University of Michigan
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June 25, 2018

Disability studies prize honors the late Tobin Siebers

April 14, 2015

Disability studies prize honors the late Tobin Siebers

The University of Michigan Press and Department of English Language and Literature have established The Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities, which includes a $5,000 award for best book-length manuscript on a topic of pressing urgency to disability studies in the humanities. 

As a long-term faculty member at U-M, prolific author and pioneering theorist, the late Tobin Siebers influenced disability studies in field-shifting ways since the publication of his prize-winning essay "My Withered Limb" in 1998.

Tobin Siebers

His subsequent scholarly publications, including the books "Disability Theory'" and "Disability Aesthetics," as well as essays such as "A Sexual Culture for Disabled People," quickly became pivotal works in the field.

Siebers' work has galvanized new scholarship in relation to questions of representation, subjectivity and the entry of non-normative bodies into public space, and made the study of disability a central component (alongside gender, race, sexuality and class) in analyses of the culture wars and identity studies.

"Disability is not a physical or mental defect but a cultural and minority identity," Siebers wrote in "Disability Theory." "To call disability an identity is to recognize that it is not a biological or natural property but an elastic social category capable of effecting social change."

Michael Schoenfeldt, chair of the Department of English Language and Literature, said Siebers' works have had a transformative effect on the field of disability studies.

"With admirable clarity, deep sympathy and a quiet urgency, Siebers reveals the rich knowledge present in the experience of all bodies," he said. "His works, moreover, have demonstrated just how thoroughly the perspective of disability studies can revolutionize a range of disciplines."

Reflecting the work of the scholar the prize commemorates, the competition is open to all and invites submissions on a wide range of topics, from literary and cultural studies, to trans-historical research, to contributions to disability theory such as work in crip/queer studies. 

The deadline for submissions is Sept. 15, and the winner will be announced in January 2016 at the Modern Language Association.

In addition to the $5,000 cash prize, the winner will earn a contract from U-M Press to have the winning manuscript published in their "Corporealities: Discourses of Disability" series. The winner will also be invited to deliver a lecture, related to the subject of the book, at the U-M English department.

Initial funding for the prize comes from the U-M Library as part of its commitment to accessibility and diversity. Opportunities to support the long-term continuation of the prize are available, and details can be found as part of the prize information.