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Social Sciences

Alternative Futures: Disability and Community

1 October 2014 - 31 May 2015

PI/s in Exeter: Dr Martin Levinson

Research partners: Dr Susan Porter (University of Bristol), Dr Diane Carr (Institute of Education), Ms Esther Fox (Screen South), Ms Susan Moffat (New Vic Theatre)

Funding awarded: £ 17,423 (total funding of £ 25,000)

Sponsor(s): AHRC

About the research

Dr Martin Levinson has been awarded a development grant of £25,000 by the AHRC to build a wider £1.5M project. He is PI in this project that involves Bristol University, The Institute at London University and several community partners, including South Screen and the New Vic Theatre.

Alternative Futures will be an inter-disciplinary project around the theme of Disability and Community, exploring cultural, anthropological and historical perspectives of place and performance across communities. 'Alternative Futures' will investigate the ways in which disabled people express, perform, experience and practice 'community'. It will question the ways in which disability and disabled communities are constructed and positioned by mainstream culture, by themselves and by research practice.

The research will contest more entrenched approaches to disability. The project will challenge persistent models of disability (medical, clinical, applied), drawing on the lived experience of disabled people. It will seek to initiate new thinking around Disability and Community. A particular interest will be in the ways in which future membership of communities is envisaged. This will include inquiry into new technologies and digital media, and will consider potentially ‘darker’ outcomes of such technology as identified by e.g. Garland-Thomson (2012) who has argued that  the application of new technologies and genetic screening has the potential to change and divide communities, providing new and seemingly clean versions of eugenics.

Those involved at this developmental phase will include people from disability communities, representatives from support groups, disabled artists and performers, and academics selected from a range of fields. The diverse backgrounds of the academic team - Critical Disability Studies, Media and Cultural Studies and Anthropology - will result in inter-disciplinary inquiry that will be of relevance to other disciplines, such as History and Psychology. Other members of the team bring diverse experience across the arts, and they also bring close connections to disability communities.

The research will contribute to the wider AHRC Connected Communities Programme, and specifically, to the AHRC themes around Disconnection, Division and Exclusion.

Image credit: Graeae Theatre Company- Prometheus -  Patrick Baldwin