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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Dr Tom Shakespeare: Crooked Timbers - disability and the human condition

26th January 2009, 18:30 to 19:30, Room 407, Calman Learning Centre

This is the first lecture in the Figuring the Human Public Lecture Series.

To be human is not only to be mortal, it is to be physically frail and vulnerable. Impairment is part of the human condition. This pessimistic insight emerges from writers including Lucretius, Leopardi, and Timpanaro.

However, since Descartes, a dominant strand of thinking identifies humanness with the capacity for rational thought, and the body has consequently been neglected as a limiting and determining factor in human experience. This lecture will explore the ubiquity of disability as a feature of humanness, and show how cultural representations of disabled people have often been "dustbins for disavowal" (Hevey, 1992). What are the implications of taking a universalist approach to disability for the ways in which we include people with disabilities and consider our own being in the world?

Tom Shakespeare is a Research Fellow, based part time in the School of English at Newcastle University, working on writing and performance projects, exploring stories and characters related to genetics and disability. He also works in the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre (PEALS) completing projects in bioethics and science engagement. He writes regularly for the Guardian and has spoken on disability issues on the BBC’s Question Time. His non-fiction books include Genetics Politics: from Eugenics to Genome and The Sexual Politics of Disability.

This public lecture is free and open to all. Doors open at 6.00pm. There is no need to book, places are on a first come first served basis.

Contact for more information about this event.

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