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Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities 2023-24: Wolfe Faculty Fellow

About the Wolfe Faculty Fellow

This year's Wolfe Faculty Fellow is Professor Yoon-Joo Lee.

Yoon-Joo Lee is an associate professor in the Department of Childhood, Bilingual and Special Education in the School of Education at Brooklyn College, CIty University of New York.  She earned her doctorate degree in Early Childhood Special Education at Teachers College Columbia University.    She teaches and supervises master's students in the Graduate Special Education Program.  She had several years of experience in teaching infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in different early childhood special education classrooms before joining the faculty at Brooklyn College. Her scholarly interests include social experiences of young children with special needs in early childhood classrooms, the experiences of families of children with special needs from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, as well as lived experiences of individual with disabilities across different life stages.

Project: “Born This Way”: Stories on Disability through Our Voices 
This project explores the formation of disability identity among Korean and Korean American women with physical disabilities in South Korea and the United States through analyzing their lived experiences of being disabled. Drawing upon the work of scholars in disability studies, I seek to challenge readers to (re)consider their own misconceptions and assumptions about disability and to reconceptualize their understanding of diversity.  This project provides a compelling and necessary means of critiquing stereotypes such as the model minority myth.  Five women with physical disabilities between 40 and 56 years of age participated in this project. A series of four in-depth qualitative interviews are conducted with each participant.  By elevating the “ordinary” lived experiences of women with physical disabilities, this research seeks to deconstruct prevalent notions of “overcoming” disability, defying narratives of the supercrip. The intention of this research is to portray the dynamic and multidimensional aspects of living with disabilities as a lifelong journey, as well as individuals’ multiple identities beyond disability.  This project also seeks to convey that living with disability is not a one-time linear process from initial diagnosis to acceptance and overcoming, but a dynamic, evolving, and ongoing meaning-making journey.  I will also share my lived experience as an individual with disabilities that is marked with multiple social identities.  As I present the stories of these women, I also plan to share how I engage in a more in-depth analysis of my own experience of disability and what makes me reinterpret and assign different meanings to my experience through interviewing these women.