What is the DRIG?

The Disability Research Interest Group (DRIG) is a network of scholars, educators, activists, and practitioners invested in building ties between people who contribute to disability anthropology. As a special interest group (SIG) of the Society for Medical Anthropology, we foster disability research in and across all fields of anthropology. The DRIG understands disability anthropology to be research that seeks to theorize disability by documenting and analyzing the diversity of everyday life experiences of people with disabilities across space, time, and social and cultural context. We situate the medicalization of disability as a sociocultural phenomenon with political consequences, and contend that there is much to be said about disability that exists outside of the realm of biomedicine.


DRIG Mission Statement

By bringing researchers together, the DRIG seeks to educate our colleagues and to foster vibrant anthropological conversations about disability and the theoretical insights of disability studies in the classroom, at conferences, in informal communication, and in scholarly research and publications.

The DRIG recognizes that disabled people’s experiences are frequently left out of anthropological knowledge production. That is, most research unwittingly excludes disabled people from its population of study, or does not consider disability as an analytical or experiential category. People with disabilities are underrepresented in our field as both scholars and research participants. Thus our mission is to ensure that disabled people studied by anthropologists are not only objects of study but active makers and/or participants in their own history, as researchers, educators, and research participants. Therefore the DRIG promotes the participation of people with disabilities in the field of anthropological research, and seeks a future for the field that recognizes ableism as a form of systemic oppression that intersects with other forms of difference including race, class, gender, sexuality, and nationality; disability is an intersectional category. We are committed to promoting the accessibility of all anthropological research – whether that research explicitly addresses disability or not – within the AAA and at the AAA Annual Meeting and section meetings, and in anthropological publications and educational spaces.


The DRIG Travel Award

2019 Call for Applications
The Disability Research Interest Group (DRIG) of the Society for Medical Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association is pleased to announce the annual DRIG Travel Award.
The DRIG Travel Award supports research pertaining to the anthropology of disability. The DRIG holds that people with disabilities are underrepresented in the field of Anthropology, as scholars and research participants. Consequently, disabled people’s experiences are frequently left out of anthropological knowledge production. For this reason, the DRIG aims to honor the research of emerging scholars (graduate through pre-tenure) who not only study disability experiences, but also critically and ethically engage with disability in local and global contexts, through scholarship and service. This year, we are pleased to offer two $100 one-time awards to honor emerging scholarship in Disability Anthropology.
To be considered for one of two $100 awards, please submit an email including your name, affiliation (or independent scholar status), and contact information with the following attached:
  1. Your current CV;
  2. The title and abstract of your 2019 AAA presentation;
  3. A statement of no more than 300 words of your contributions to the anthropology of disability.

Please send the application materials to Michele Friedner (michelefriedner@uchicago.edu), with “DRIG Travel Award Application” in the subject line by August 1, 2019.

Applications will be reviewed by members of the DRIG Steering Committee. Awardees will be selected according to a combination of scholarly merit, service relating to disability anthropology, and financial need. They will be notified by email. The award will be presented in check form during the AAA annual meeting at the DRIG business meeting. If extenuating circumstances prevent the awardee from attending the DRIG business meeting, we ask they email the Steering Committee as soon as possible.


Past DRIG Award Recipients

  • 2018 – Cara Ryan, Jane Saffitz
  • 2017 – Clara Devlieger, Liz Lewis
  • 2016 – Zhiying Ma, Christine Sargent
  • 2015 – Kylie Boazman, Michele Friedner

DRIG Sessions of Interest at AAA Meetings

2019 Steering Committee of the Disability Research Interest Group 

  • Michele Friedner (University of Chicago)
  • Laurence Ralph, Member-at-Large (Princeton University)
  • Christine Sargent (University of Michigan)
  • Zoë Wool (Rice University)
  • Tyler Zoanni (Universität Bayreuth)

2018 Steering Committee 

  • Michele Friedner (University of Chicago)
  • Christine Sargent (University of Michigan)
  • Heather Thomas (University of California Irvine)
  • Tyler Zoanni (New York University)

2017 Steering Committee 

  • Molly Bloom
  • Michele Friedner
  • Faye Ginsburg
  • Christine Sargent
  • Heather Thomas

2016 Steering Committee

  • Molly Bloom
  • Cassandra Hartblay
  • Elizabeth Lewis
  • Heather Thomas

2015 Steering Committee

  • Molly Bloom
  • Cassandra Hartblay
  • Elizabeth Lewis
  • Daniella Santoro
  • Heather Thomas

Contributing Members of the Disability Research Interest Group

Senior scholars open to mentoring younger scholars are designated by an *

This list is in development. If you would like to be listed as a contributing member, or as a mentor, please contact a current DRIG steering committee member by email. You do not need to be a member of the AAA or SMA to claim DRIG contributing membership.

  • Molly Bloom
  • Kylie Boazman
  • Michele Friedner*
  • Karen Gardner
  • Elaine Gerber*
  • Faye Ginsburg
  • Cassandra Hartblay
  • Devva Kasnitz*
  • Sasha Klupchak
  • Gail Landsman*
  • Elizabeth Lewis
  • Zhiying Ma
  • Erin Mellett
  • Karen Nakamura*
  • Krisjon Olson*
  • Christine Sargent
  • Sharon Seegers
  • Carolyn Stevens*
  • Rayna Rapp*
  • Allison Taylor
  • Heather Thomas
  • Joseph Michael Valente
  • Meiyin Zhang
  • Tyler Zoanni

DRIG’s Guidelines for an Accessible Presentation