Photo Credit: Jack X. Li

Welcome! I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago and a dissertation fellow at the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights. My work is situated at the intersection of contemporary political theory, feminist theory, and disability studies. My dissertation, “Disability: A Democratic Dilemma,” brings into view the significance of disability in mediating the relationship between citizens and the American state. Drawing upon historical and contemporary examples—among them the rise of waged labor, the Flint, Michigan water crisis, the healthcare debate, and, most recently, the proposed expansion of public charge requirements in U.S. immigration law—I show how the boundaries and defining features of political membership are stabilized and recast in and through disability. Where existing research emphasizes the exclusionary ground of liberal citizenship and its consequences for people with disabilities, I argue that disability as a concept, legal category, and medical condition has become a crucial mechanism through which to negotiate transformations in the obligations and entitlements of citizenship. Whether strategically deployed to secure remediation for longstanding economic and racial inequalities, as in the case of Flint, Michigan, or referenced as the basis from which to assert an ungrounded claim to government aid, as in the case of disabled activists protesting cuts to Medicaid, disability provides an alternative framework for thinking about fundamental problems of political membership.

During my time at the University of Chicago, I have taught in the Social Sciences Core, the Political Science Department, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. This past spring, I designed and led an upper-level undergraduate seminar in the Political Science Department, entitled Disability: A Democratic Dilemma. Spanning literature in political theory, legal studies, US history, and disability studies, the course considered the challenge presented by disability for the way we think about democratic inclusion. In previous years, I taught Advanced Theories of Gender and Sexuality with Linda Zerilli (Winter 2018), as well as Classics of Social and Political Thought II (Winter 2017). Between Spring 2018 and Spring 2019, I served as a BA preceptor in the Political Science Department. More information on my teaching, including syllabi, can be found here.

I hold an MA in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago (2012) and an AB in Social Studies from Harvard College (2009). Since 2014 I have served as the co-coordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Studies Workshop at the University of Chicago. My work at Chicago has been supported by the Department of Political Science, The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, and the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights. My CV is available here.

I am reachable by email at: aheffernan@uchicago.edu