarship in fields including disability studies, philosophy, and political science. The spectrum of citizenship has shifted based not just on legal definitions but also on scientific, political, and philosophical ideas about civic fitness and human difference. We will explore historical cases showing that people who have historically been on the margins of citizenship were usually identified by the markers of disability, race, sex, and class, and those identities often intersected in significant ways in discourses and practices involving eugenics, welfare, civil commitment, and immigration. The second section of the course will explore debates and activism around citizenship in the modern era, involving both expansions and constrictions in the scope of civil and human rights. Particular attention will be paid to developments in disability policies, including those based on assumptions that disability entails dependency and incompetence, and those based on the view that disability is a form of human diversity and a social justice issue. We will consider how to draw conceptual links and political alliances between many communities who wish to become empowered as full participants in society and to reshape society’s beliefs about what constitutes a citizen.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading
Reading responses, midterm essay, research paper.