CFP: Disability Bioethics (MLA 2020)

Disability Bioethics
How does thinking about disability inform our understanding of bioethical issues, broadly defined, in literature and/or culture? 300-word abstract to Maren Linett at by 7 March, 2019.

And here are some examples of the types of questions about disability that can be considered bioethical: Is disability a neutral difference or a negative lack? What implications will the answer to that question have in the way we read literature or understand our culture or ourselves? Is disability a valuable form of biodiversity, and if so, does this apply only to some disabilities? What forms of power are engaged when disability is being defined, diagnosed, or treated? When should disability be cured, and when should it be accommodated instead? What is the range of appropriate responses to the diagnosis of disabilities in fetuses? How are old age and disability related and how are they distinct? Should we ban assisted suicide until disabled people are on equal standing with their nondisabled peers, for fear disabled people will be encouraged to choose suicide while nondisabled people will be dissuaded? Or is assisted suicide a matter of autonomy and should it therefore be among those choices disabled people should have access to? As genetic enhancement becomes possible, should it be permissible to choose disability rather than select against it?

Many literary and filmic texts raise such questions, and, as I argue in my current book project, literature can offer a sort of laboratory to consider bioethical questions. Papers for this panel could explore related issues raised in literary texts from any period and in any language. Papers could, alternatively, read a cultural event or moment, following for example Alison Kafer and Eli Clare in their musings on the girl known as Ashley X and the “treatment” imposed on her by her parents or following Dirksen Bauman, Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, and Kafer in their analyses of deaf parents who purposely increase their chances of having deaf children by, for example, the choice of sperm donor. We are now on the cusp of being able to genetically edit our children—should we do so? Under what circumstances? How might genetic editing or enhancement change the way we understand disability?

For the purposes of this panel, I view bioethics broadly, not as a synonym for medical ethics but as a set of questions about values relating to life and living beings. Therefore, work about ethics relating to disabled nonhuman animals or the relationships between animals and human beings would also be appropriate—questions such as those Sunaura Taylor raises in Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation.