Body & Identity

Body & Identity

an exploration of disability and sexuality across disciplines


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Summer Institute for k-12 Teachers

June 26 - 28, 2019

California's 2011 FAIR Education Act changed the state's education code to include the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful portrayal of the contributions and experiences of people with disabilities and people in the LGBT community in California and United States history and social studies courses. The 2019 ORIAS Summer Institute for k-12 teachers seeks to provide a global context within which to consider these topics.

Body & Identity will explore disability and sexuality in World History, Art, Literature, and other disciplines. Participants will learn about current research and scholarship in these areas, as well as developing a deeper understanding of the diverse and changing experiences, roles, and identities of people in the disability and LGBT communities. This exploration will also generate new ways to think and teach about diverse topics – from portraiture, to gender roles, to industrialization.

Teachers who wish to receive professional development credit will be expected to attend an extended afternoon session, during which they will work to modify an existing classroom unit to incorporate new content. Teams of teachers are encouraged to attend and build curriculum together.

This institute is open to k-12 teachers across disciplines. There is no cost to attend. Space is limited.

Photo Credit: jimforest whole earth - central Asia via photopin (license)


Wednesday, June 26

8:15 - 8:45 AM

Check in and breakfast at ORIAS office @ 1995 University Ave, suite 510

8:45 - 9:00 AM


9:00 - 10:30 AM

Keynote on Disability Theme: Spill the Disabili-Tea

Alex Locust

Too often, conversations about disability are framed in terms of compliance. What if instead, we could explore what it means to work from a frame of disability justice? With "Spill the Disabili-Tea", Alex will be facilitating an interactive discussion of disability justice, centering disabled voices and providing a space to explore how to elevate access efforts in various community spaces, including classrooms.

10:45 AM - 12:00 PM

Keynote on Sexuality Theme: Sex and Society in Africa

Carolyn Shaw

12:00 - 12:45 PM

Lunch and Discussion

12:45 - 1:15 PM

Group Discussion: Guiding Questions for this Program

1:20 - 2:20 PM

Beyond the Third Gender: Approaches to Sex/Gender Difference, Culture, and Politics in South Asia

Lawrence Cohen

Throughout the early modern period and intensified by colonial efforts to classify India into fixed categories, what might now be termed queer or non-normative forms of gender, sex, and desire in South Asia were primarily understood as hijras, a "third gender" marked by the British as a "criminal tribe." But both in the religious and social milieus of ancient India and its medieval and modern transformations, non-normative gender and sexuality were more diverse and varied.  Beginning with the figure of the renouncer in early Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, the later conception of the mystic Sufi in Islam, and the early modern figure of the guru in Sikhism, I will suggest a different way to think about gender and sexual norms and variation historically, and about how both Hindu caste-specific practices of dedicating children to goddesses come into complex relation to Islamic courtly forms of gender in producing what we come to know as the hijra. We will discuss the impact of modern colonial rule and its forms of racism, of South Asian migration across the Pacific to the West Coast, of the AIDS epidemic and 1980s-90s economic liberalization, of the emergence of lesbian, gay, and transgender social movements, of the Internet and the emergence of hookup and dating sites, and of the impact of the current rise of Hindu nationalism in India and Islamist conservatism in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

2:25 - 3:25 PM

Frida Kahlo: Lines of Flight

Lesdi Goussen Robleto

3:30 - 4:00 PM

Credit Group Meeting

Thursday, June 27

9:15 - 9:30 AM

Meet at Hearst Museum on campus @ 103 Kroeber Hall (no breakfast provided)

9:30 - 11:55 AM

Are all disabilities disabling? Using archaeology to talk about difference and disability in the past

Katie Kinkopf

What is the role of the body in disability? One of the legacies of the American eugenics movement is the way we understand bodily difference and disability in modern society, but also in the archaeological past. Disability, like other aspects of identity, is an embodied and socially-constructed position. Diseases such as polio, arthritis, and many others have a long evolutionary history, however their “disabling” effects are contingent on cultural context: ideologies about the body, beliefs about labor and work, health and care practices. In this workshop, we’ll discuss evidence for disease, physical difference, and impairment in the past, and will then look at some objects from the Phoebe Hearst Museum that portray different bodies. We will practice contextualizing the body and discuss how concepts of disease and disability have transformed through time.

12:00 - 12:50 PM

Lunch and transit from Hearst Museum to ORIAS offices @ 1995 University Ave

1:00 - 2:00 PM

Comparative Approaches to Disability, Sexuality, and Space

Victor Pineda

2:15 - 3:15 PM

Chinese Eunuchs: Perspectives on Identity and Gender in Late Imperial China

Melissa Dale

Throughout history, eunuchs have been defined by their lack of body parts. In China, the imperial court viewed emasculation as a means to produce the ideal servant. Eunuchs were designed to ensure the purity of the palace women and to be loyal servants of the emperor. In reality, eunuchs and their bodies created uncertainty and even anxiety. Exploring the life experiences of Qing dynasty (1644-1911) palace eunuchs, one finds a unique opportunity to learn about how eunuchs, Chinese society, and the Manchu ruling class viewed eunuch gender and the construction of identity in late imperial China. 

3:15 - 4:00 PM

Credit Group meeting

Friday, June 28

8:30 - 9:00 AM

Check in and breakfast at ORIAS office @ 1995 University Ave, suite 510

9:00 - 10:15 AM

Gender and Sexual Diversity in the Pre-Modern World

Samar Habib

Gender and Sexual categories and identities occur in language. These are ever-changing and evolving across time, cultures, environments and geographies. Nonetheless, there is a specter of common human experience which allows populations of the past to be intelligible despite vast expanses of time and space. While the language of desire is by no means extricable from the social superstructures that give rise to it, it nevertheless points to the existence of sexual ontologies comparable to our own. This lecture examines how we can identify same-sex love and sexuality in the Islamic Golden Age without imposing contemporary taxonomies and also without necessarily abandoning these altogether. 

10:20 - 11:20 AM

From Spirit Mediums to Human Rights: The Politics of Gender Non-Conformity in Myanmar/Burma and Beyond

Tamara C. Ho

This presentation offers a comparative examination of gender non-conforming identities in Southeast Asia, Myanmar/Burma, and the Americas.  The nat pwe or “spirit festival” is a major source of fascination, domestic and international tourism, and globally known event in contemporary Myanmar/Burma. The gender non-conforming nat kadaw (literally, “spirit wife”) figures are at the center of these festivals, which take place annually and can draw crowds of thousands. CNN describes Myanmar’s biggest annual nat festival as a “cross between a traditional religious gathering and gay pride festival, which has become a key event for the LGBT community in a country where those who do not conform to traditional gender ideas are often shunned.” This talk will briefly review ethnographic studies of the nat kadaw or Burmese spirit medium from Southeast Asian Studies, anthropology, and epidemiology. Focusing on gender non-conformity in twenty-first century, we will move from the touristic spectacle of the nat kadaw to discuss other examples of queer Burmese life in recent documentaries, the politics of Myanmar’s LGBT movement, and its engagement with human rights paradigms and practices. Closing comments will offer some possibilities for comparative parallels between queer Southeast Asian identities and those found in the Americas, within Native and Indigenous communities.  

11:30 - 12:30 PM

Body and Identity across Languages and Cultures: The Case of Post-Soviet Russia

Brian James Baer

There has been a lot of news coverage of Russia's controversial ban on so-called "gay propaganda," which came to a head with the Sochi Olympics, when Russia would be hosting gay-identified athletes and fans from all over the world. The government spokesperson (in)famously attempted to calm the worries of those individuals and of the western press by assuring that no harm would come to them as long as they stayed away from Russian children. This talk addresses the larger problem of how to discuss issues of body and identity in other cultures (and other languages), using Russia as an example. The talk offers some background on the situation in contemporary Russia to better understand how this law came to be and how issues of the body and identity have become embroiled—not only in Russia but in many contemporary nations—in broader discussions about a nation or society's identity and about the place of that nation or society in the world.

12:30 - 1:10 PM

Lunch and discussion

1:10 - 2:10

HIV, Human Rights, and Homosexuality in southern Africa: it’s complicated

Marc Epprecht

In the West, and among multilateral institutions like the World Bank, World Health Organization, and UNAIDS, the policy consensus is that fighting AIDS requires fighting stigma against people living with HIV by protecting their human rights irrespective of their drug usage, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression. This consensus is not widely shared in Africa south of the Sahara, particularly with regard to men who have sex with men. MSM remain criminalized throughout much of the continent with disastrous effects upon HIV prevalence, among other health issues. Prejudice against sexual minorities - grounded in a complex mix of traditional culture, the legacy of colonial/apartheid racism, populist politics and new "fundamentalist" religions – has proven extremely difficult to surmount. However, 2019 may prove to be a tipping point in southern Africa, with important victories for sexual minority rights in Angola and Botswana.

2:15 - 3:15

Closing Group Discussion

3:20 - 4:00 PM

Credit Group meeting

When & Where

Where: The Institute will be held at the ORIAS office, at 1995 University Ave, Suite 510, in downtown Berkeley.

When: See the agenda to the left for daily schedule information. Please arrive during the breakfast and check-in period or at breaks.

Registration: Registration is currently full. You may use the form at the top of this page to join the waitlist.

Accessibility: If you require an accommodation for effective communication (ASL interpreting/CART captioning, alternative media formats, etc.) or information about campus mobility access features in order to fully participate in this event, please contact Shane Carter at with as much advance notice as possible.

Transit & Parking: ORIAS is located close to several AC Transit bus lines and only three blocks from the Downtown Berkeley BART station. If at all possible, it is recommended that you take public transit. If you drive, you can learn about parking options here.


Learn More

The articles and videos listed here are to help you learn more. Since some of them address sex as part of a larger conversation about identity, you should preview them before using them in your classrooms.

Attendees will have access to a shared folder containing additional readings.


Inclusive Design Subject Matter Expert Series featuring Victor with audio description

Inclusive Design Subject Matter Expert Series featuring Rosemarie with audio description

Inclusive Design Subject Matter Expert Series featuring Antoine with audio description

Inclusive Design Subject Matter Expert Series featuring Haben with audio description


"8 LGBTQ History Podcasts You'll Learn a Lot from" from Bustle

"Binah: Hida Viloria with Sam McConnell" via KALW radio

Diasbility Visibility Project

"The Eunuch" from In Our Time via BBC

"The Ottoman Erotic" from Ottoman History Podcast

"Incorporating LGBTQ History in Your Classroom" from Queer America via Teaching Tolerance.

"Inside Transgender Pakistan" from The Documentary podcast via BBC

"The Sultan's Eunuch" from Ottoman History Podcast