Jessica Benham awarded the Andrew Mellon Fellowship

Jessica Benham is using her time on the Mellon Fellowship to complete her dissertation, titled No Eyes Needed: A (Re)Vision of the Image Event through Disability Rhetoric. In her dissertation, she examines newspaper photographs of the disability rights movement, introducing the concept of the 'sensory event,' which she defines as protest activity that engages senses beyond sight and sound to draw media attention. She explores how disability protests test the ability of images to capture all sensory elements of protests and considers the ways in which sensory disabilities negotiate the communicative boundaries of images. 


As an activist-scholar and community organizer, Jessica is also using her time on the Mellon Fellowship to run for State Representative, noting, as always, her desire to take the concepts she studies and apply them in the real world, as she has done previously by co-founding the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy. Jessica is using her platform to fight for issues that impact all the residents in PA House District 36, including healthcare, workers' rights, and infrastructure investment. Jessica would be the first openly Autistic woman elected to a state legislature anywhere in the United States and the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to state legislature in Pennsylvania.