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CoastLine is a variety news show, which airs Wednesdays from 12pm - 1pm on WHQR.Every week, we’ll look into issues that matter in the Cape Fear Region. Host Rachel Lewis Hilburn will interview expert guests and invite you to join the conversation.

CoastLine: Understanding Disability Through Performance Ethnography

Dr. Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock and her three sons

People who have disabilities, particularly physical ones, face what some social justice activists call “ableism”.  Disability Research Scholar Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock defines the term as “a cultural discourse that stigmatizes and marginalizes bodies deemed not normal through medical diagnosis”. 

Not only has she studied the perceptions of people around disabled bodies – which includes bodies that are aging – she’s grown up experiencing them through a body that lives with cerebral palsy. 

Today, she’s challenging concepts that support ableism – through what she calls performance ethnography.  The goal:  to embody the person we think of as “the other” and develop empathy – which might also lead to the disintegration of assumptions and power structures. 


Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of  Communications Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is Director of The UNCW Storytellers, Hawk Tale Players, and Just Us: Performance Troupe for Social Justice, and the co-director of UNCW Performance Ethnography.

She has published articles on autoethnography, narrative performance research, and pedagogy.  This year, Palgrave MacMillan published her book Embodied Performance as Applied Research, Art and Pedagogy.