Pamela Block

Pamela Block


Professor - Sociocultural Anthropology

PhD 1997 (Duke University)
Office: Social Science Centre 3425
Tel: 519 661-2111  ext. 85077


Research Interests

My research interests include “disability culture” and cultural perceptions of disability in the United States, Brazil and Canada and the scholarly intersections of disability, anthropology and occupational studies. I study disability experience on individual, organizational and community levels, with past funded research involving socio-environmental barriers, empowerment/capacity-building, and health promotion. My qualitative research methodologies combine historical and discourse analyses with community-based ethnographic, authoethnographic, and participatory approaches. I am particularly interested in the intersections of gender, race, economic status, and disability in movements for disability liberation (justice and rights) and disability oppression (eugenics, sterilization, mass-incarceration and killing) in Brazil, the United States and Canada. My current research involves the experiences of people with complex medical conditions who rely on technologies such as mechanical ventilation and 24/7 skilled nursing for survival. I actively support initiatives related to the emergence of neurodivergence and disability studies in Brazil and other Global South Countries.

Recent Publications


Carey, A., Block, P., and Scotch R. (2020). Allies and Obstacles: Parents of Children with Disabilities and Disability Rights. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Block, P., Kasnitz, D., Nishida, A., and Pollard N., eds. (2016). Occupying Disability: Critical Approaches to Community, Justice and Decolonizing Disability. New York: Springer, Ltd.


Block, P. with Diallo, S. (2020). Activism, anthropology and disability studies in times of austerity. Wenner Gren Symposium Proceedings. Current Anthropology.

Scarlatos, L., Engoron, E., Block, P., Evans C. (2019). All Together Now: A Collaborative Game to Increase Advocacy Among Disabled Individuals in Higher Education. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning 11(4).

Gesser, M., Block, P. and Nuernberg, A.H. (2019). Participation, Agency and Disability in Brazil: Transforming psychological practices in public policy through a human rights perspective. Journal of Disability Studies in the Global South 6(2): 1772- 1791.

Carey, A., Block, P., Scotch R. (2019). Sometimes Allies: Parent-Led Disability Organizations and Social Movements. Disability Studies Quarterly. 39(1):

Kuppers, P. with Johnson, K., Block, P., Preston, VK (2019). Water Work in Play: Public Intimacies. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies 8(1): 32-57.

Friedner, M., Block, P., (2017). deaf studies meets autistic studies. The Senses and Society. 12(3). DOI 10.1080/17458927.2017.1369716.

Angelucci, B., Costa, L., Block, P. (2017) People with Disabilities: Fighting for their Rights in the USA and Brazil. Revista de Educação PUC-Campinas 22(3): 339-355.

Pollard, N, Block, P (2017) Who Occupies Disability? Cadernos Brasileira de Terapia Ocupacional, São Carlos 25(2):417-26.

Block, P. (2017). My disability studies is (not) better than yours. Disability Studies Quarterly. 37(3).

Block, P. & Friedner M. (2017) Teaching Disability Studies in the Era of Trump. Somatosphere.

Book Chapters

Evans, C., Milazzo, M. and Block, P. (2020) “Re-Thinking Disability Community:  Chosen and Ascribed Communities or Intersecting Communities and Communities in Conflict.” In (Ed. Bettina Jansen) Rethinking Community Towards Transdisciplinary Community Research. New York: Palgrave.

Gaveiro, M.A., Mello, A.G., Block, P. (2019). “With the knife and the cheese in hand!”: a virtual ethnography of the cyber-activist disabled movement in Brazil and its transnational impact. IN (eds. Maria Berghs, Tsitsi Chataika, Yahya El-Lahib, Andrew Kudakwashe Dube) The New Disability Activism: Current Trends, Shifting Priorities and (Uncertain) Future Directions. New York: Routledge.

Patterson, S & Block, P. (2019) Disability Vulnerability and Capacity to Consent. IN Cascio A. and Racine E. Research Involving Participants with Impaired Cognition: Ethics, Autonomy, Inclusion, and Innovation. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Lima, RC, Evans, C, Feldman, C, and Block, P (2018) Autism Policy and Advocacy in Brazil and the United States. IN Fein, E and Rios, C. Autism in Translation: A Cross-Cultural Conversation Regarding Autism Spectrum Conditions. New York: Palgrave.

Block, P., Ellison E., Squillace, M. (2016) VENTure Think Tank: The politics, technologies, and occupations of disability and mechanical ventilation. In Occupational Therapy without Borders: Integrating Justice into Practice, Elsevier, Cambridge, UK

Teaching and Graduate Supervision

Teaching and Graduate Supervision

In 2020-2021 I will be teaching these courses:

* 1021B: Introduction to Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology, Prof. Block & Granadillo (non-essay, online with one hour of synchronous learning and additional asynchronous activities)

* 2278F: Anthropology of Race, Ethnicity and Identity, (online with asynchronous activities)

*NEW! 2290F: Cultures of Health, Illness, Disability, and Healing, (online with asynchronous activities)

* 9217B Anthropology & Embodiment (synchronous Wednesdays 10:30-1:30)

At Western, I am currently supervising one graduate student, Matthew Resendes Medeiros (entered F2019, Western) "Contingent Subjectivities and Insurgent Citizenship(s): Examining Shifting and Conflicting Discourses of Disablement in Southern Brazil." I welcome inquiries from prospective graduate students. 

Recent PhD graduates include:

Alexandra Wagner (Defended June 2020 HRS/DS, Stony Brook University) “Understanding the Experiences of Older Adults with Age Related Cognitive Changes Who are Aging in Place”

Maria Milazzo Defended August 2019, HRS/DS “Lessons about Living Well at the Intersection of Adolescence and Multiple Sclerosis”

Sylette Henry-Buckmire, Defended August 2018 HRS “Mobility-as-Occupation: Justice Manoeuvres and Negotiations in T&T”

Cassandra Evans, Defended December 2017 HRS “Asylum to Community and In Between: Examining the post-Deinstitutionalization Transitional Experiences of Mentally Disabled Individuals in Suffolk County, Long Island”