The Literature of Disability Culture: Breath & Shadow Journal


breath and shadow logo

What do you do when the reality you experience is not reflected in the arts and culture that surround you? The answer given by the founders of Breath & Shadow journal is to create a publication that gives voice to people with disabilities.

About the title, Breath & Shadow, from the web site:

The phrase comes from a quote by Sophocles, who described people as "but breath and shadow, nothing more."

"Breath" and "Shadow" each identify universal experiences: all people breathe, all people cast shadows — regardless of abilities, appearances, or other traits. Why is this universality critical to a journal of disability culture and literature? Too often people with disabilities are identified by what we can't do or by our lack of specific traits. Thus, much of disability rights organizing and disability culture has focused on what people with disabilities can do, to refute the idea we can't do anything; but this argument, too, leaves out many disabled people who fail to measure up to disability rights rhetoric. At Breath & Shadow we want to avoid these pitfalls altogether by asserting that living with disability provides a unique perspective that, in itself, offers valuable insights, regardless of one's disability or what — or how much — one is able to "do."

Additionally, the concepts of "breath" and "shadow" are evocative of the focus of the literature we publish. Breath is a necessary part of life. It is composed of inhalation (also known as inspiration — creativity, imagination, spirit) and exhalation (also known as expiration — ending, death, destruction). Shadow is the image that's created behind an object upon which light has fallen. When people only focus on the foreground, the shadow is overlooked. Yet shadow has so much to reveal: it can be the twin side of a more obvious idea or image — creating greater knowledge of it — or it can be what is hidden, mysterious, or dark. As people with disabilities, we are frequently in a unique position to reflect on life stripped bare of many of the usual distractions.

By presenting many ways of understanding and interpreting beingness, Breath & Shadow provides a vehicle for exploring life with disability as a deeply fascinating and important subject. With Breath in mind, we reflect on inspiration, expiration, and the humanity of our experience — a humanity that is full, real, and whole. With the knowledge of Shadow, we shine light on the experience of disability, while also mining the dark side our attention creates.


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