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Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto


Theorizing at the Intersections of Bilingual Education, Deaf Studies and Disability Studies


Dr. Nirmala Erevelles

Professor of Social and Cultural Studies in Education

Thursday, March 12, 2015, 6 - 8 pm
OISE Library, Main Floor
University of Toronto
252 Bloor St. West
(@ St. George Subway Station

Free Admission

ASL Interpretation
Attendant Care
Wheelchair Accessible
Scent Free Seating

In order to help make this a chemical and fragrance free event, we ask that attendees refrain from smoking; wearing colognes, perfumes, or scented oils; and using chemical based laundry detergents or fabric softeners before or during the event. We also request that participants wear clothing that has had limited exposure to the items above.


Dr. Erevelles will argue that a critique of normative notions of disability in both bilingual education research and Deaf studies would enable a tentative alliance that holds transformative possibilities. While there is much research in bilingual education that has engaged thoughtfully with how issues of race, ethnicity, and class impact students in oppressive ways in English Language Learning (ELL) classrooms, most of these studies (with very few exceptions) have actively ignored disability and Deaf studies. Similarly, Deaf Studies, while offering a critique of an oralist/audist domination of literacy that inadequately recognizes American Sign Language as a linguistic tour-de-force in its own right, pays limited attention to issues of race/ethnicity/class within Deaf Studies. In both contexts, Erevelles argues that there is an urgency to re-theorize disability as a transgressive analytic that situates literacy/speech in a space that is broader than the simple mechanics of “speaking well” to engage the more complex intersection of identity, embodiment and citizenship in transnational contexts. Specifically, she focuses on how discourses of race/disability are remapped from biology onto language such that "how you speak" has political implications for notions of citizenship and belonging in educational contexts. She deploys an unusual trope for this analysis – the tongue, the physiological tool presumably responsible not just for speech but for “speaking well.” Refusing a pathological analysis that habitually locates disability as lack, she deconstructs the notion of becoming “tongue tied” using the critical standpoint of a materialist disability studies (Erevelles, 2011) at the intersection of race, gender, disability, and desire. 


Dr. Nirmala Erevelles is Professor of Social and Cultural Studies in Education at the University of Alabama. Her teaching and research interests lie in the areas of disability studies, critical race theory, transnational feminism, sociology of education, and postcolonial studies. Specifically, her research focuses on the unruly, messy, unpredictable and taboo body – a habitual outcast in educational (and social) contexts. Erevelles asks: Why do some bodies matter more than others? In raising this question "why," the tenor of her scholarship shifts from description to explanation to highlight the implications exploitative social/economic arrangements have for making bodies matter (or not) in particular historical and material contexts. Erevelles argues that disability as a central critical analytic can have transformative potential in addressing issues as varied as inclusive schooling, critical/radical pedagogies/curricula, HIV/AIDS education, facilitated communication, school violence, multicultural education, and the sex curriculum. Her insistence on an intersectional analysis foregrounds the dialectical relationship between disability and the other constructs of difference, namely race, class, gender, and sexuality and its brutal implications for (disabled) students in U.S. public schools and (disabled) citizens in transnational contexts.

Erevelles has published articles in the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Theory, Studies in Education and Philosophy, the Journal of Curriculum Studies, Teachers College Record, Disability & Society, Disability Studies Quarterly, & the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, among others. Her book, Disability and Difference in Global Contexts: Towards a Transformative Body Politic was published by Palgrave in November 2012.

For accessibility questions and/or concerns, please email: cmce.oise@utoronto.ca.

This event is co-sponsored by:

Visiting Scholars Funding Program, OISE
Students for Barrier-free Access, University of Toronto
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, OISE
Department of Social Justice Education, OISE
Equity Studies, New College, University of Toronto
Centre for Urban Schooling, OISE
Graduate Students Association, OISE