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Irving K. Zola Emerging Scholar Award

Irving K. Zola Award for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies

Dear SDS Members and Friends,

We received a record 22 submissions for the 2019 Zola Emerging Scholar Award and were impressed with what one reviewer called “an embarrassment of riches” in the papers we received. Much appreciation to all of the applicants for your quality work and your commitment to the field. We very much look forward to your continued participation as disability studies colleagues. Without further delay...

The Society for Disability Studies is pleased to announce that Robin Roscignohas won the 2019 Irving K. Zola Award for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies for her paper Semiotic Stalemate: Resisting Restraint and Seclusion through Guattari’s Micropolitics of Desire.

Roscigno, an Autistic scholar and activist, is a PhD. candidate at Rutgers Graduate School of Education, studying Education Theory, Organization and Policy.

About the Paper:

Roscigno presents a scholarly analysis and effectively uses the work of Guattari's institutional semiotics to illustrate her point about discriminatory educational practices. Her topic is timely, and she writes with authority, compassion and clarity, detailing the cultural history of a behaviorist paradigm and an analysis of restraint of persons with autism.

The paper offers a significant and innovative contribution to the field. The integrated historical-policy-critical theory methodology is clear and original, critiquing the linkages between law, science/behaviorism, and education. The paper's challenge to rights-based and inclusion-based approaches is timely and congruent with analyses of other forms of oppression (e.g. Dean Spade's work), and the topic of neurodiversity and violence is much-needed in disability studies.

One of the things we need very much as a discipline is writing that motivates, clarifies, and pairs scholarship with the immediate needs of a community; Roscigno stands out because she brings a distinct, urgent voice into the conversation. She defines terms in clear ways that require a response from the field. ABA and the harm it does is acknowledged. This offers possible relief for many (and especially parents) who fight against 'accepted practices' for 'controlling' behavior! Families may want to bring a copy of this article with them to an IEP meeting!

Roscigno’s style is engaging and she has an insightful contribution to make. She is likely to be a major scholar in the discipline and we are pleased to honor her. Please join us in congratulating Robin Roscigno.


Suzanne Stolz and Vandana Chaudhry

SDS Awards Committee Chairs

The Society for Disability Studies (SDS) is pleased to announce that applications are being accepted for the 2019 Irving K. Zola Award for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies. 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 15, 2019.


●      Authors

  • 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.

●      Research

  • The scholarly paper submitted must have content reflecting on a topic relevant to the field of disability studies.
  • 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.
  • 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 15, 2019. The recipient of the award will be announced on or around December 30, 2019.

Please send:

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

Application packets can be sent electronically to BOTH: and to with “ZOLA” in the subject line. Materials sent via USPS should be sent to: Society for Disability Studies, PO Box 5570, Eureka, CA 95502, USA. Do expect a confirmation email.

The Society for Disability Studies is pleased to announce that Michael E. Skyer has won the 2018 Irving K. Zola Award for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies for his paper Bodies in Dependence: A Foucauldian Genealogy of the Americans with Disabilities Acts.

Michael is a PhD. candidate at the University of Rochester in the Warner School of Education and Human Development. He is also a Senior Lecturer at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Two 2018 Zola Award Honorable Mentions were also awarded to:

Sona Kazemi PhD, a Postdoctoral Researcher in Global Migration, Disability, and Medical Humanities in the Department of English at the Ohio State University, for her paper Silent Global and Oppressive Local: Fetishization of the Disabled War Veterans in Iran through the Ideological Construction of “Living Martyrs.”


Patrick Smyth, a Ph.D. student in English at The Graduate Center, CUNY, for his work Negotiated Access.

SDS is pleased to make these awards to support excellence in scholarship, and a commitment to think deeply about social justice for all members of society.

Previous Awardees of the Irving K. Zola Emerging Scholar Award

    • 2017: Lydia X. Z. Brown
      for Legal Ableism, Interrupted: Developing Tort Law & Policy Alternatives to Wrongful Birth and Wrongful Life Claims. Lydia is a candidate for a Juris Doctor degree from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. Their BA from Georgetown is in Arabic and Psychology. Lydia has varied teaching experience in disability studies at Tufts and MIT, often participating in experimental education programs and addressing issues of identity, ethics, and Islam.
      Two Zola Award Honorable Mentions
      Sara Acevedo, a Ph.D. student in Anthropology and Social Change at the California Institute of Integral Studies for her paper: Neuroqueering Composition: Sensual Reflections on the Inconclusive Life of Thoughts.
      Alyson Patsavas, a 2017 Ph.D. in Disability Studies from the University of Illinois, Chicago, receives an honorable mention for her work: The Promise of Able-Bodiedness.
    • 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