One of the perks of being an academic is the opportunity to travel and talk to people about issues that you feel passionate about. Over the last few years I’ve been fortunate enough to share my research with international audiences (e.g. in Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Australia). I’ve also listened to inspiring presentations about work being conducted in different parts of the world. However, I rarely meet fellow researchers with an interest in people with PMLD. This is partly because there are relatively few ‘research active’ academics in the PMLD field, and partly because those that do undertake research tend to engage in experiments and present at scientific conferences. As a critical and qualitative researcher with a penchant for theory I find myself yearning for a group of peers who are keen to debate major themes in the PMLD field such as personhood, ethics, inclusion, quality of life, and methodological innovation. Such topics are on the fringe of the PMLD field yet should be at its core.
Perhaps things are about to change. I was recently invited by Simo Vehmas (Helsinki) to take part in a two-day symposium in Finland about people with profound intellectual disabilities. The idea is for 8 people to present papers on the intersection of philosophy/theory and empirical research as it relates to people with PMLD. The participants are big hitters in disability studies, feminism, anthropology, and philosophy, and include Eva Kittay (New York), Tom Shakespeare (UEA), Don Kulick (Chicago) and Nick Watson (Glasgow). This is a novel symposium that will hopefully provide space for fascinating discussions which significantly push the boundaries of the PMLD field. Whilst it’s humbling being invited to present alongside esteemed colleagues, I’m excited to share ideas with a group who can significantly challenge and extend my own thinking in this area.
This symposium is still far off (2017) but I look forward to sharing more about it in due course.