Associate Professor of History Dr. Jeffrey A. Brune has just assumed his new position as Editor-in-Chief of Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ), the journal of the Society for Disability Studies. To helm the oldest and premier interdisciplinary journal in the field is an honor, particularly at this pivotal moment, says Brune, who shares his editorial duties with Dr. Donald Grushkin of California State University, Sacramento.

Brune compares the current heightened interest in disability research to the momentum developed by gender studies and African-American studies in the 1970s and 1980s. “For disability studies, that time is now, and it’s such a privilege to be a part of that,” he says.

As proof of this growth, Brune points to the number of submissions for DSQ.  The journal is now receiving 500 articles annually, more than double what it attracted even just a few years ago. These are works that explore history, anthropology, literary theory, sociology, and more, while supporting a dual mission of activism and scholarship. That means rejecting the medical approach to disability, which defines it as a condition located in the body or the mind and in need of a cure to become “normal.” Instead, disability studies centers a disabled perspective and frames disability as social construction, much like race, gender, and sexuality. “It’s an exciting field that is challenging the way people view disability,” he says. “We see disability as a product of society, politics, and culture, rather than as only a biological condition.”

Disability studies now emphasizes how disability interacts with race, gender, sexuality, and other aspects of identity. For example, Brune says, “In the 20th century, people used the language of disability to deny women the right to vote — saying they should not be allowed to vote because of their ‘emotional instability.’” DSQ’s next publication, in December, will be a special issue focusing on race and disability. Brune, drawing on his own experience as a stutterer who had to come to terms with the idea that he didn’t need to be “fixed,” sees disability as an expansive field. “I cannot understand issues of race, gender, or sexuality apart from notions of disability,” he says.

Gallaudet has become a key player in disability studies. Along with historian Dr. Sara Scalenghe of Loyola University in Maryland, Brune helped design and lead “Global Histories of Disability,” a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute held in 2018, which brought scholars from across the country to the Gallaudet campus for four weeks. Beyond DSQ, Gallaudet has ties to two other groundbreaking journals: the Deaf Studies Digital Journal, a peer-reviewed bilingual and bimodal journal in ASL and English founded by Gallaudet’s Deaf Studies program, and the open access Journal of Philosophy and Disability, edited by Dr. Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Director of the School of Arts and Humanities.

Students here will soon be able to intern for DSQ. Previous editor Dr. Brenda Brueggemann launched an internship program on her campus at the University of Connecticut that Brune plans to continue at Gallaudet. Two or three students will be selected to start this spring. “They will help define what needs to be done for the journal,” explains Brune, who says that their responsibilities may include the DSQ blog, social media, copy editing, and book reviews. “Gallaudet students will now have access to the same opportunity that has started successful publishing and academic careers for many students at the University of Connecticut.”

Brune’s term as DSQ’s editor will last at least three years. Although it is a major undertaking to plow through submissions, coordinate the peer review process, and produce the journal, he genuinely enjoys working with researchers and promoting the disability studies field. “I’ve always loved interacting with other scholars and giving them feedback about their ideas and writing,” he says. “So far, I’ve found the work energizing. It’s given me another fresh start in my career.”

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