Skip to content

Irving K. Zola Emerging Scholar Award

Announcing the Society for Disability Studies 2020 Irving K. Zola Award Winners

The Society for Disability Studies is pleased to announce that Dr. Lezlie Frye has won the 2020 Irving K. Zola Award for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies for her paper Cripping the “Crack Baby” Epidemic: A Feminist Genealogy.

Dr. Frye is an Assistant Professor of Gender Studies and Disability Studies at the University of Utah in the Division of Gender Studies. She received her doctorate in American Studies from New York University in 2016. Her research focuses on disability, race, and gender in the United States, emphasizing social movements, citizenship, and state violence. In addition to her role as an academic, Lezlie is an experienced popular educator, activist, and organizer around issues of disability, race, and economic justice. She is the recipient of numerous awards for research, activism, and education, including the Contemplative Social Justice Scholars Grant and the Faculty Fellows Award from the University of Utah.

The 2020 committee is also pleased to award an honorable mention to Dr. Hangping Xu, Assistant Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies and, by affiliation, Comparative Literature at The University of California, Santa Barbara for his paper Ocean Paradise, Morning Star: Disability Narrative, Moral Drama, and the Ethics of Care in Contemporary China.

Dr. Xu received his Ph.D. in Chinese Literature with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies from Stanford University. His research focuses on modern and contemporary Chinese literary, cultural, and visual studies, and utilizes disability as a framework to critique conceptions of the human and the autonomous liberal subject. His publications have appeared in such venues as Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC), Frontiers of Literary Studies in China, and A Global History of Literature and the Environment (Cambridge University Press). In 2015 he received the Centennial Teaching Award from Stanford.

Lezlie looks at us full front with curls down one size of her head and her long sleeve rolled up just on that side of a cowl neck wild abstract print shirt. Her smiling cheeks greet us.
Image ID: Lezlie looks at us full front with curls down one size of her head and her long sleeve rolled up just on that side of a cowl neck wild abstract print shirt. Her smiling cheeks greet us.
Dr. Xu is framed on the left by Chinese characters in the background, and wears a dark suit jacket and folded hands reveal a relaxed expression looking slightly to the side.
Image ID: Dr. Xu is framed on the left by Chinese characters in the background, and wears a dark suit jacket. Folded hands reveal a relaxed expression looking slightly to the side.

About the Society for Disability Studies Irving K. Zola Award

The award is given for a scholarly paper in disability studies suitable for publication that is written by an emerging scholar or scholars. Founded originally by the late Professor Zola’s colleagues at Brandeis University, this annual award recognizes excellence in research and writing that shares the values and commitment to disability studies exemplified by Irving K. Zola’s life and scholarship. Applications are due November 23, 2020.



  • Applications will be accepted from students, independent researchers, and those in early career stages in academic, community, practice, and policy arenas. Applicants are scholars or writers who are just beginning to publish their work.
  • The award is not restricted to any geographic location; applicants based across national and international regions are welcome.
  • If submitting collaborative work, all authors must be eligible.
  • Although past awardees are not eligible to apply, individual or collaborative authors who submitted papers unsuccessfully in past years may apply again.
  • Individuals who are not members of SDS are eligible for the Zola Award. However, Members of the SDS Board are ineligible for the award during their tenure on the board.


  • The scholarly paper submitted must have content reflecting on a topic relevant to the field of disability studies.
  • We also welcome papers that analyze disability at the crossroads of current global crises, including but not limited to COVID-19, racialized state violence, the rising tide of populist authoritarianism, and environmental, economic, and other forms of institutionalized injustices.
  • The paper must be grounded in disability studies approaches and can come from any disciplinary or cross-disciplinary perspectives.
  • We define research in disability studies broadly to include the examination of concepts and values related to disability in all forms of cultural production and socio-economic processes, and analyses that deepen our understanding of the personal and social dimensions of the lived experience of disability in national and transnational contexts. For further description of the field of disability studies, please visit our website at
  • We consider papers that represent the full range of methods, epistemologies, perspectives, and content that the inter and multidisciplinary field of disability studies embraces.


To be considered for the award, all manuscripts must adhere to the following criteria:

  • Manuscripts must not have been previously published or under review.
  • Overall length must not exceed 30 pages (double-spaced, 12-point font).
  • Citations should follow the formatting appropriate for the author’s field of study.
  • If the manuscript is not written in English, please also submit an English translation.
  • Submissions should be in Microsoft Word documents or other word processing documents that follow the core principles for accessibility (for details.)


The winner will receive:

  • A $250 prize from the Society for Disability Studies.
  • Consideration for publication of the manuscript in SDS’s journal Disability Studies Quarterly.
  • Recognition on SDS’s website and at an SDS conference.
  • A certificate of recognition.


All submissions must be provided by November 23, 2020. The recipient of the award will be announced on or around December 30, 2020.

Please send:

  • a cover letter explaining your eligibility as an emerging scholar and describing your work overall,
  • the manuscript, and
  • a full and recent CV.

Previous Awardees of the Irving K. Zola Emerging Scholar Award

    • 2019: Robin Roscigno
    • 2018: Michael E. Skyer (Honorable Mention: Sona Kazemi and Patrick Smyth)
    • 2017: Lydia X. Z. Brown, (Honorable Mention:
      Sara Acevedo and Alyson Patsavas)
    • 2016: Krystal Cleary, Renee Mullaney, Jean Fanzino
    • 2015: Priya Lalvani (Honorable Mention: Sonya Loftis)
    • 2014: Amanda Cachia (Honorable Mention: Jessica Waggoner)
    • 2013: Cassandra Hartblay
    • 2012: Jina Kim
    • 2011: Bethany Stevens