What is the DRIG?

The Disability Research Interest Group (DRIG) is a network of scholars, educators, activists, and practitioners invested in building ties between people who contribute to disability anthropology. As a special interest group (SIG) of the Society for Medical Anthropology, we foster disability research in and across all fields of anthropology. The DRIG understands disability anthropology to be research that seeks to theorize disability by documenting and analyzing the diversity of everyday life experiences of people with disabilities across space, time, and social and cultural context. We situate the medicalization of disability as a sociocultural phenomenon with political consequences, and contend that there is much to be said about disability that exists outside of the realm of biomedicine.


DRIG Mission Statement

By bringing researchers together, the DRIG seeks to educate our colleagues and to foster vibrant anthropological conversations about disability and the theoretical insights of disability studies in the classroom, at conferences, in informal communication, and in scholarly research and publications.

The DRIG recognizes that disabled people’s experiences are frequently left out of anthropological knowledge production. That is, most research unwittingly excludes disabled people from its population of study, or does not consider disability as an analytical or experiential category. People with disabilities are underrepresented in our field as both scholars and research participants. Thus our mission is to ensure that disabled people studied by anthropologists are not only objects of study but active makers and/or participants in their own history, as researchers, educators, and research participants. Therefore the DRIG promotes the participation of people with disabilities in the field of anthropological research, and seeks a future for the field that recognizes ableism as a form of systemic oppression that intersects with other forms of difference including race, class, gender, sexuality, and nationality; disability is an intersectional category. We are committed to promoting the accessibility of all anthropological research – whether that research explicitly addresses disability or not – within the AAA and at the AAA Annual Meeting and section meetings, and in anthropological publications and educational spaces.


The DRIG Travel Award

2018 DRIG Travel Award.

The DRIG Travel Award supports innovation in research pertaining to the anthropology of disability and the participation of people with disabilities in the field of anthropological research. The DRIG believes that people with disabilities are underrepresented in our field, as both scholars and research participants. Consequently, disabled people’s experiences are frequently left out of anthropological knowledge production. For this reason, the DRIG seeks to honor the research of emerging scholars examining disability experiences and who critically and ethically engage with disability in local and global contexts. We are offering two one-time $100 awards to honor strong emerging scholarship in Disability Anthropology. Awardees are selected based on a combination of scholarly merit and financial need.

To be considered for one of two $100 awards, please submit the following items no later than Wednesday August 1, 2018:

  1. An email including your name, affiliation (or independent scholar status), and contact information
  2. A current CV
  3. The title and abstract for your AAA presentation for the 2018 Meeting in San Jose, CA
  4. A statement of no more than two pages describing your reason for seeking this award. This statement should include a paragraph about the specific contribution that your work makes to the anthropology of disability/anthropological research on disability.

Please send all application materials to Heather Thomas (thomash@uci.edu), with “DRIG Travel Award Application” in the subject line by Wednesday August 1, 2018. Preferred file types are MS Word and PDF.

Recipients of the travel award will be selected by current members of the DRIG Steering Committee and notified by email. The award will be presented in check or gift card form during the DRIG’s business meeting at the 2018 AAA Annual Meeting in San Jose, CA. The date and time of that meeting will be announced as we draw nearer to the conference date.


Past DRIG Award Recipients

  • 2016 – Zhiying Ma, Christine Sargent
  • 2015 – Kylie Boazman, Michele Friedner

DRIG Sessions of Interest at AAA Meetings

2018 Steering Committee of the Disability Research Interest Group

  • Michele Friedner (University of Chicago)
  • Christine Sargent (University of Michigan)
  • Heather Thomas (University of California Irvine)
  • Tyler Zoanni (New York University)

2017 Steering Committee 

  • Molly Bloom
  • Michele Friedner
  • Faye Ginsburg
  • Christine Sargent
  • Heather Thomas

2016 Steering Committee

  • Molly Bloom
  • Cassandra Hartblay
  • Elizabeth Lewis
  • Heather Thomas

2015 Steering Committee

  • Molly Bloom
  • Cassandra Hartblay
  • Elizabeth Lewis
  • Daniella Santoro
  • Heather Thomas

Contributing Members of the Disability Research Interest Group

Senior scholars open to mentoring younger scholars are designated by an *

This list is in development. If you would like to be listed as a contributing member, or as a mentor, please contact a current DRIG steering committee member by email. You do not need to be a member of the AAA or SMA to claim DRIG contributing membership.

  • Molly Bloom
  • Kylie Boazman
  • Michele Friedner*
  • Karen Gardner
  • Elaine Gerber*
  • Faye Ginsburg
  • Cassandra Hartblay
  • Devva Kasnitz*
  • Sasha Klupchak
  • Gail Landsman*
  • Elizabeth Lewis
  • Zhiying Ma
  • Erin Mellett
  • Karen Nakamura*
  • Krisjon Olson*
  • Christine Sargent
  • Sharon Seegers
  • Carolyn Stevens*
  • Rayna Rapp*
  • Allison Taylor
  • Heather Thomas
  • Joseph Michael Valente
  • Meiyin Zhang
  • Tyler Zoanni

DRIG’s Guidelines for an Accessible Presentation