Call for Papers: Special Issue “Disability Media Histories”

In 2017, Elizabeth Ellcessor and Bill Kirkpatrick edited the anthology Disability Media Studies, to bring together their own and other scholars’ work in the academic fields of disability studies and media studies. Its topics vary from access, production and technology to race, gender and fan culture within film, television, sound and transmedia phenomena. What is not covered extensively, however, is a profound historical and historiographical perspective on the representation of disability and neurodiversity in media (Adams 2017). With this special issue of TMG  Journal for Media History, we wish to contribute to this lacune in the field of Disability Media Studies.


Disability Studies as an academic field emerged in the 1970s and 1980s alongside disability activism in the UK and the US, driven by the slogan ‘nothing about us without us.’ This field marked a shift from a medical model of disability, which views disability as an individual impairment in need of prevention or cure, to a social model, which views disability not as a result of an impairment, but of inaccessible environments and societal barriers. Further developments in disability studies introduced more nuanced models, like the cultural, political/relational, and complex embodiment models. These models, advocated by scholars such as Mitchell & Snyder, Alison Kafer, and Tobin Siebers, recognize both the social and material aspects of disability, countering the limitations of the medical-social binary. In the early 21st century, Critical Disability Studies (CDS) emerged, integrating disability into broader discussions on intersectionality and oppression. CDS highlights the intersections of disability with systems like patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism, and racism. Scholars like Nirmala Erevelles emphasize the role of disability in shaping societal structures and class relations. CDS also advocates for including perspectives from the global south, diversifying and politicizing the (generally) Eurocentric focus of Disability Studies. Currently, Disability Studies programs are finding their way into academia, primarily in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

Towards epistemic justice

There is a growing trend towards inclusive academic research involving people with intellectual/learning disabilities and neurodiversity, in countries including the Netherlands, Ireland and Australia. This approach aligns with the principle of ‘nothing about us without us,’ challenging the traditional dominance of logocentric propositional knowledge in academia and promoting epistemic agency and justice (e.g. Zaagsma et al. 2022; Sergeant et al. 2022; Knevel et al. 2022). The theme of epistemic agency and justice can also be traced back to the issue of (media) archives. Disability and neurodiversity, being marginalized in society, are underrepresented in archival and heritage studies, leading to their voices being largely absent. Recently, there has been a growing movement to ‘crip the archives,’ spearheaded by scholars and activists with disabilities, echoing efforts like the decolonization of the FIAF cataloguing committee. In the Netherlands, institutions like the Royal Library of the Netherlands (KB) and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision are working on making Dutch archives more accessible to people with disabilities. Internationally, the concept of cripping the archives is being explored through intersectionality and accessibility perspectives. New independent initiatives are emerging to create and maintain accurate disability archives, recognizing that media representations significantly influence contemporary and future societal perceptions of disability. Finally, in Disability Media Studies, the Eurocentric and Anglo-Saxon focus is a problem to address. Therefore, we welcome proposals that challenge this focus. Overall, bringing media and disability studies together into Disability Media Studies has been shown to be productive and brings new perspectives through fruitful dialogue and synergy. However, a profound historical point of view is missing in this new field of research.

Therefore, we are looking for contributions on the following topics:

Identity and representation

  • The representation of disability and neurodiversity in audio-visual objects from various historical periods, for example, regarding the persistence of eugenic discourse and ideas in Western society.
  • Changing ideas on what is normal and what is deviant, and how this can be traced back to audio-visual representations of disability and neurodiversity.
  • The interrelationship between the history of disability activism and media representations of disability and neurodiversity.
  • The historical role of (media) archives in the construction of disability and neurodiverse identities.

Epistemic injustice

  • Doing inclusive media historical and analytical research, i.e. research by or with people with disabilities.
  • The impact of lived-experience knowledge on media historical research.
  • The history of inclusivity in media industry and production contexts.
  • Lost or destroyed archives on disability and neurodiversity (lacunae in potential future knowledge).
  • Including disabled and neurodiverse professionals in (media) archival work processes.

Media technology and the (disabled) body

  • How can disability perspectives (pain, discomfort, medicalisation) challenge theories on users/spectators and reception theories?
  • Rethinking the history of media technology by bringing in disability perspectives.
  • Rethinking the history of the materiality of media when approached from a disability perspective.


  • The role of disability and neurodiversity in media historical research of the past.
  • The historical, cultural, and political context of archives that historically collected and archived (audio-visual) objects on disability and neurodiversity (e.g. institutions, families, local archives).
  • Ethical implications of archival materials on disability and neurodiversity, and problems of privacy legislation (e.g. medical and care archives with personal details).
  • Accessibility of (digital) archives for disabled and neurodiverse people.

On the basis of a 300-word abstract, to be submitted by 25 March 2024, selected authors shall be invited to submit an article of 6,000-8,000 words (including notes) by 1 June 2024. Revised drafts are expected by 1 September 2024. The issue will be published Fall 2024. Please send an abstract and a short bio to Dr. Bregt Lameris at Open Universiteit:

For questions, please contact the guest editors of the special issue, Dr. Bregt Lameris ( and M.A. Lesley Verbeek (