Welcome, Keywords for Disability Studies

We are pleased to announce the publication of Keywords for Disability Studies.  As co-editors, we took seriously the mandate to represent the breadth and diversity of disability studies as an interdisciplinary field poised at the intersection of activism, scholarship, and lived experience.  The essays in this collection are designed to provide essential background and framing for important terms in the field, and also to explain how “disability” changes our understanding of terms that circulate broadly across the disciplines, such as “aesthetics,” “race,” “representation,” and “work.”  While individual essays define and historicize terms, Keywords is not intended to function as a fixed, encyclopedic survey of the field but rather as a series of interventions in what we hope will become an ongoing dialogue about the meaning and shape of disability studies.

The publication of Keywords for Disability Studies coincides with two important 25th anniversaries in the history of disability rights in the United States:  the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the renaming of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  These acts represent important milestones in the legal recognition of the rights of people with disabilities.  They are of global significance in that they were inspired by and would provide a model for legislative activism in other parts of the world.  Many of the essays in Keywords acknowledge the crucial accomplishments of these acts, while also pointing out the work that remains to be done to build a world more inclusive of people with disabilities.

As we conceptualized and structured our project, we were guided by other works in NYU’s Keywords series, especially Keywords for American Cultural Studies as well as  Keywords for Children’s Literature and Keywords for Asian American Studies. Along with forthcoming projects such as Keywords in Environmental Studies, we expect that our book will contribute to the series’ goal, which is to spark dialogue and create further opportunities to reconfigure our disciplines and fields in even more generative ways.

Keywords for Disability Studies will be a valuable resource for scholars and teachers at all levels.  In collaboration with our contributors,, we have developed preliminary suggestions for classroom use, including sample assignments and syllabi  We hope that this feature of the book’s web site will grow and evolve as we learn more about how Keywords is actually being used by students and instructors in a variety of educational settings.  Given the exploratory and speculative nature of the essays in our volume, we also look forward to feedback about the content of individual entries, which may be revised and expanded across future editions of the volume.  Finally, we recognize that our list of keywords will always be partial.  We look forward to readers’ suggestions for new terms and to lively conversation about the volume’s contents as the field continues to grow and change.

It has been a great privilege to edit Keywords for Disability Studies because it has allowed us to learn from and collaborate with colleagues in many different disciplines and provided us the opportunity to give at least provisional shape to a vital, heterogeneous field.  We hope that the publication of our volume will create a foundation for continued collaboration that will include new voices, terms, and approaches.


From the Editors