Disability Theory

Tobin Siebers
Boldly rethinks theoretical questions of the last thirty years from the vantage point of disability studies


Intelligent, provocative, and challenging, Disability Theory revolutionizes the terrain of theory by providing indisputable evidence of the value and utility that a disability studies perspective can bring to key critical and cultural questions. Tobin Siebers persuasively argues that disability studies transfigures basic assumptions about identity, ideology, language, politics, social oppression, and the body. At the same time, he advances the emerging field of disability studies by putting its core issues into contact with signal thinkers in cultural studies, literary theory, queer theory, gender studies, and critical race theory.

"Disability Theory is just the book we've been waiting for. Clear, cogent, compelling analyses of the tension between the 'social model' of disability and the material details of impairment; of identity politics and unstable identities; of capability rights and human interdependence; of disability and law, disability as masquerade, disability and sexuality, disability and democracy—they're all here, in beautifully crafted and intellectually startling essays. Disability Theory is a field-defining book: and if you're curious about what 'disability' has to do with 'theory,' it's just the book you've been waiting for, too."
—Michael Bérubé, Pennsylvania State University
"Disability Theory is magisterially written, thoroughly researched, and polemically powerful. It will be controversial in a number of areas and will probably ruffle feathers both in disability studies as well as in realms of cultural theory. And that's all to the good."
—Michael Davidson, University of California, San Diego
"Not only is Disability Theory a groundbreaking contribution to disability studies, it is also a bold, ambitious and much needed revision to a number of adjacent and overlapping fields including cultural studies, literary theory, queer theory, and critical race studies. Siebers has written a powerful manifesto that calls theory to account and forces readers to think beyond our comfort zones."
—Helen Deutsch, University of California, Los Angeles
Illustration: Pattern by Riva Lehrer, acrylic on panel, 18" X 24", 1995
Tobin Siebers is V. L. Parrington Collegiate Professor, Professor of English Language and Literature, and Professor of Art and Design at the University of Michigan.

Visit the author's website at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~tobin/html/

Praise / Awards

  • "Tobin Siebers' Disability Theory is an important book for contemporary Disability Studies. It is important not only for its often provocative explorations of such pressing issues as pain, sexuality, and human rights, but also because Siebers is a major participant in one of the most vigorous debates within the field at the present time—the question of methodology and how we do Disability Studies in the humanities. This is a book with a clear agenda: to counter the critiques of identity politics that have emerged among disability scholars."
    —Clare Barker, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies

  • "Disability Theory is a passionate book that would be a good choice for introducing advanced undergraduate or graduate students to new ways of thinking about disability..."
    —Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson, JAC

  • "Thoughtful, engaging, and wide-reaching ...  a welcome contribution to a field still endeavoring to establish disability as a topic of theoretical discourse rather than medical intervention."
    Contemporary Literature

  • Co-Winner: 2009 University of Michigan Press Book Award

Look Inside

Copyright © 2008, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted May and July 2008.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 240pp.
  • 2 illustrations and 2 B&W photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2008
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07039-8

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  • $80.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2008
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05039-0

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  • $26.95 U.S.

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Announcing the Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities