Courses in Disability Studies at UofT

Graduate Courses

ANTH 6062 – Disability Anthropology (C. Hartblay): This graduate research seminar explores the emergence of disability anthropology as a subfield at the intersection of medical anthropology and critical disability studies. We will examine the theoretical and methodological innovations that scholars enacted in the shift from “anthropologists with disabilities” to an “anthropology of disability” to a “disability anthropology” that tracks the work that the category of disability does. In doing so, we track systems of ableism that emerge across different cultural settings. Throughout the course, we will ask and engage the following questions: What is an anthropological approach to the study of disability? How has disability anthropology emerged as an area of research for sociocultural anthropologists? What epistemological concerns does disability anthropology provoke regarding human ways of knowing and coming to know, and what are the implications for ethnography? Moreover, how has anthropology as a field and ethnography as a research practice contributed to the emergence of today’s robust scholarly debates in global disability studies? How ought anthropologists reconcile the prescriptivism of disability pride politics with the descriptivism of the ethnographic project? How does the anthropological perspective challenge assumptions about about disability vis-à-vis human capacities and socialities across social worlds and over time? What theoretical underpinnings hold together the core logics of the anthropological approach to disability, and what divergent theoretical approaches characterize recent disability anthropology? Throughout, we will problematize normative cultural paradigms of: a biological and curative approach to bodily and mental difference; cartesian dualism in perceptions “normal” bodyminds; patriarchy, racialization, and colonization as bound to logics of ableism; and ableist hierarchies of productivity. Texts include works by scholars such as: Karen Nakamura, Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp, Benedicte Ingstad and Susan Whyte, Joao Biehl, Don Kulick, Michele Friedner, Devva Kasnitz, Can Açikosz, Olga Soloman, Lawrence Ralph, Julie Livingston, Annemarie Mol, and others. 

ENG 6012 – Forms of Disability (K. Williams): This course works at the exciting intersection of critical disability studies and literary studies. We will consider how disability in literary texts operates as a site of formal innovation—beyond reading disability as a plot device or trope, and beyond character diagnosis—and engage disability as a concept that evokes the capacity of literature to represent difference and shape experience. Understanding disability theory as a lens for new and emerging inquiry in literary studies, this course will also ask: how might close attention to literary forms and histories productively complicate dominant paradigms of disability theory? The bulk of our readings are drawn from theoretical and critical material, alongside case studies that consider disability in relation to questions of poetics, temporality, narrative, and performance. 

OISE Courses

*NEW Fall 2021* – Disability Studies and the Media (T. Titchkosky): In this course, we explore the inescapable fact that any experience of disability is mediated. Disability is mediated through, among other things, social media, film, novels, news, drama, myth, adages, advertising. This course treats these forms of mediation as stories that reflect and shape cultural understandings of disability. Making use of interpretive disability studies theory and methods, we examine how various media-forms stage encounters with dominant meanings of disability. The course is oriented to the possibility of reading, writing, performing and depicting disability differently from how it is typically done. By treating forms of mediation as a space for critical cultural inquiry and by attending to how these mediations are politically and socially organized, the course aims to nurture unexpected, even life-affirming, mediations of disability. Thursday Afternoons, 1-4pm Fall 2021.

SJE1957H – Disability Studies: An Introduction (D. Healey): ”Doing Disability” brings us to a central premise of disability studies–disability is a space of cultural practices done by and to people. From this premise, it follows that we are never alone in our bodies and so disability represents the material fact that bodies, minds, and senses always appear in the midst of people. Assuming that disability is done and re-done through everyday discursive practices, disability studies turns to a range of interdisciplinary work that enriches the potential to challenge our taken-for-granted understandings of social and political life. Theorizing how we do disability, even in the everyday of the (our) classroom, provides the occasion to critically engage contexts, such as education, mass media, and the built environment, as they intersect with issues of identity and difference; embodiment; narrative; the constitutive structuring of ordinary, agentive, viable, life at their opposites. Orienting to disability as a social accomplishment of everyday life is a way to examine how versions of what counts as human are culturally organized and governed. Made by culture, disability is a key space of practices where we might theorize culture’s makings. In this course, we explore social models and theories of disability, so as to develop a critical understanding of disability’s appearance in everyday life and to work to open ourselves to question how these new non-medicalized ways of knowing disability might influence pedagogical structures and practices. 

SJE1958H – The Cultural Production of the Self as a Problem in Education (T. Titchkosky): This course explores socio-cultural theories of the self and subjectivity. Turning to interpretive sociology, informed by cultural and disability studies, we will theorize the self as social and as located in educational scenes of its appearance, including its appearance in empirical studies that regard the self as a problem. Through lecture and seminar discussions, we will uncover taken-for-granted conceptions of the self-as-a-problem in education. The course aims to reveal the complex version of self as a cultural production while questioning individualized versions of self currently produced by dominant fields’ of inquiry in education such as developmental and epigenetic psychology.

SJE2030H – Disability Studies and the Human Imaginary (R. Michalko): This course theorizes the meaning of “human.” It does so by developing conversations between disability studies and key theorists who have raised the question of the human imaginary, herein regarded as culturally structured images that govern people’s interactions. As a way to guide our understanding of the restricted character of the human imaginary resulting from colonial/settler power, we turn to various scholars (including Sylvia Wynter, Thomas King, Frantz Fanon, W.E.B. DuBois, Audre Lorde, Paul Gilroy, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Harold Vizenor, Hannah Arendt, Edward Said, Ralph Ellison, Austin Clarke, Octavia Butler). Bringing disability studies praxis into conversation with these writers, the course will trace the meaning made of the human through two questions. First, what consequences has a restricted human imaginary imposed on the practices and institutions enacting disability in everyday life? Second, what place does disability occupy in the work of those who have theorized a restricted human imaginary? Working with these two questions, the overall aim of the course is to consider how social justice education might better attune itself to Fanon’s (1967) provocation, “Oh my body, make of me always a [hu]man who questions!” 

SJE2929H – Disability Studies: Interpretive Methods [RM] (T. Titchkosky): The social act of interpretation is the abiding concern of this course. It pursues methods of examining the material fact of interpretation as it forms the meaning of disability in contemporary times. We will learn phenomenologically oriented methods from Black, Indigenous, Queer, Feminist and Disability Studies scholars. The purpose of this course is to learn how to engage interpretations of physical, sensory, mental, emotional variations to critical inquiry. We will pursue interpretive methods of reading and writing that explore the complex social significance of embodied diversity within various social arenas, such as medicine and education. The course will pursue interpretive methods while engaging the question. “How is studying the act of interpretation important to social change?” 

STG Undergraduate Courses

ENG197H1 – Representing Disability (Katherine Williams): Understanding disability as a cultural concept—not a medical condition or personal misfortune—that describes how human variation matters in the world, this course asks: how do literary texts represent physical and intellectual disability? Reading drama, fiction, and poetry, we will consider how disability prompts new strategies of writing and thinking, in order to consider what new forms of representation disability can produce, and what the concept of disability can teach us about being human. We will consider literary, visual, performative, and performance-based possibilities for bodies and minds that resist normative structures, theorize ideas of access, cure, and care, and claim disability as enlivening identity. 

HPS240H1 – The Influence of the Eugenics Movement on Contemporary Society (E. Koester): This course explores present-day topics such as reproductive issues (including “designer babies” and genetic counselling), gender, racism/colonialism, disability and euthanasia through the lens of the history of eugenics. A “scientific” movement which became popular around the world in the early twentieth century, eugenics was based on the principle that certain undesirable human characteristics were hereditary and could be eliminated by controlled reproduction. It resulted in the enactment of laws in numerous places, including Canada, authorizing coerced reproductive sterilization of certain individuals, and other measures intended to “improve” humanity. Today, we see its influences woven through contemporary debates, a number of which we will consider. 

JNS450H1 – Sexuality & Disability (Sexual Diversity Studies/New College cross-listed; A. McGuire as best contact): An interdisciplinary and intersectional approach to the study of disability and sexuality. Students will engage with historical, mainstream and critical discourses and explore complex issues and representations pertaining to disability, sexuality, sexual practices and desire. Draws from a range of writings and cultural texts in queer, crip and sexuality studies. 

NEW449H1 – Contemporary Theories in Critical Disability Studies (A. McGuire): Explores competing conceptions, definitions and practices of disability through a range of critical disability theories, including crip-of-colour critique, decolonial theories of disability studies and black feminist disability frameworks. Enacts disability studies as a justice-oriented methodology or practice that has value for understanding and responding to colonial systems of race, class, gender and disability. Interrogates the shape and limits of disability and disability studies to ask the provocative question: what can disability studies do? 

NEW241Y1 – Introduction to Critical Disability Studies (A. McGuire): Draws on an intersectional history and politics of normativity and bodily difference to understand disability as a diverse and materially salient social category that can be used as a lens to better understand systems and experiences of colonization, race, class, gender, age, etc. Explores scenes of disability or ‘crip’ solidarity, resistance and cultural production, disability D/deaf and mad arts, coalitional movements for disability justice, collective approaches to access and other non-normative ways of knowing and being. 

NEW349H1 – Disability Arts and Culture (A. McGuire): Explores the work of disabled, mad, sick and/or Deaf artists and considers how disability disrupts – or ‘crips’ – artistic spaces and cultural movements. Engaged with contemporary debates emanating from within these spaces and movements to revewal disability as a dynamic range of bodily practices, aesthetics and relations. 

NEW344Y1 – Body Matters: Oppression, Solidarity, and Justice (A. McGuire): Through lectures, small-group discussions and experiential activities, explores how intersecting cultural stories impact our bodies and how stories inscribed upon us shape and constrain our relations, perceptions, experiences and vulnerabilities as embodied subjects. Draws on work in cultural studies, critical race and decolonial theory, gender studies, queer, trans and disability theory and fat studies to ask: Whose bodies matter? How do bodies come to matter? And, how are we – as embodied beings – engaged in acts of rewriting, resisting and otherwise transforming the body means and what it can do? 

NEW347H1 – Mad Studies: Theories and Politics: Introduces students to the theory and politics of Mad Studies.  Key ideas to be addressed over the term include:  the history of mad politics in Canada; critiques of psychiatric theory and practice; intersectional analyses of mental health and illness; cultural and artistic modes of representation and resistance and Mad Pride.  

NEW448H1 – Disability and the Child (A. McGuire): Examines a range of historical and present-day meanings associated with the figure of the disabled child. Draws on work emanating from a variety of disciplines, including history, psychology, neuroscience, visual arts, film and literature, and engaging with critical theories of race, class, gender, sexuality and disability, to discuss ideas and issues relevant to the construction of 21st century disabled childhoods. Counters the near monolithic story of disability as threat to the presumed goodness of normative childhood by asking: what alternate depictions and narratives of disabled childhood exist and what can they teach us? 

SOC499H1F – The Sociology of Disability (T. Titchkosky): This Disability Studies seminar course treats disability as a socio-cultural phenomenon of growing import to sociology. It examines competing definitions and conceptions of disability and their social and political consequences in everyday life.

UTM Undergraduate Courses

ANT353H5 – Queer Bodies: Gender, Disability, and Illness (Z. Wool): This course explores how gender and sexuality matter in contexts of illness and disability across a range of institutional, social, and national contexts, from queer perspectives on breast cancer surgery in the US to the politics of masculinity among Turkish veteran amputees.  A particular focus of the course is the way illness and disability expose, disturb, or retrench normative arrangements of gender. In addition to learning key concepts in medical anthropology, disability studies, and gender and queer studies, students will learn new ways of thinking critically about the body as a site of power configured in the social and material fields of heath/illness, dis/ability, race, and gender and sexuality. Pre-requisite: ANT204H5 or ANT207H5. 

ANT355H5 – Disabled Cyborgs and Racist Robots: Bodies, Technologies, and Social Justice (Z. Wool): This course asks how technology mediates our ideas about, and experience of embodied social difference, particularly disability, race, and gender. Drawing on frameworks of disability justice, critical race studies, and feminist studies of science and technology we will explore topics including bioethical debates about enhancement and the role of technology in reproducing social disparities in health. Ultimately the course will equip students with the tools to reimagine the relationship between technology, the human body, and social justice. Pre-requisite: 8.0 credits of which at least 0.5 credits is a social sciences or humanities course at a 200-level or higher.

SOC429 – Disability, Politics and Society (D. Pettinicchio): This course situates disability within a social and political context. We focus on how disability serves as a basis for exclusion from social, legal, political and economic institutions as well as the ways in which actors (policymakers, activists, etc.) have sought to undermine this system of discrimination. We will investigate a variety of related themes including the social model of disability, policy and judicial transformations, the evolution of the disability rights movement (including the use of legal mobilization), disability identity, intersectionality, and the future of disability politics and the law. 

UTSC Undergraduate Courses

HLTB60 – Introduction to Interdisciplinary Disability Studies (C. Hartblay): An introduction to interdisciplinary disability studies through humanities, social science, and fine arts, with a strong basis in a social justice orientation that understands disability as a relational, social, and historical symbolic category, and ableism as a form of oppression. Students will develop strong critical skills in interpretation and analysis of artworks (i.e., the written word, visual images, performance) and theoretical texts. Topics including representations of disability in media, including literature and film; medicalization and tropes of disability; disability activism; and intersectional analysis of disability in relation to gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity, and class. Prerequisite: Completion of 2.0 credits with a cGPA of at least 2.7.

HLTC20 – Global Disability Studies (C. Hartblay): This course takes a critical approach to understanding how the category of disability works globally. Starting from a decolonial approach, we will use an integrated social science and humanities approach to understand disability and ableism in global context. Through ethnography, novels, films, and other media, we encounter disability as a relational social experience across diverse locations around the world. Students will be challenged to consider the manifold social processes by which multiple kinds of bodily difference are stigmatized, and the uneasy relationship of disability studies to the pathologizing practices of medical care and public health. Prerequisites: HLTB50, HLTB60, or Permission of the Instructor.

WSTC40 – Gender and Disability (N. Johnston):This course introduces debates and approaches to the intersection of disability with social determinants of gender, sexuality, class, race and ethnicity. Students will examine international human rights for persons with disabilities, images and representations of gender and the body, research questions for political activism, and social injustice. 

HLTD56 Documentary & Memoir Workshop (C. Hartblay): In this course, we explore creative works by physicians and patients, by people living with disability, by those who have had global experiences of disaster, and more. We will look at artistic and compositional practices of documentary writing, film, and theater to draw conclusions about what makes a documentary voice compelling, and what we come to know about human experiences of health, illness, and disability through these mediated expressions. Where is the boundary between fiction and truth? What does it mean to seek to know about another’s experience, or to document and share one’s own experience? What ethical concerns do documentary and memoir practices raise? What does it mean to cultivate an artistic practice, and what kinds of decisions do documentary and memoir artists make in creating these works? This upper level seminar will explore Documentary and Memoir as a political practice, including the ethical concerns, methods, and challenge of producing new creative works. Students have an option to write a critical term paper, or to produce their own original documentary or memoir work. Prereqs: Permission of the Instructor.

POLD59 Politics of Disability (D. Onley): An in-depth analysis of the place and rights of disabled persons in contemporary society. Course topics include historic, contemporary, and religious perspectives on persons with disabilities; the political organization of persons with disabilities; media presentation of persons with disabilities; and the role of legislatures and courts in the provision of rights of labour force equality and social service accessibility for persons with disabilities. Area of Focus: Canadian Government and Politics Prerequisite: 8.0 credits, of which at least 1.5 credits must be at the C- or D-level

HLTD07 – Advanced Rehab Sciences: Disability Studies and Lived Experiences of ‘Normalcy’ (A. Duncan): This course builds on HLTC17H3 by examining rehabilitation from the perspectives of researchers, clinicians, and clients. The course focuses on the historical role of rehabilitation, not only in improving health, but also in perpetuating the goal of ‘normalcy’. Students will examine how rehabilitation impacts people, both at an individual and societal level, and explore the field of disability studies and its critical engagement with the message that disabled people “need to be repaired.”


* Many other courses in health humanities, medical anthropology, medical sociology, etc. include some disability studies elements, and students are encouraged to enroll in those courses and pursue disability studies themes in their coursework.

** Faculty also routinely teach new courses under Special Topics course codes: be sure to check for special topics courses for faculty that you are interested in studying with.

*** New faculty and courses are often added! Please feel free to get in touch (cgds.utsc@utoronto.ca) if you think this list is missing a relevant course, or if you would like to advertise a one-time or special topics course to the CGDS listserv.