Society for Disability Studies Senior Scholar Award


The Society for Disability Studies Senior Scholar Award is given annually to a scholar with more than 10 years of experience in the field and a PhD in a relevant discipline. Awardees are selected based on their contribution to the field in terms of publications and scholarship, and excellence in mentoring, teaching, and other forms of leadership. Awardees are selected by the SDS award committee based on a nomination packet submitted by a nominating member other than the proposed awardee.

Typically, calls for nominations are posted around the end of the calendar year of the award and due early in the following year. In typical years, awardees are announced and invited to speak at the SDS conference.

Announcing the Society for Disability Studies 2021 Senior Scholar Award

The Society for Disability Studies is very pleased to announce that Dr. Therí A. Pickens has been awarded the SDS Senior Scholar Award for 2022 for her groundbreaking contributions to the field of Disability Studies.


Dr. Pickens (she/her pronouns) is a professor of English at Bates College.


In the words of her nominators:


“In [Dr. Pickens’] writing, we all learn how to read scholarship much more generously and capaciously, finding insights about illness, pain, and disability in texts marked as being “about” race or using writings about disability to inform our understandings of white supremacist logics. As That Dr. Pickens manages to mentor so many colleagues (and across multiple fields of study and phases of professional development) is, quite simply, dazzling. We are better scholars, community members, and activists because of her commitment to us.”

Portrait of Dr. Pickens
Image Description: Close up photo of Dr. Pickens  [further image description coming soon!]

Dr. Therí A. Pickens is nationally and internationally recognized for her original, timely, and multidisciplinary work at the overlaps of African American, Arab American, critical feminist, queer, ethnic and disability studies. She is a prominent leader in Black and critical ethnic studies and in critical disability studies. Deeply intersectional and thoroughly researched, her book “Black Madness: Mad Blackness” (Duke 2019) offers a mad methodology for writing and thinking, one that reveals the narrowness of existing work on race and disability and is firmly grounded in Black feminist thought. As with her previous monograph, New Body Politics: Narrating Arab and Black Identity in the Contemporary United States (Routledge, 2014), Dr. Pickens models how to forge vital social and political critique through close encounters with cultural productions, personal anecdotes, and critical theory. In both texts, Dr. Pickens makes clear the necessity of disability theory even when one’s analysis is not squarely focused on disabled people.

She published an edited collection called Arab American Aesthetics: Literature, Material Culture, Film, and Theatre (Routledge, 2018) that enlists a wide range of voices to explore, if not tentatively define, what could constitute Arab American aesthetics. Rather than divorce aesthetics from politics, the book sutures the two more closely together by challenging the causal relationship so often attributed to them. The conversations include formal choices, but also extend to the broad idea of what makes a work distinctly Arab American. That is, what about its beauty, ugliness, sublimity, or humor is explicitly tied to it as part of a tradition of Arab American arts?

Her work has appeared in a host of critical journals including Hypatia, MELUS, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Disability Studies Quarterly, Al-Jadid, Women & Performance, and the Journal of Ethnic American Literature.

Alongside her academic scholarship, Dr. Pickens regularly contributes to public political knowledge-spaces, including Ms. MagazineThe Root, Medium and The Washington Post.

Dr. Picken’s full academic bio is here.

Past awardees include:

    • Brenda Jo Bruggerman (2020)
    • Susan Burch (2019)
    • Joan Ablon (2018)
    • Nirmala Erevelles (2017)
    • 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)
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