Congratulations to Prof. Susan Antebi for the 2021 Tobin Siebers Prize

October 27, 2021 by Berenice Villagómez

Our most heartfelt congratulations to Prof. Susan Antebi for being awarded the 2021 Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities for her book Embodied Archive: Disability in Post-Revolutionary Mexican Cultural Production (University of Michigan Press, 2021).

This award is given by the University of Michigan Press and the University of Michigan Department of English Language and Literature. It honours the remarkable legacy of Prof. Tobin Siebers, a late University of Michigan faculty member whose work influenced Disability Studies in field-shifting ways. Siebers’s work galvanized new scholarship in relation to questions of representation, subjectivity, and the entry of non-normative bodies into public space, and made the study of disability a central component (alongside gender, race, sexuality, and class) in analyses of the culture wars and identity studies.

“I have learned so much from Tobin Siebers’ work,” said Antebi upon receiving the award. “His Disability Theory and Disability Aesthetics, texts I read, reread, and debated in seminars over the years, have especially shaped my thinking and that of so many academics within and beyond disability studies. I am incredibly honored and thrilled that my book has been selected for this prize.”

Chosen for its wide-ranging study of disability across post-revolutionary Mexican discourses, Embodied Archive examines “the space that opens up between ineradicable pasts gone wrong and perfectible futures of the ‘cosmic’ Latinx body to come,” according to committee members David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder. “Caught-up in contingencies that express the ambivalence of accepting disability as pathology bound to the body and the improvement of public architectures, health, and structures that could shape a utopic homogenized racialized identity for the Southern Hemisphere,” said the two, “the ‘embodied archive’ turns out to be that which we inhabit from within while thinking we are charting its imperfections from without.”

Weaving between the historical context of Mexico’s post-revolutionary period and our present-day world, Embodied Archive approaches literary and archival documents that include anti-alcohol and hygiene campaigns; projects in school architecture and psychopedagogy; biotypological studies of urban schoolchildren and indigenous populations; and literary approaches to futuristic utopias or violent pasts. It focuses in particular on the way disability is represented indirectly through factors that may have caused it in the past or may cause it in the future, or through perceptions and measurements that cannot fully capture it. In engaging with these narratives, the book proposes an archival encounter, a witnessing of past injustices and their implications for the disability of our present and future.

Antebi said: “The process of researching and writing this book was long and intensive, and I feel very fortunate to have been supported by the generous community in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Toronto throughout this process. I am grateful to my former research assistants in the department, Veronika Brejkaln and Rebecca Janzen, and to students in my graduate seminars on disability and Latin American literature who helped me rethink my ideas over the years. The book is available both in print and in a free, open access, online format, thanks to the generous support of Victoria College. My research was also supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and by the Jackman Humanities Institute, whose faculty fellowship program allowed me to spend a semester conducting archival research in Mexico City.”

Antebi will be honored at an upcoming virtual event held by the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan at 3 pm EDT on November 3rd.

With information by Briana Johnson, Announcing the Winner of the 2021 Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities.