Critical Disability Studies Caucus

The Critical Disability Studies Caucus (CDSC) highlights the work of scholars engaged in the study of disability, madness, neurodivergence, chronic illness, and debilitation. We take a critical approach to disability studies, which requires us to dismantle the field's historic investments in whiteness, heteropatriarchy, and capitalism, and to decenter the global north. In order to foreground scholarship by disabled scholars and students, we have by necessity also committed to ensuring the participation of disabled scholars and students within the American Studies Association. The caucus provides a venue through which scholars of disability can share ideas, build networks to increase disability-related panels at the ASA, and facilitate the development of emerging scholars in the field.

Activities of the caucus include:

  • Sponsored panels related to the critical study of disability at the annual conference,

  • A business meeting at the annual conference,

  • The annual Critical Disability Studies award for Best Graduate Student Paper

  • Professional development opportunities for scholars at all levels

  • Collaboration with other ASA caucuses, and

  • Social gatherings and site-specific events for caucus members and ASA members at large.

Graduate Student Paper Award:

The Critical Disability Studies Caucus of the American Studies Association has an annual Graduate Student Paper Award competition. Graduate students (MA, PhD) who have had papers accepted for the annual meeting may submit for consideration.

Papers may deal with any aspect of disability studies, but we encourage graduate students to ground themselves in current scholarship, for example by: 

  • using disability studies as an epistemology and methodology; 

  • examining disability as a contested category that is constructed through race, gender, sexuality, and geographic location; and 

  • exploring disability studies as a field with multiple genealogies. 

Papers that have been previously accepted for publication are ineligible. The prize includes a certificate and recognition at the annual meeting.

Please submit a single PDF, including the conference paper (3,500 word maximum, including citations and notes), and a cover page including the author’s name, paper title, institutional affiliation, and contact information to two weeks before the start of the conference.

Congratulations to our past Graduate Student Paper Award winners:


  • Nicholas Villarreal (PhD student in Cultural Studies, University of California Davis), for "Keto: How Anti-Fat Ideologies of Cure Are Deployed As “Science”"

Note: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we did not give graduate student paper awards in 2020-2022. 


  • Sarah Orsak (Doctoral Candidate in Women's and Gender Studies, Rutgers University), for "'No Freak of Nature': Capacity, Species, and Freedom in Thylias Moss’ Slave Moth"

    • Honorable Mention: Ka-eul Yoo (PhD Candidate in Literature, University of California Santa Cruz) for “Deformed Ambassadors: The ‘Red’ Threat and U.S. Hansen’s Disease Controlling Policies in Cold War Korea”


  • No award given


  • Emily L Rogers for "Sick and Tired: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and 'Anti-Scientism(s)'”

    • Honorable mention: Ittai Orr for "Robert Montgomery Bird’s Neurodiversity Hypothesis"


  • Jessica Cowing for “Obesity and (Un)fit Homes: Health and Belonging in a Settler Nation”


We call on the ASA board and administration to ensure optimal accessibility in the organization and its meetings. Information about accessibility at the annual conference can be found here. Guidelines for session organizers and presenters on accessibility can be found here.