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Disability in Motion: Phantasia, Ekphrasis, and Image Events Beyond Sight and Sound

Benham, Jessica (2023) Disability in Motion: Phantasia, Ekphrasis, and Image Events Beyond Sight and Sound. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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I analyze media representations of disability rights protests, specifically the 1987 Deaf President Now protests, the 1990 ‘crawl up’ protest, and the 2017 American Health Care Act protests. I argue that disabled protestors strategically staged protests to draw the attention of mass media and that photography of disabled people offers the opportunity to explore the relationships between word and image, sight and sound. I engage with scholarship from argument studies, social movement theory, classical rhetoric, childhood studies, disability studies, queer theory, and media studies. I primarily approach images through a critical discourse analysis. I found three emerging themes: images, metaphorical language, and language which encouraged the reader to imagine an image within the mind.
In chapter one, I argue that the Deaf-ness of the protestors during the Deaf President Now protests was made visible in the media through a variety of strategies, including metaphors of sound and hearing. In chapter two, I argue that protest imagery from the March 1990 ‘crawl up’ protest was effective in drawing public attention to inaccessibility and spurring legislative change because it disrupted normative enthymemes. In chapter three, I analyze press photography of ADAPT’s June 22, 2017 Die In protest outside of Mitch McConnell’s D.C. office, arguing that changes in how and where people get their news has resulted in more sensationalized photography. In my conclusion, I summarize my arguments at an eighth grade reading level, intending to make my work legible within the disability communities where I find belonging.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Benham, Jessicajessicalbenham@gmail.comjlb325
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMalin,
Committee MemberJohnson,
Committee MemberMitchell,
Committee MemberPaterson,
Date: 21 April 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 25 March 2022
Approval Date: 21 April 2023
Submission Date: 1 April 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 150
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: disability, media, protest, image event, enthymeme
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2023 19:16
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2023 19:16


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