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Krystal Cleary Professor of Practice Department of Communication Tulane University

Krystal Cleary

Professor of Practice
Newcomb Hall, Office B03A


Ph.D., Gender Studies, Indiana University


Research Interests

Professor Krystal Cleary is an interdisciplinary scholar with specializations in critical disability studies, media studies, and intersectional feminist and queer theory. Her current research considers how the legacy of the American freak show is being restaged and revised in present-day media texts. While we have indeed been historically primed by the freak show to regard extraordinary bodies as worthy of the stare, her research reveals how today’s pop cultural products that position the non-normative body as a public spectacle are saturated by normativizing and neoliberal discourses of gender, race, sexuality, ability and class. She is interested in cultural functions “freak” serves as a polyvalent term: it is at once an historical character from the 19th-century freak show stage, a reclaimed badge of pride, and a contemporary term of derision. With contact between disabled and non-disabled people limited by architectural and attitudinal barriers, mainstream media remains the primary pedagogical source about disability. Her work therefore considers popular culture texts as crucial sites of ideological formation, contestation, and dissemination in need of critical analysis.

Selected Publications

  • “One of Us?: Disability Drag and the Gaga Enfreakment of Fandom.” Disability Media Studies: Media, Popular Culture, and the Meanings of Disability. Ellcessor, Elizabeth and Bill Kirkpatrick, eds. New York: New York University Press (forthcoming, 2017).
  • “Misfitting and Hater Blocking: A Feminist Disability Analysis of the Extraordinary Body on Reality Television,” Disability Studies Quarterly 36.4 (2016):
  • “Feminist Theories of the Body.” The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies. Naples, Nancy, ed. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2016.


Disability and Reality TV