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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

SU Honors Program presents panel discussion on disability, politics of sensory life March 30

Event features four creative artists, disability studies experts

March 22, 2012, by Rob Enslin

Disability and the politics of sensory life are the basis of an upcoming panel discussion at Syracuse University. Titled “Disability, Creativity and Neuro-atypicality: Art As Embodiment,” the event is Friday, March 30, at 2 p.m. in Watson Theater of the Robert B. Menschel Media Center (316 Waverly Ave.). It is free and open to the public, and is co-sponsored by the Renée Crown University Honors Program, an all-University program in The College of Arts and Sciences, and the Center on Human Policy, Law and Disability Studies. For more information, call 315-443-2759. 

Panelists are Stephen Kuusisto, director of the Honors Program and University Professor of Disability Studies; Ralph James Savarese, associate professor of English at Grinnell College; Suzanne Paola, associate professor of English at Western Washington University; and Erin Manning, assistant professor of art and cinema theory at Concordia University (Montreal). All four panelists are accomplished creative artists and experts in disability studies.

“It’s been said that living with a disability is an art form unto itself,” says Kuusisto, who is moderating the event. “More and more people with disabilities are creating art out of their own experiences. This process can be both liberating and challenging because each disability is unique. Moreover, people with disabilities don’t often have role models, in the traditional sense.” 

Kuusisto says the ultimate goal of the discussion—and of his scholarship—is to remove barriers to the advancement of people with disabilities. “As a writer and scholar with a disability, I find SU to provide a rich, interdisciplinary culture of research and activism. It’s a remarkably diverse place,” he continues.

Kuusisto is an expert on disability rights, public policy, contemporary literature, poetry and digital media. He is the author of several books, including “The Planet of the Blind” (Delta Publishing, 1998), a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; and the forthcoming poetry collection “Letters to Borges” (Copper Canyon Press).

Savarese is author of the landmark book “Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption” (Other Press 2007), which Newsweek calls a “passionate manifesto for the rights of people with neurological disabilities.” He is co-editor of “Papa Ph.D.: Men in the Academy Write About Fatherhood” (Rutgers University Press, 2010); a special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly (The Ohio State University Libraries, 2010); and a special issue of Seneca Review (Hobart and William Smith Colleges, 2010). In addition to running Grinnell’s reading series, Savarese teaches American literature, creative writing and disability studies.

Suzanne Paola
Suzanne Paola
Paola (a.k.a. Susanne Antonetta) is an award-winning author and poet. Her prose writing includes “A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World” (Tarcher/Penguin, 2005); “Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction” (McGraw-Hill, 2004), whose second edition was published last month; and “Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir” (Counterpoint, 2001). Paola is currently finishing a book on adoption titled “Inventing Family” (W.W. Norton & Company). She also publishes poems, essays, book reviews and anthology pieces. 

Manning is founding director of Concordia’s SenseLab, which explores intersections between art practice and philosophy through the matrix of the sensing body in movement. As a creative artist, she combines elements of movement (including Aikido, contemporary dance and Argentine tango), painting, fabric and sculpture. Her publications include “Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy” (MIT Press, 2009); “Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty” (University of Minnesota Press, 2006); and “Ephemeral Territories: Representing Nation, Home, and Identity in Canada” (University of Minnesota Press, 2003). 

“Each panelist is at the cutting edge of his or her work,” Kuusisto continues. “Therefore, the audience can expect a highly substantive discourse.” 

The Renée Crown University Honors Program is an enhanced educational experience for exceptional students. The program emphasizes intellectual depth and breadth, communicative empowerment, global awareness and civic engagement. Honors was named for civic leader and philanthropist Renée Schine Crown ’50, H’84, on the occasion of her retirement from the Syracuse University Board of Trustees.

The Center on Human Policy, Law and Disability Studies (CHPLDS) is an expansion of the Center on Human Policy, founded by Burton Blatt in 1971. The CHPLDS is a network of academic programs, centers, student organizations and affiliated faculty whose research, teaching and advocacy seeks to promote the rights of people with disabilities locally, nationally and globally, and to facilitate a critical examination of disability as an aspect of diversity in society.