Disabled Futures

A Framework for Radical Inclusion

Milo W. Obourn
Book Cover

PB: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1731-2
Publication: Jan 20

HC: $99.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1730-5
Publication: Jan 20

Ebook: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1732-9
Publication: Jan 20

188 pages
6 x 9
1 line drawing, 5 halftones

Offering a new avenue for understanding race, gender, and disability as mutually constitutive through an analysis of literature and films

Read the Introduction (pdf).


Disabled Futures makes an important intervention in disability studies by taking an intersectional approach to race, gender, and disability. Milo Obourn reads disability studies, gender and sexuality studies, and critical race studies to develop a framework for addressing inequity. They theorize the concept of “racialized disgender”—to describe the ways in which racialization and gendering are social processes with disabling effects—thereby offering a new avenue for understanding race, gender, and disability as mutually constitutive.

Obourn uses readings of literature and popular culture from Lost and Avatar to Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy to explore and unpack specific ways that race and gender construct—and are constructed by—historical notions of ability and disability, sickness and health, and successful recovery versus damaged lives. What emerges is not only a more complex and deeper understanding of the intersections between ableism, racism, and (cis)sexism, but also possibilities for imagining alternate and more radically inclusive futures in which all of our identities, experiences, freedoms, and oppressions are understood as interdependent and intertwined.


Building on the theoretical contributions of intersectionality, Milo Obourn introduces and operationalizes a powerful analytical framework called ‘racialized disgender,’ which reads privilege and marginalization around gender, dis/ability, and race as mutually constitutive. Through layered investigations of contemporary film, literature, and popular media, Disabled Futures exposes the ways disability has often been appropriated in service of rehabilitating white cisgender masculinity and articulates new potentialities of inclusion through illness narratives and speculative fiction. For readers interested in the interconnectedness of queer theory, disability studies, and critical race theory, Disabled Futures charts a dynamic pathway forward.”—Michelle Jarman, Associate Professor and Director of the Disability Studies Program, Wyoming Institute for Disabilities, University of Wyoming, and co-editor of Barriers and Belonging: Personal Narratives of Disability (Temple)

In Disabled Futures Obourn makes the compelling claim that critiques of ableism should not be limited to thinking about disability, but should be expanded into our analyses of race, gender, and sexuality. Disabled Futures does not stop there, however. It further argues that disability studies can and should be brought into alignment with critical race, gender, and sexuality studies. In a series of deft readings of texts from Avatar to Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis, Obourn convincingly demonstrates that an intersectional approach to understanding embodiment is not merely a productive interpretive praxis. Rather, it is essential to imagining a liberated future.”—Jennifer C. James, Associate Professor of English, The George Washington University, and author of A Freedom Bought with Blood: African American War Literature from the Civil War to World War II

"Balancing attention to the practical work of enhancing diversity and inclusivity and its fraught relationship to critical theoretical work, Obourn here conceptualizes 'racialized disgender,' which co-constitutes race, gender, sexuality, disability, and health in producing and representing normative citizens.... (T)his is a worthwhile read.... Summing Up: Recommended."

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction • On the Future of Disabled Identities
1. White Guys in Wheelchairs: Lost, Avatar, and the Appropriation of Disability
2. Embodied Metaphor and Nonreproductive Futurity as Racialized Disgender in Islas and Moraga
3. Racialized Disgender and Disruptive Futurity in Lorde’s and Engelberg’s Cancer Narratives
4. Speculative Disabled Futures: Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy
Coda • More That: Going Back for Our Bodies

Works Cited

About the Author(s)

Milo W. Obourn, Associate Professor of English and Women and Gender Studies and Chair of the Department of Women and Gender Studies at The College at Brockport, State University of New York, is the author of Reconstituting Americans: Liberal Multiculturalism and Identity Difference in Post-1960s Literature.


In the Series

  • Dis/Color edited by Nirmala Erevelles, Julie Avril Minich, and Cynthia Wu

    Dis/Color, edited by Nirmala Erevelles, Julie Avril Minich, and Cynthia Wu, highlights innovative books that reveal the intersections among racism, ableism, and other unequal structures and practices in U.S. and transnational contexts. The editors seek manuscripts grounded in disciplinary and transdisciplinary scholarship in the humanities and qualitative social sciences. Manuscripts may include those that address the lived experiences of people of color, those that broach theoretically informed claims, and those that involve empirically grounded perspectives about the regulatory and intersectional regimes of racial and ableist structures that shape human experience in the United States and globally. Prospective authors should contact the series editors or Temple University Press Editor Shaun Vigil to discuss their work in progress for inclusion in the series.