Cassandra Hartblay

Cassandra Hartblay

Cassandra Hartblay, Ph.D. (North Carolina Chapel Hill, 2015)
Assistant Professor, Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society, Scarborough Campus (UTSC)

Research Keywords: Medical and sociocultural anthropology, Disability, Russia and postsocialism, performance ethnography, design, moral life, social difference


Research Bio

Dr. Hartblay joined the faculty in 2018 following postdoctoral appointments at Yale University and the University of California San Diego.

Her research is focused on the moral and cultural dimensions of disability as social difference. Her book manuscript, Totally Normal, explores how the specific context of postsocialism in Russia produces particular configurations of disability as social difference, and how disability advocacy takes on different meanings across global contexts. Foregrounding the production of social norms in postsocialism, Totally Normal explores not only disability, but proposes new frameworks for understanding difference and injustice in global capitalism.

Dr. Hartblay’s research addresses the theoretical impact of disability studies on ethnography, in particular, examining how disciplinary modes of knowledge production reproduce ableism.

Disability ethnography presents an opportunity to critique and reimagine elements of epistemology and hermeneutics that our discipline has taken for granted. Therefore, along with critical ethnographic texts, Dr. Hartblay’s research unfolds in part through performance ethnography practice, including staging documentary theatre based on her ethnographic research. Her play, I WAS NEVER ALONE, was performed at UCSD, UNC-CH, and Yale University. Based on life history interviews with interlocutors with visible disabilities in Russia, the script and accompanying materials will be published in a volume suitable for anthropology, performance studies, and area studies classrooms.

At UTSC, Dr. Hartblay’s appointment is shared between the department of anthropology and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health Studies’s program in Health Humanities. 


Hartblay, Cassandra, Hankins, Joseph D. and Caldwell, Melissa L. “Keywords for Ethnography and Design.” Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website, March 29, 2018.

Hartblay, Cassandra. “Good Ramps, Bad Ramps: Centralized Design Standards and Disability Access in Urban Russian Infrastructure.” American Ethnologist, 44(1), 2017.

Hartblay, Cassandra. “A Genealogy of (post-)Soviet Dependency: Disabling Productivity.”  2013 Zola Award Article, Disability Studies Quarterly, 34(1), 2014.

Rivkin-Fish, Michele, and Cassandra Hartblay. “When Global LGBTQ Advocacy Became Entangled with New Cold War Sentiment: A Call for Examining Russian Queen Experience.” The Brown Journal of World Affairs, 21 (2014): 95.

Graduate Students

Hannah Quinn