Access Washing at the Imperial University: Militarism, Occupation, and Struggles Toward Disability Justice

Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Dana Olwan

Second Advisor

Eunjung Kim

Subject Categories



This dissertation uses a disability justice lens to explore uneven geographies of disability that persist despite claims of progress, or a new age of disability inclusion in U.S. higher education. Analyzing a range of textual materials and archived documents, I historicize the development of disability inclusion in higher education alongside the role of U.S. universities in supporting U.S. imperialism. This project considers how, through the practice and logic of access washing, the U.S. state and its universities deploy rhetoric about disability inclusion to conceal imperial and settler-colonial complicities in the U.S. and Israel. I argue that U.S. higher education institutions are a major site for the production of disability injustice through their investments in U.S. empire and Israeli settler-colonialism. I demonstrate how U.S. higher education supports the creation of racialized disabling conditions globally, specifically analyzing its economic and geopolitical investments in the occupation of Palestine. This project concludes by analyzing unfolding histories of student protest within the imperial university to chart an alternative genealogy of struggles toward disability justice within U.S. higher education.


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