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Monday, September 3, 2012

[CCDS Seminar] Mad in Court: Mentally Disabled Pro Se Litigants and the Complex Embodiment of Mind

Mad in Court: Mentally Disabled Pro Se Litigants and the Complex Embodiment
of Mind

Prof. Catherine Prendergast
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Date: Wednesday 3 October 2012

Time: 2.15pm–3.45pm
Place: Eden 109, Liverpool Hope University, UK

Despite the recent increase in self-advocacy by people who are mentally
impaired, the legal realm is still considered a risky area for self-
representation, as though “nothing about us without us” should stop at the
courthouse door. To complicate this notion, Prof. Catherine Prendergast
presents two cases that demonstrate both the persuasive force and
jurisprudential significance of mentally impaired pro se litigation. The
contention is that these litigants offer something akin to Tobin Siebers’s
notion of “complex embodiment” in the sense that they lend concrete form to
the oppressive and flattening abstraction of mental illness. They also
provide first-hand accounts of the barriers that hamper inmate efforts to
engage in self-expression and advocacy, including limitations on
publication rights, and lack of access to materials for writing and
research. These accounts finally question the mind-body dualism implied in
the notion of “embodiment” itself.

Catherine Prendergast is Professor of English at the University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign, where she teaches courses in disability studies,
rhetoric, and writing. Her articles on the subject of mental impairment
have appeared in SAQ: South Atlantic Quarterly, College English, and The
Disability Studies Reader (3rd edition). She has co-edited (with Elizabeth
Donaldson) a special issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural
Disability Studies on the topic of Representing Disability and Emotion.

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