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Religion and Disability Studies

From healing miracles that position the disabled body as a site for manifesting religious faith to sacred scriptures that treat disability as a form of deviance or an expression of divine judgment, disability has an uneasy place within religious texts and traditions. Yet disability has also prompted potent theological reflections on our capacity for suffering and joy, for vulnerability and wonder. This seminar examined the intersections between religion and disability in sacred texts, popular culture, and disability activism, with a particular focus on Jewish and Christian traditions. Class members immersed themselves in the vibrant cultural worlds of the disability justice movement, examining how disability activists, artists, and theorists affirm the sacrality and dignity of disabled people—and challenge the oppression of people whose lives are often deemed “not worth living.” Engaging critical theory and theology, memoir, the performing arts, and new media, this course invited students to reflect together on the way that disability studies and disability experience might deepen our understanding of what it means to be human—and how we practice commitments to justice, dignity, and solidarity. This class (THEO 211) was taught by Julia Watts Belser as a Doyle Seminar (small upper-level classes that foster deepened student learning about diversity and difference through research and dialogue).



Julia Watts Belser headshot

Julia Watts Belser

Senior Research Fellow
Department of Theology and Religious Studies

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