by Michael Bérubé

About Michael Bérubé

Michael Bérubé is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature and Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of seven books to date, including Public Access: Literary Theory and American Cultural Politics (1994); Life as We Know It: A Father, a Family, and an Exceptional Child (1996); and What’s Liberal about the Liberal Arts? Classroom Politics and “Bias” in Higher Education (2006). His most recent book, The Left at War, was published in 2009 by NYU Press. He is also the editor of The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies (2004) and, with Cary Nelson, of Higher Education under Fire: Politics, Economics, and the Crisis of the Humanities (1995).


The word “representation” has a double valence for disability studies, which consists of an intensification of its double valence in the English language more generally. “Representation” speaks to both political and aesthetic concerns; it suggests an image that stands in for and points toward a thing (in the Oxford English Dictionary, “an image, likeness, or reproduction in some manner of a thing; a material image or figure; a reproduction in some material or tangible form; in later use, a drawing or painting”), or a mechanism by which one person or group of people is empowered to stand in for and express the wishes of another person or group (in the OED, “the fact of standing for, or in place of, some other thing or person, esp. with a right or authority to act on their account”). There are other, more narrowly legal senses of representation, as when one makes a material representation of a fact or a state of affairs; but these are not as relevant to the project of disability studies as are the political and aesthetic senses, except with regard to the question of guardianship, which I will address briefly later.