Dr. Julie Minich: Understanding Nationalism, Citizenship and Disability
Dr. Julie Minich, assistant professor, Departments of English and Mexican American and Latina/o Studies and the Center for Mexican American Studies, holds a PhD in Spanish and Portuguese from Stanford University and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Smith College.
She specializes in the study of disability, gender, and race and its connection with cultural politics and nationalism in the U.S. and Mexico. Her Book, Accessible Citizenships: Disability, Nation, and the Cultural Politics of Greater Mexico, analyzes literature, film, and visual art from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, working against the familiar idea that disability is a metaphor for political decline or social decay.
We spoke with Dr. Minich to learn more about her interests in disability studies and passions as an educator.
The intersection of disability studies and Latina/o culture… She became engrossed with the ideologies between race, class, and gender while studying U.S. Latina/o literature in college. While in graduate school, she discovered the field of disability studies, which she says had a profound impact on her intellectual trajectory. “In part this is because issues of disability were already part of my personal life, since my sister has a disability, but it is also because I felt that scholars in the field of disability studies were asking the kinds of questions that I wanted my work to address: What defines human beings as socially or politically valuable? Who is granted full political participation, and who is not – and what determines this? How can we build a society in which people are not treated as disposable?”
Interpreting her book, Accessible Citizenship… “There are a few things I’d like people to take away from my book. One is simply that disability does not automatically equal tragedy, crisis, or failure. Especially in literature, disability is often aligned with these negative elements, and I think that this really has a profound impact on how people see disability. Second, I would like people to rethink how we understand political belonging, with the eventual goal of reformulating the institution of citizenship itself. And finally, I’d like for readers to understand U.S. Latina/o literature as very powerful site of rigorous thinking on both of these questions.”
New book in the works… Dr. Minich is working on a book about how U.S. Latina/o writers reconceptualize heath and protest racialized health disparities. “I’m looking specifically at the period between the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and just after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Both of these laws have had profound implications for the health and well-being of Latina/o communities. Health is so often a question of access – to health care, to clean water and air, to good food, to cultural narratives that depict one’s life as valuable and worth living. The writers and artists I’m studying now are really working to expand that access in a comprehensive way.”
Reveling in the diversity at UT… “I’ve taught in a variety of institutional contexts before coming to UT, and I’ve always loved teaching, but UT is hands down the most fulfilling teaching experience I have ever had. I’m constantly inspired and amazed by the things my students are saying in the classroom and the work they are doing outside the classroom. I attribute my love of teaching at UT to the fact that UT as an institution is strongly committed to the public university mission of teaching students from all sectors of the state of Texas. Texas is such a large and diverse state, and the students in my classes really reflect that. They bring so much life experience, so many different ideas and perspectives, to their classes.”