by Ellen Samuels

About Ellen Samuels

Ellen Samuels is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and English at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the author of Fantasies of Identification: Disability, Gender, Race (NYU Press, 2014). Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Feminist Disability Studies, GLQ, Amerasia, and MELUS, and was awarded the Catherine Stimpson Prize for Outstanding Feminist Scholarship in 2011. She is currently working on a new book, Double Meanings: Representing Conjoined Twins.


In historical and colloquial usage, “passing” was originally understood as a form of imposture in which members of a marginalized group presented themselves as members of a dominant group. African Americans passing for white, for example, or Jews passing for gentiles, were attempting to achieve the appearance of equality or to neutralize the stigma of those racialized and religious identities. Passing, as a cultural practice, has also signified in the arenas of gender and sexuality, with men passing as women, women passing as men, transgender people passing as their chosen gender, and gay or lesbian people passing as heterosexual. Comparatively little attention, however, has been given to the phenomenon of individuals passing as either disabled or nondisabled.