CFP – IMC Leeds – The Borders of Disability and Ability, Illhealth and Health

MS. Bodl. 264 – 191r

CfP: The Borders of Disability and Ability, Illhealth and Health

The study of Disability history has recently experienced substantial shifts in scholarly approach. Academics since the 2000s have recognised more clearly than ever that the meaning and experience of Disability changes over time, and within and between cultures (Turner and Pearman, 2010). It is now understood as a socio-cultural phenomenon, an embodied state which diverges from culturally constituted “norms” at a given moment in time (Barsch, Klein and Verstraete, 2013). Scholars have approached Disability/illhealth in different contexts, from social histories of communities of Disabled or chronically ill people; to cultural studies of Disability/illness across different genres; to identifying Disability as an intrinsically liminal position (Crawford and Leet, 2010; Eyler, 2010; Baker, Nijdam, and van’t Land, 2012; Metzler 2013). Recently, several publications have tried to better delimit the field of research with the aim of contributing to a deeper understanding of disease and Disability in medieval culture and thought (Künzel and Connelly, 2018; Hsy, Pearman and Eyler, 2020).

 The special thematic strand of the International Medieval Congress for 2022 invites scholars to question how notions of borders, variously defined, serve to limit communities and identities. We therefore seek to put together a session or sessions exploring the border(s) between Disability and ability, and/or health and illhealth.


Proposals may include (but are not confined to) the following:

  • How the definition and differentiation between Disability/illhealth and ability/health division varies in different contexts,  E.g. the suffering of a saint as part of their sanctity vs suffering as something to be cured by a saint; mysticism vs mental illness; sin as an ‘illness’ vs the redemptive opportunities of suffering; different physical expectations/requirements of different genders/occupations/social strata.
  • Where does the impact of Disability/illhealth end? Does it move beyond the borders of an individual/group to affect the wider society? E.g. impact of caring for Disabled/ill persons; opportunity for charity towards a Disabled/ill person.
  • How does Disability/illhealth fit within, on, or interact with the ‘borders’ of or in society? How does it fit with ideas of marginalization, or how does Disability/illhealth intersect with other  socio-economic experiences? E.g. experiences of Disability/illhealth in different social strata, ages, gender identities, cultural roles.
  • Where is the border between illhealth and Disability? How were they defined? Do definitions/descriptions differ across source materials? E.g. descriptions of Disability/illhealth in medical texts, literature, religious texts, legal texts.


Abstracts of no more than 300 words for a 20 minutes paper presentation should be submitted to the session organisers Adelheid Russenberger ( and Dr Ninon Dubourg ( by 31 August 2021.