A “Visibilizing” Project: “Seeing” the Ontological Erasure of Disability in Teacher Education and Social Studies Curricula


  • Emily A. Nusbaum University of San Francisco
  • Maya L. Steinborn University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Dis/Ability Curriculum


In their consideration the quintessential questions of “What knowledge is of most worth? Who decides? Who benefits?” Nusbaum and Steinborn have arrived at a concept that they name ontological erasure. This concept goes beyond the absence of disability from curricular content, or silence around disability in educational justice frameworks—but rather is the active erasing of certain body-minds from “being” in the educational landscape. This paper traces their path in attempting to first understand what they both viewed as the absence or silence of disability from justice dialogues and curricular work that seeks to advance conceptions of diversity and underrepresented, marginalized groups. Then, they examine the genealogy of ableism in a brief survey of United States history and connected social studies curricula to demonstrate the necropolitical treatment and subsequent erasure of disability from academic spaces dedicated to social justice. Nusbaum and Steinborn hypothesize that pushing disability studies to the fore of those conversations requires interrogating whose histories are told, whose lives are given worth, and how the history taught in U.S. schools perpetuates a hierarchy of knowledge that is fundamentally ableist. This reconceptualization, thus, requires—demands—a “visibilizing” of disability within the educational landscapes from which it has been erased.