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Inaugural Eiesland Lecture looks at violence, disability, healing

Emory Report | March 19, 2015

“Violence, Disability, and the Politics of Healing” will inaugurate the Nancy Eiesland Endowment Lecture on Wednesday, March 25, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room 360, Pitts Lecture Hall of the Candler School of Theology

Julia Watts Belser, assistant professor of Jewish Studies at Georgetown University, will give the address. Named for the late professor Nancy Eiesland, the lectures will focus on issues in religion and disability studies. Eiesland died in 2009, after serving on Candler’s faculty for 15 years. The Eiesland Lectures are scheduled to occur every three years.

Belser says her lecture will contest notions of healing that depoliticize disability or devalue the integrity of disabled lives. Examining the complex relationship between violence, disability and domination, Belser will put sacred texts with feminist disability studies and the lived experiences of disability justice activists. She will also offer resources for religious voices seeking to reimagine disability, healing and liberation.

“Ancient and contemporary communities frequently portray the ideal, utopian society as a place without disability. And Christian, Jewish and secular eschatologies are often potent sites of disability erasure, forms of eugenic imagination that envision liberation through the denial of bodily and sensory difference,” Belser says.

Candler Dean Jan Love notes the lecture’s importance for communities of faith. “Do we see those with disabilities as whole and complete creations of God who bring their own gifts and talents to our communities?” she asks.

“The lecture honors the legacy of one of Candler’s most beloved professors. Nancy Eiesland’s work has been hailed as groundbreaking in the field of disability studies,” Love adds.

Eiesland came to Candler in 1988 as a master of divinity student. Her master’s thesis evolved into the 1994 book “The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability.” Shaped by Eiesland’s childhood experience of undergoing numerous surgeries for a congenital bone defect, the book is considered to be the foundational text in disability studies.

The March 25 lecture is free and open to the public, with registration required. Lunch is provided. Register by March 19 at http://form.jotformpro.com/form/50149271196961

More information is available on the Candler website.