I am writing with great sadness to let you know our dear Tobin Siebers died
today, long-standing Chair of our Initiative on Disability Studies, V. L.
Parrington Collegiate Professor, and Professor of English Language and
Literature and Art & Design at the University of Michigan.
We have lost a great champion for disability studies at our university, in
the wider US academic ecology, and in the development of our discipline
worldwide. Tobin has been a field-builder, a mover and shaker, and a
tireless advocate for a discipline that developed under his and his peers’
Two of his recent books, Disability Aesthetics and Disability Theory, have
become field-defining, and can be found on reading lists around the world.
They present perspectives on disability’s cultural labor: how disability
appears in art, architecture, literature; how its presence and relational
web compels new insights into cultures, writing, and experience; and how
criticism can offer readers tools for thinking anew about bodies in public
space. One of Tobin’s first entries into the new canon of disability
studies was his non-fiction book Among Men: a beautifully elegant
essayistic book about what it meant to grow up into a disabled man, lover,
I have learned so much from my generous colleague and friend. I had the
great fortune to work with him as co-chair of our initiative, and as
co-teacher in our graduate classroom. His influence is everywhere:
countless scholars in our field have been mentored by him, and he has
validated so many of us in our shared quest to focus on disability as a
rich and exciting field of inquiry. His legacy lives on in his nourishing
critical perspective, his passion and presence, and it will continue to
thrive and grow in the thoughts his writings allow us to spin out.
Disability Studies lives both inside and outside the university, and Tobin
was always aware of multiple audiences, and of the need to think
capaciously about sources of knowledge and wisdom. Whatever your personal
relation to academic writing, I encourage you to re-read or read some of
Tobin’s moving and powerful work, and to take a moment to remember him and
his spirit through his lines. Below are a few links. In these essays, you
can trace the imagination, heart, and intellect of a man who has given so
much to all of us.
My thoughts are with Tobin’s wife and children, and with the wider circle
of the many students who have made him part of their chosen family.
There will be a memorial service for Tobin followed by a reception on
Friday, February 6th at 2:00 pm in the Michigan League Ballroom. The
public is welcome.
Before the memorial service, you are also very welcome to join the UMInDS
Symposium on Disability Studies, and the final sharing of the
international, national and local disability culture artists who are coming
together in the Duderstadt Video Studio on North Campus, honoring the
legacy of Tobin Siebers, from 10-1.
Some of Tobin Siebers’ writings:
My Withered Limb (Michigan Quarterly Review):
Disability Aesthetics (Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory)
Disability Theory (University of Michigan Press)
The Art of Disability: An Interview with Tobin Siebers by Mike Levin
(Disability Studies Quarterly)
English, Art and Design, Theatre, Women's Studies
University of Michigan
Artistic Director of The Olimpias: www.olimpias.org
New Book October 2014: Studying Disability Arts and Culture: An