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Dissident Bodies & Divergent Minds: Thinking Disability Studies with Late Ancient Jewish Culture, a talk by Julia Watts Belser

September 19 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Join the Department of History for “Dissident Bodies & Divergent Minds: Thinking Disability Studies with Late Ancient Jewish Culture,” a talk by Julia Watts Belser.

Disability studies offer a potent set of conceptual and theoretical tools for thinking critically about the way the way cultures conceptualize physical and mental deviance. This talk brings late antique rabbinic texts into conversation with disability studies theory, illuminating how cultures fashion certain body-minds as neutral and unremarkable, even as others are cast as deviant, undesirable, and subject to scrutiny. We’ll probe the way disability discourse gets used to valorize a certain kind of ideal body and exemplary mind, raise critical questions about the way disability exclusion often gets framed as an expression of benevolence, and explore how centering disability can help us reimagine power and difference in the late ancient world and in our own contemporary moment.

Julia Watts Belser (she/her) is a Professor of Jewish Studies at Georgetown University and core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies program, as well as a rabbi and longtime activist for disability, LGBTQ, and gender justice. Her research brings classical Jewish texts into conversation with disability studies, feminist and queer theory, and environmental justice. She is the author of several scholarly books, including Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem (Oxford University Press, 2018). She also directs Disability and Climate Change: A Public Archive Project, an initiative that partners with grassroots disability leaders to document the way disability communities are responding to climate change. Her latest book, Loving Our Own Bones: Disability Wisdom and the Spiritual Subversiveness of Knowing Ourselves Whole (Beacon Press, 2023), won a National Jewish Book Award. She’s an avid wheelchair hiker, a devoted gardener, and a lover of wild places.

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 912 9134 4255

Passcode: 222158



September 19
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm


Zoom Webinar