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SDS Senior Scholar

Joan Ablon, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco, Professor Emerita

The Society for Disability Studies (SDS) recognizes Dr. Joan Ablon for its 2018 SDS Senior Scholar Award. An anthropologist, educator, and mentor, Joan Ablon’s scholarship is foundational to contemporary Disability Studies and Medical Anthropology.

Ablon’s path-breaking work shed new and nuanced light on the lived experiences of often-medicalized and traditionally marginalized people. For example, her books Little People in America: The Social Dimensions of Dwarfism (1984) and Brittle Bones, Stout Hearts and Minds: Adults with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (1989) constituted the first major scholarly engagement with these experiences of disability and the lives of people who live with them. The overall value of her scholarly contribution was recognized in 2004 when she was awarded Honoree for a collection of published papers: “Stigma, Suffering and Social Justice,” Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 18:2.

Ablon was a founding member of the Joint Program in Medical Anthropology at the University of California San Francisco / University of California Berkeley, the first medical anthropology doctoral program in the United States. She retired in 1994. Since then she has continued to do research and write, and is remembered not only for her contributions to medical anthropology but also as a strong mentor to students and junior faculty in the discipline. A former student writes of Ablon, “[she] treated us as junior colleagues; she always treated us with kindness and deep respect... She cared about us as people, about our families, and about our potential as scholars.” Ablon’s advocacy on behalf of, and in collaboration with, individuals with disability experience has inspired her students and colleagues; this strength was recognized in 2004 when she received the first Society for Medical Anthropology Graduate Student Mentorship Award, and their coveted 2018 Career Achievement Award.

SDS is pleased to award Joan Ablon the Senior Scholar Award in recognition of her support, her scholarship, and her commitment to agency and social justice for all members of society.

In Solidarity,


Joanne Woiak, PhD

SDS President

Past awardees include:

    • Nirmala ErevellesNirmala Erevelles as its recipient of the 2017 SDS Senior Scholar Award for her extraordinary scholarship, service, mentoring, and leadership. Professor Erevelles explores disability as a critical and central analytic with transformative potential in addressing topics such as inclusive schooling, critical/radical pedagogies/curricula, HIV/AIDS education, facilitated communication, school violence, multicultural education, and the sex curriculum. She has has strengthened community-university partnerships through her deep commitment to intersectional analysis that considers the collusions of imperialism, capitalism, and white supremacy in the making and (or becoming) of disability. Her teaching and research interests lie in the areas of disability studies, critical race theory, transnational feminism, sociology of education, and postcolonial studies.
    • Katherine Ott (2016)
    • David Gerber (2015)
    • Devva Kasnitz (2014)
    • Richard K. Scotch (2013)
    • Carol Gill (2012)
    • Tobin Siebers (2011)
    • Rosemarie Garland Thomson (2010)
    • Elizabeth Depoy and Stephen Gilson (2009)
    • Steve Taylor (2008)

A special thank you to all the applicants who applied (or nominated someone) for the competition. In addition, to our reviewers who contributed to the nomination process. The SDS Awards would not be possible without your generous feedback. Your support is vital to our success and future.


    • A final degree in his/her relevant field (PhD, EdD, MFA,
      DOT, DPT, etc.).
    • A minimum of a decade of experience as a scholar in the field (such experience can include published scholarship, creative/artistic production, significant grants/applied research, or other equivalent activities).
    • Scholarship that has made a significant contribution to
      and/or impact on the field of Disability Studies.
    • Demonstrated excellence in and commitment to
      teaching, mentoring, or other kinds of leadership.

There are no restrictions on a nominee’s discipline or area of study. Films, performances, on-line publications, traditional academic books and articles are all viewed as equally acceptable and deserving of recognition. Also, people who are not members of SDS are eligible for the Senior Scholar Award. However, Members of the SDS Board are ineligible for the award during their tenure on the board.


The following must be submitted for an individual to be considered for the award:

    • A brief letter of nomination. We encourage self-nominations, as well as nominations of other individuals. If you wish to nominate someone other than yourself, please consult with that individual. We will ask that individual to confirm that she/he/they are willing to be considered.
    • A minimum of two letters of support from individuals other than the nominee.
    • A copy of the nominee’s CV.
    • Contact information for the nominee.
      Additional material may be requested (i.e., if the review committee is unable to locate and/or retrieve the nominee’s materials through databases and libraries).
      Application packets can be sent electronically to: and to with “SENIOR SCHOLAR” 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 recipient of the SDS Senior Scholar Award will receive the following recognition:

    • Her/his/their name permanently posted on the SDS Website as a recipient of the award.
    • A certificate of recognition.
    • An invitation to present to the Society for Disability Studies Membership.


Complete applications must be received by November 15, 2018. The 2018 recipient will be announced on or around December 30, 2018.--
Ryan C. Parrey, PhD