Leave it to a dog to put the “human” back in “humanities”
In September 2020, Rod Michalko wrote to friend and colleague Dan Goodley, congratulating him on the release of his latest book, Disability and Other Human Questions. Joking that his late guide dog, Smokie, had taken offense to the suggestion that disability was purely a human question, Michalko shared a few thoughts on behalf of his dog. When Goodley wrote back—to Smokie—so began an epistolic exchange that would continue for the next seven months.
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world and the realities of lockdown-imposed isolation set in, the Smokie letters provided the friends a space in which to come together in a lively exploration of human-animal relationships and to interrogate disability as disruption, disturbance, and art. Just as he did in life, Smokie guides. In these pages, he offers wisdom about the world, love, friendship, and even The Beatles. His canine observations of human experience provide an avenue into some of the ways blindness might be reconceptualized and “befriended.”
Uninhibited by the trappings of traditional academic inquiry, Michalko and Goodley are unleashed, free to wander, to wonder, and to provoke within the bonds of trust and respect. Funny and thoughtful, the result is a refreshing exploration and re-evaluation of learned cultural misunderstandings of disability.
“What emerges from these letters is a fruitful journey that brings many topics together for deep contemplation. Letters with Smokie is an open door through which to peek into pressing discourses.”
— Carrianne Leung
About the Authors:
Rod Michalko is retired from the University of Toronto where he taught disability studies. His current writing, both fiction and non-fiction, stem from his experience of blindness.
Dan Goodley is Professor of Disability Studies and Education at the University of Sheffield. Previous books include Disability and Other Human Questions (Emerald, 2020) and Disability Studies (second edition, Sage, 2016).