Announcing the Winner of the 2023 Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities

By: Danielle Coty-Fattal | Date: November 8, 2023 | Tags: Tobin Siebers Prize
Announcing the Winner of the 2023 Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities

The University of Michigan Press is pleased to announce that Pain in Relation: On Cripistemologies, Chronicity, and Crip Evidence, by Alyson Patsavas, has been chosen for the 2023 Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities. This prize is awarded yearly for the best-proposed book-length manuscript on a topic of pressing urgency in the field.

Alyson Patsavas is Assistant Professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at University of Illinois, Chicago. Her articles have been published in the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Feminist Wire, and Different Bodies: Disability in Film and Television.

“Aly Patsavas’s Pain in Relation: On Cripistemologies, Chronicity, and Crip Evidence furthers the ontological turn in disability studies by refusing to consign experiences of pain to a matter between one’s self and one’s doctor. Instead the manuscript takes a head first dive into philosophies of pain that have proven insubstantial for the neomaterialist interaction that disability so often requires,” said Corporealities: Discourses of Disability series editors David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder. “Pain Relations received this year's Siebers' award because it shares Tobin's effort to approach disability as ontological embodiment — i.e. a way of navigating the world that cannot occur without the intimacy non-normative embodiment involved.”

About the book

Both theoretical and popular understandings of pain center on its uniquely subjective nature— that we cannot know another person’s pain. This unknowability is aided, in part, by pain’s resistance to language. Yet scholars have increasingly begun to recognize that pain is not exceptional among bodymind experiences and should be understood as not only sharable but complex, situated, and relational. In her work, Alyson Patsavas demonstrates that grounding a crip theorizing of pain through an exploration of prepositions offers key tools for the critical project of situating, contextualizing, and reshaping understandings of pain. Thus Pain Relations makes an argument for the leverage garnered by both exposing the work that discursive framings like “because of pain” accomplish and for the possibilities opened up by shifting a focus from “the body in pain,” to a body “with pain.”

In summarizing the contribution that Pain Relations will make, Editorial Director Sara Jo Cohen wrote, “Pain is a near universal human experience, yet one that’s extremely difficult to describe. By theorizing pain, how we talk and write about pain, how we live with pain, and where we go from there, Aly Patsavas makes a crucial and long overdue intervention in disability studies.”

The Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities

The work of the late University of Michigan faculty member, Tobin Siebers, has influenced Disability Studies in field-shifting ways since the publication of his prize-winning essay “My Withered Limb” in 1998. His subsequent scholarly publications including the books Disability Theory (2008) and Disability Aesthetics (2010) as well as essays such as “A Sexual Culture for Disabled People” (2012) quickly became pivotal works in the field. Siebers’s work has galvanized new scholarship in relation to questions of representation, subjectivity, and the entry of non-normative bodies into public space, and made the study of disability a central component (alongside gender, race, sexuality, and class) in analyses of the culture wars and identity studies.

To honor this remarkable legacy, the University of Michigan Press and the University of Michigan Department of English Language and Literature established The Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities, now going on its ninth year. Reflecting the scholar’s work the prize commemorates, the competition invites submissions on a wide range of topics, from literary and cultural studies, to trans-historical research, to contributions to disability theory such as work in crip/queer studies.

Previous Winners

2022 Anastasia Todd, Cripping Girlhood
2021 Susan Antebi, Embodied Archive: Disability in Post-Revolutionary Mexican Cultural Production
2019 Kateřina Kolářová, Rehabilitative Post-Socialism: Disability, Race, Gender, and Sexuality and the Limits of National Belonging
2018 Stephen Knadler, Vitality Politics: Health, Debility, and the Limits of Black Emancipation
2017 Elizabeth B. Bearden, Monstrous Kinds: Body, Space, and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability
2016 Shelley L. Tremain, Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability
2015 Anne McGuire, War on Autism: On the Cultural Logic of Normative Violence