Skip to main content

Robert Manzo

PhD Student




(919) 962-8366



Manning Hall


Ryan Shaw


Disability Studies, Rhetoric, Queer Theory, Social Epistemology, Hermeneutics, Post-Development/Decolonial Studies


B.A., History, UNC-Asheville; M.A., History, Western Carolina University; PhD (in progress), Info and Library Science, UNC-Chapel Hill


I grew up in Michigan and then North Carolina in the 1990s. Reading was always my main hobby. The first chapter books I read were part of a series called ‘Great Illustrated Classics,’ which were heavily abridged adaptations of European folk stories and novels dating from classical to modern times. Those stories, plus the history books I read later in college, took time to reflect on how and why people live the way they do. That kind of reflection and questioning was rarely encouraged in my everyday life at home and school. Once, a teacher confiscated an anthology of detective stories that I was reading in the middle of a high school science lesson. Now, I’m very happy to be part of the SILS PhD program, where I continue to read interesting things. Of course, I write a lot in the PhD program, which is fortunate because it’s my only real skill! Actually, I have one other skill: I compose short piano pieces in what little spare time I have—ultimately thanks to my parents, who sent me to piano lessons, against my will, when I was a child. At SILS, my main area of research is disability studies and a phenomenological hermeneutics of autistic autobiographies. I am autistic, and I have a longstanding interest in how ‘autism’ is defined by autistic people, rather than by dispassionate pundits.