Section: News

The Gund hosts workshop on the philosophy of disability 

The Gund hosts workshop on the philosophy of disability 

The Christine Sun Kim: Oh Me Oh My exhibit inspired the workshop. | COURTESY OF THE GUND

On Friday evening, Kenyon’s Department of Philosophy, The Gund and the Office of the Provost sponsored an Interactive Philosophy of Disability Workshop at The Gund. The workshop explored issues related to the social experiences of living with a disability and  included two guest speakers: Caroline Christoff, an assistant professor of philosophy at Muskingum University, and Nate Whelan-Jackson, an associate professor of philosophy at Capital University. Becky Brooks and Clayton Waites of Heritage Interpreting were present to interpret the program into ASL.  

Curator of Academic Programs Jodi Kovach, one of the event’s organizers, explained that the idea for the event came from a conversation with Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy Alexandra Bradner, a colleague of Christoff and Whelan-Jackson. “Earlier this semester, Professor Bradner and I met to walk through the [Christine Sun Kim: Oh Me Oh My] exhibition together and to discuss plans for her Philosophy of Natural Science class to engage with the artwork,” Kovach said in an interview with the Collegian. “At that time she was developing a concept for the workshop and mentioned this to me.” 

The workshop took place in The Gund, where approximately 25 participants sat in a circle of chairs in the first room of the exhibition. The workshop was split into three segments, the first of which was a co-lecture between Christoff and Whelan-Jackson about changing attitudes on the disabled in philosophical academia. The segment also included the speakers’  individual experiences with philosophy relating to disability. 

Following the lecture, there was a Q&A session, where students asked about how the speakers adapted their courses to be more accommodating. Students also posed questions on a variety of issues, including the prevailing ‘cure narrative,’ which argues that disability is something to be fixed, as well as the values associated with what is defined as an able body and the concept that there is a positive side to some disabilities. The workshop ended with a tour of the Oh Me Oh My exhibit currently at The Gund. Vice President of Student Affairs Celestino Limas praised the exhibit and its accessibility.  “There is something wonderful — and, I think, vibrant — about the current installation,” he said in an interview with the Collegian. “Even if you don’t know anything about Deaf culture and the language, there are some things that are so visually loud [that they are] quite powerful. I think that it really speaks to our power as an artist, and what it means to actually use a medium, both visually with video and static exhibits.” 

Kovach found the event to be a massive success. “I think it went brilliantly. This was the first workshop of this sort at The Gund, and I really appreciated how it fostered intellectual inquiry and thoughtful conversation among all participants.” According to Kovach, the workshop is the first in a series of planned events.  “The Gund is developing a program series inspired by Christine Sun Kim: Oh Me Oh My, which will extend through the spring semester,” she said. 

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