By Lann Nguyen, March 21, 2023
Unfortunately, when Christine Wieseler walks into a room she’s not often recognized for her educational prowess or expertise in philosophy but rather her disability.
Wieseler, assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy is using her personal experience to enact change and boost knowledge in areas like bioethics, feminist philosophy and disabled philosophy.
Her Cal Poly Pomona career began in the fall of 2020, amidst the pandemic which prevented her from teaching on campus until spring 2022. Now that she has the chance to teach in-person classes, she has strived to make connections with students from all studies through personal experiences.
At 19, Wieseler experienced a traumatic accident which left her disabled. This incident led her to focus on making connections in the disabled community and bring her perspective on issues that were mainly being addressed by able-bodied people.
She had to change her way of thinking in order to get used to her new body and led her to a career in teaching, writing and researching specific topics within bioethics, which involve disabled persons. It also ensures that the teachings and knowledge become more streamlined to the actual experience instead of by theorists who have not experienced disability first-hand.
Wieseler was especially eager to work at CPP because of the student population.
“I’m excited about working with the diverse student body including students who are first generation college students, which I was myself,” said Wieseler. “Of course it doesn’t hurt that it’s in California so I really feel like I hit the jackpot getting this job.”
She also knew Professor of philosophy, Cory Aragon, prior to starting her position here at CPP and met Alex Madva, associate professor of philosophy at a conference, so she was familiar with her future colleagues in the department which gave her a sense of the department before she arrived.
Wieseler expressed her gratitude the Department Chair Dale Turner gave her the opportunity to teach the classes she wanted to.
She started to learn about the history of the disability rights movement and ongoing activism for and by disabled people.
“I am a disabled person but I would say that I didn’t think about disability as a political issue until I was introduced to the disability right’s movement as part of a job I had between undergraduate and graduate school,” said Wieseler.
In order to enact change she needed to be a part of the conversation.
“So, that’s what really got me thinking that I want to contribute to the conversation, and I also had critiques of bioethics specifically who make ableist claims, so that was part of what got me going in that direction,” said Wieseler.
She was trying to figure out why certain philosophers were saying problematic and false things about disabled people’s lives, regardless of testimony and different types of evidence their claims were wrong, yet nothing was really changing according to Wieseler. That’s what got her started in bioethics.
“I really had to grapple with the internalized ableism that I had which I didn’t realize I had when I became disabled,” said Wieseler. “I came to perceive the world in a really different way and made a lot of connections with folks in the disability community that I probably wouldn’t have made otherwise.”
She recognizes most people don’t get a helpful education on disability and don’t learn how to interact with disabled people.
Wieseler stays connected at CPP with other disabled faculty, staff and students through participating in meetings for the Access and Disability Alliance.
“Students sometimes will feel comfortable talking about their own impairments or different sorts of struggles with me because of my own experiences so I am proactive in helping students who are working with the Disability Resource Center,” said Wieseler. “I try to make my classes as accessible as possible so that’s important to me.”
Wieseler co-wrote a book, “Disability Bioethics Reader” with Michael Reynolds and this is the first edited volume that’s centered around disabled people’s perspectives in bioethics. Disability is really central to a lot of the different debates in bioethics but most of the work is written by nondisabled people, so this reader is really starting from a critical disabilities perspective and also thinking about intersectionality about how disability, race, gender and sexuality all work together according to Wieseler.
“This is a project that I’m very excited about that I put a lot into thinking about some of the central issues of bioethics from anti-ableist perspectives, also incorporating disabled people’s lived experiences and also thinking about connections,” said Wieseler. “Other areas of study include fat studies, aging studies, philosophy of race, feminist philosophy, trans studies and much more.”
Throughout Wieseler’s career she has focused mainly on thinking critically about disability in bioethics, feminist philosophy and gender studies.
“That’s the way I teach my classes since I am most drawn to philosophy that is relevant to healthcare and social justice, that is concerned with everyday life,” said Wieseler.
Feature image courtesy of Christine Wieseler
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