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Biological Imaginaries: Disability, Difference, and the New Genres of the Body

April 11, 2022 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

 Two petri dishes are shown against a dark grey background. The petri dish on the left swirls with pink, orange and white bacteria, while the dish on the right blossoms with orange, brown, black and white cultures.
Collecting Cultures x Overbruggen, 2021.

Iseult Gillespie

Madeline Doran Dissertation Fellow (2021-2022)

English, UW-Madison

In recent years, disabled writers and artists have increasingly turned to medical biology to represent their embodied experiences. This inward turn is unexpected, given the numerous ways in which medical biology has been weaponized against those who deviate from the so-called norm. Against the tendency to equate biology with determinism or elide it altogether, these creators take an irreverent approach to the internal body that delves into physiological realities, hijacks biological data, defamiliarizes the medical gaze, and subverts scientific methods. From experimental illness memoirs and visceral accounts of bodily flux to art that repurposes medical technology and activates the senses, this talk focuses on forms in a variety of media and genres that use biology as a catalyst for creative expression and political dissent. To describe this emerging arena of cultural production, I coin the term “biological imaginaries.”

Iseult Gillespie is a Ph.D. Candidate in English at UW-Madison. She specializes in the literary and cultural study of disability from an intersectional perspective, with interests in queer and transfeminist theory, visual cultures, and science and technology studies. Her forthcoming articles explore experimental life writing, intersex poetics, and disability justice. An educator for PBS Digital Studios and TED-Ed who holds a Graduate Public Exchange Fellowship with the Center for the Humanities at UW-Madison, she is committed to inclusive projects that allow the relationship between scholarship and public interests to flourish.


April 11, 2022
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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