Department of Women's and Gender Studies University of Missouri Department of Women's and Gender Studies

Julie Passanante ElmanJulie Passanante Elman

Assistant Professor
education: PhD, George Washington University
phone: 573-882-5797

On leave, Fall 2013

Julie Passanante Elman is currently Assistant Professor of Women's & Gender Studies. She earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from George Washington University in 2009. Prior to joining MU, she was Lecturer of Television Studies/Media Theory in the School of English, Drama, and Film at University College Dublin (Republic of Ireland) and Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow of Gender & Sexuality Studies in the Department of Social & Cultural Analysis at New York University. Her areas of specialization are feminist theory; queer theory; disability studies; science studies; media studies; and 20th US cultural history.

Elman's monograph, Chronic Youth: Disability, Sexuality, and U.S. Media Cultures of Rehabilitation, analyzes how rehabilitation—or endless self-improvement—became a culture and how American ideas about youth sexuality, embodiment, citizenship, and emotion shaped its formation. Tracing the ascendance of rehabilitation culture in the US through the central figure of the teenager, this book argues that adolescence was increasingly represented as a disability while "growing up" became culturally imagined as a process of rehabilitation into compulsory heterosexuality and able-bodiedness. This book offers a provocative new account of how American cultural producers, policymakers, and medical professionals, from the 1970s to the present, have mobilized discourses of disability to cast adolescence as a treatable "condition." Analyzing a diverse media archive-including "disease of the week" made-for-TV movies; ABC's After School Specials; young adult illness/romance "problem novels;" and neuroscientific discoveries about the incomplete and volatile teen brain, Chronic Youth illustrates how overcoming disability, for boys, or accepting disability, for girls, became linked to sexual and emotional maturation. Although this conjoining of disability and adolescence may have began as a storytelling convention, disability became much more than a metaphor as the process of medicalizing adolescence intensified and expanded from the popular teen media of the 1970s, into a range of other cultural locations by the 1990s-from parenting books containing neuroscientific warnings about the incomplete "teen brain," to news coverage of school shootings, "superpredators," and racializing brain-based explanations for violent behavior. Tracing the teen's uneven passage from postwar rebel to 21st century patient, Chronic Youth historicizes the scientific and pop cultural discourses that have recast adolescence as a temporary and treatable "condition" and citizenship as a process of individual rehabilitation, achieved through self-surveillance-not just for teens, but for all of us. Chronic Youth is forthcoming from New York University Press in 2014 in the Social & Cultural Analysis series.

As she completes her first book, Elman has undertaken a co-authored article (with Robert McRuer) that offers a queer critique of transnational disability activism undertaken by American evangelicals in the US and global South. Her second monograph, tentatively titled Cyberchrondiac Citizens: Diagnostic Media and Embodiment in Global Culture will build on transnational queer, disability, and feminist science studies scholarship to examine the late 20th century global turn toward "therapeutic culture" by probing the shifting biopolitical relationship among media, citizenship, and health. Cyberchondriac Citizens will analyze the global consumption of what Elman has named "diagnostic media," such as WebMD; talkshow and Skype psychotherapy; WiiFit gaming; reality TV about weight loss; and health-related iPhone apps. This book will analyze popular culture as a global space of contest, individual health empowerment, and new intimacies, but one that also enforces new forms of governmentality and self-surveillance as essential to healthy citizenship.

Elman also maintains a course-related blog, Cripping the City, which showcases the work of undergraduates undertaking "Accessible Dating" assignments.

Selected Publications

  • Chronic Youth: Disability, Sexuality, & U.S. Media Cultures of Rehabilitation. New York University Press, Forthcoming, 2014.
  • "Cripping Safe Sex: Life Goes On's Queer/Disabled Alliances." Journal of Bioethical Inquiry. Special Issue: "Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity," September 2012.
  • "Feeling Real: Disability, Teen Sick-Lit, and the Condition of Adolescence. Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies (JLCDS) 6.2, Special Issue: "Popular Genres and Disability Representation," July 2012.
  • "After School Special Education: Rehabilitative Television, Teen Citizenship, and Able-Bodiedness," Television and New Media 11.4, July 2010.

Recent Conference Presentations

  • "Encountering Scientific Knowledge: Feminist Science Studies Meets Disability Studies." Session Organizer/Chair. Panel sponsored by NWSA Disability Studies Interest Group. Cincinnati, OH. November 7-10, 2013.
  • "New Queer Materialisms: The Sexual Mattering of American Studies." Chair. American Studies Association (ASA) Conference. Washington, DC. November 21-24, 2013.
  • "Diagnostic Media: WebMD, WiiFit, and Neoliberal Cyberchondria." Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) Conference. Chicago, IL. March 6-10, 2013.
  • "Diagnostic Media: WebMD, WiiFit, and Neoliberal Citizenship." American Studies Association (ASA) Conference. San Juan, PR. November 15-18, 2012.
  • "Neuroparenting, School Shooters, and Superpredators: The Disability Politics of the Teen Brain." National Women's Studies Association (NWSA) Conference. Oakland, CA. November 8-11, 2012.
  • "Regulating the Brain: Teen Proto-Citizens, Youth Media, and Crisis." Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) International Conference. Boston, MA, Mar. 21-25, 2012.
  • "Rehabilitative Reading & Teen Crisis: Entanglements of Disability, Sadness, & Citizenship." National Women's Studies Association (NWSA) Conference. Atlanta, GA, Nov. 10-13, 2011.
  • "Necropolitics and Rehabilitation: Evangelicals, Technology, and Transnational Disability Activism." American Studies Association (ASA) Conference. San Antonio, TX, November 18-21, 2010.
  • "Interdependency, Rehabilitation, and Necropolitics: Dis/ability and Desire in the Emergent Global Order'" co-authored with Robert McRuer. "Desiring Just Economies/Just Economies of Desire," ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin, Germany, June 2010.
  • "Interdependency, Rehabilitation, and Necropolitics: Dis/ability in the Emergent Global Order," co-authored with Robert McRuer. Society for Disability Studies (SDS) Conference. Philadelphia, PA, June 2010.
  • "Human Condition: Fleshing Out Discourses of Postracialism and Dis/ability." Cultural Studies Association (CSA) Conference. Berkeley, CA, March 2010.

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies
  • Feminist Theory
  • Disability & Sexuality in U.S. Culture


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