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Disability Histories

Disability Histories

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Disability Histories
    Book Description:

    The field of disability history continues to evolve rapidly. In this collection, Susan Burch and Michael Rembis present nineteen essays that integrate critical analysis of gender, race, historical context, and other factors to enrich and challenge the traditional modes of interpretation still dominating the field. As the first collection of its kind in over a decade, Disability Histories not only brings readers up to date on scholarship within the field but fosters the process of moving it beyond the U.S. “Western European axis by offering work on Africa, South America, and Asia. The result is a broad range of readings that open new vistas for investigation and study while encouraging scholars at all levels to redraw the boundaries that delineate who and what is considered of historical value. Informed and accessible, Disability Histories is essential for classrooms engaged in all facets of disability studies within and across disciplines. Contributors are Frances Bernstein, Daniel Blackie, Pamela Block, Elsbeth Bosl, Dea Boster, Susan K. Cahn, Alison Carey, Fatima Cavalcante, Jagdish Chander, Audra Jennings, John Kinder, Catherine Kudlick, Paul R. D. Lawrie, Herbert Muyinda, Kim E. Nielsen, Katherine Ott, Stephen Pemberton, Anne Quartararo, and Penny Richards.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09669-3
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Keywords
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Re-Membering the Past: Reflections on Disability Histories
    (pp. 1-14)

    Disability is central to understanding history. It exists on a fluid and dynamic continuum, and, as disability studies scholars and disability historians have revealed, disability in all of its complex and contradictory brilliance is a common experience. Its vast constellation of meanings and lived realities expressed through equally diverse concepts and interpretive lenses are intricately tied to the past and to the study of the past.

    Disability is ubiquitous, yet it is also irreducible. Lived experiences of disability defy universalized or essentialized interpretations. They do not conform to common historical narratives of unilinear progress. Over the past three decades, scholars...


    • CHAPTER 1 Disability, Dependency, and the Family in the Early United States
      (pp. 17-34)

      In October 2011, theNew York Timesreported the effective demise of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act following an announcement by the U.S. government that it would not implement the law. This was disappointing news for many disabled people and their families, as the act would have helped defray some of the costs of disability-related care. Seeking to put a human face on the story, the authors of the article drew readers’ attention to a woman whose family was apparently “staggering under the burdens of caring for her bedridden parents,” one of whom was an amputee....

    • CHAPTER 2 Thomas Cameron’s “Pure and Guileless Life,” 1806–1870: Affection and Developmental Disability in a North Carolina Family
      (pp. 35-57)

      In nineteenth-century sentimental literature, the “poor hard-working widow and her idiot son” were picturesque stock figures, meant to inspire readers to consider their own burdens lighter by comparison, to dramatize the rewards of maternal devotion, and to justify the sacrifices required of families in a world without many alternative supports for people with what are now called “developmental disabilities.” To maximize the pathos, the mother and son live on the margins, perhaps selling fruit; they have no other family and quietly forestall outside intrusions. As a self-contained pair, they fulfill each other’s emotional and material needs completely.¹

      Nineteenth-century American families...

    • CHAPTER 3 Parents and Professionals: Parents’ Reflections on Professionals, the Support System, and the Family in the Twentieth-Century United States
      (pp. 58-76)

      Since the 1950s, parents of children with disabilities have fought to increase access to quality professional services to support their children and families and help them attain a high quality of life. In scholarship focusing on parent involvement, we often see polarized depictions of parents as either vigilantes who challenge the system or collaborators who are complicit in a medical ableist system of normalization. Increasingly though, scholars are recognizing that parents do not fit such simple categories.¹ Parents negotiate with experts to access the benefits of professional expertise while trying to avoid potential negative outcomes such as usurpation of parental...

    • CHAPTER 4 Historical Perceptions of Autism in Brazil: Professional Treatment, Family Advocacy, and Autistic Pride, 1943–2010
      (pp. 77-97)

      Exploring the history of autism in Brazil presents numerous challenges.¹ Historically and internationally there has always been variety in the way autistic people, their capacities, and their perceived “limitations” have been represented in biomedical, psychosocial, and cultural frameworks.² Professionals, family members, and autistics themselves theorize, understand, and represent autism in different ways. The variety of perspectives is visible in the continuing depictions of autistic people as “suffering” from psychiatric illness, cognitive or behavioral disability, deafness, or “mental retardation.” In this chapter, we explore how historical, political, social, and cultural factors such as ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic status, and national origin...

    • CHAPTER 5 Negotiating Disability: Mobilization and Organization among Landmine Survivors in Late Twentieth-Century Northern Uganda
      (pp. 98-116)

      On one of the busiest streets in Gulu town—the regional capital of northern Uganda—there is a blue and white signpost with the words Gulu Landmine Survivors’ Association (GULMSA). A group of landmine survivors erected the signpost in November 2004, when Pact Omega,¹ a USAID-funded NGO, gave them funds to rent an office in Gulu town. Just outside the GULMSA office sits a woman, a landmine survivor, tending to whoever comes to buy clay stoves, cooking pots, water pots, flowerpots, baked bricks, and other clay materials—all products of a project run by GULMSA. Inside the office, the secretary...


    • CHAPTER 6 Disability Things: Material Culture and American Disability History, 1700–2010
      (pp. 119-135)

      Joystick. Velcro. TV remote. Straitjacket. Communication board. White cane. Sex toy. Thorazine. Wedding ring. Wheelchair. Curb cut. Cochlear implant.¹ The experience of disability, as is all human experience, is grounded in the human body and mediated through the environment. The environment is constituted of the culture-bound material culture of its era and includes architecture, assistive devices, media, clothing, food, technology, and all the other objects that surround us. Human relationships are established and mediated through these objects. Both the artifacts owned and used by people with disabilities and those that are used upon them or that are encountered in life...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Contergan Scandal: Media, Medicine, and Thalidomide in 1960s West Germany
      (pp. 136-162)

      Between 1959 and 1962 more than 3,000 babies were born with a specific type of embodied difference in the Federal Republic of Germany. During this time doctors diagnosed an unprecedented combination of deformities of the extremities, inner organs, and ears.¹ By 1961 pediatricians had established that the children in question had been exposed to medications containing thalidomide during pregnancy; most of the mothers had taken the sedative Contergan, which was invented and sold by the pharmaceutical manufacturer Grünenthal AG. The political scandal that evolved around Contergan in the 1960s was the first in West Germany to involve a pharmaceutical product...

    • CHAPTER 8 “Lest We Forget”: Disabled Veterans and the Politics of War Remembrance in the United States
      (pp. 163-182)

      On the morning of Saturday, December 17, 1921, crowds gathered across the United States for one of the largest (and most lucrative) memorial campaigns of the Great War era: Forget-Me-Not Day. The event was the brainchild of the recently formed group Disabled American Veterans of the World War (DAV), the nation’s premier service organization for veterans with physical and mental impairments. Standing on street corners, in government buildings, and in hotel lobbies, participants sold millions of handcrafted crêpe-paper “forget-me-nots” to be worn in remembrance of U.S. war casualties. Where the artificial blooms were unavailable, volunteers peddled drawings of the pale...


    • CHAPTER 9 Smallpox, Disability, and Survival in Nineteenth-Century France: Rewriting Paradigms from a New Epidemic Script
      (pp. 185-200)

      How would the eminent historian of medicine Charles Rosenberg’s script read if we placed survivors at the center of the epidemic story? Too long framed by the acute phases of disease and subsequent mortality, outbreaks such as tuberculosis, typhoid, polio, syphilis, and AIDS offer an opportunity to explore our field’s key questions and the analytic possibilities for the future of disability history. Such an approach helps reframe the complex relationship between medicine, disease, and disability that critical disability studies increasingly calls into question. It also opens up a greater conversation with historians of medicine and public health by providing new...

    • CHAPTER 10 “Unfit for Ordinary Purposes”: Disability, Slaves, and Decision Making in the Antebellum American South
      (pp. 201-217)

      In 1852, the Supreme Court of North Carolina heard the case ofBell v. Jeffreyson appeal from the Wake County Superior Court. The plaintiff, Bushrod W. Bell, had purchased an otherwise healthy female slave who was nearsighted—or, as Bell described her, “defective in her vision”—and successfully sued the seller, William B. Jeffreys, to recover damages for breach of warranty. The superior court originally had instructed the jury that the defect should be considered an “unsoundness” if “the slave was thereby rendered incapable to perform the common and ordinary business in the house and field, which slaves are...

    • CHAPTER 11 Rehabilitation Staged: How Soviet Doctors “Cured” Disability in the Second World War
      (pp. 218-236)

      The Soviet Union emerged from the Great Patriotic War, as the Second World War was known, victorious though battered. With more than 34 million serving in the armed forces over the duration, hardly a family was left untouched, and each could personally measure the country’s losses in a sorrowful accounting of loved ones who were missing or dead or who had returned from the front in some way impaired. It is next to impossible to calculate accurately the number of Soviet soldiers who were permanently disabled as a result of their war service. Because of the difficulties in establishing disability...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Curious Case of the “Professional Hemophiliac”: Medicine, Disability and the Contested Value of Normality in the United States, 1940–2010
      (pp. 237-257)

      In 1991, historian Susan Resnik spoke to 29-year-old Harold H about his mother’s earliest advice on how he should manage his hereditary bleeding disorder and negotiate the debility associated with it. “She was training to be a psychologist before I was born [in 1962],” said Harold, and she felt that most “teenagers and young men with hemophilia . . . were emotionally crippled.”¹ Most were living at home, she maintained, not for economic reasons but for emotional ones. Harold then opined about his mother’s therapeutic perspective on the majority of young men with hemophilia: “They didn’t have the ability to...

    • CHAPTER 13 Border Disorders: Mental Illness, Feminist Metaphor, and the Disordered Female Psyche in the Twentieth-Century United States
      (pp. 258-282)

      Sin Fronteras—without borders.¹ Feminists have pushed us to look beyond the borders that divide us, to explore borderlands to understand the people situated between or near borders as having a certain wisdom, an ability to bridge differences, to teach us ultimately about both ourselves and others.² Queer theorists, too, have shaken off any notion of fixed, unified sexual identity and replaced it with fluid desires that gravitate toward particular identity narratives that are, in essence,not of the essencebut culturally produced.³ Disability studies scholars have also challenged us to explore the “liminal spaces” and put forward an idea...


    • CHAPTER 14 The Paradox of Social Progress: The Deaf Cultural Community in France and the Ideals of the Third Republic at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
      (pp. 285-307)

      Although social activism within the French deaf cultural community increased during the last decades of the nineteenth century, it is paradoxical that the policies and values of the Third Republic, which focused on economic liberty and social progress, did not seem to transform the lives of deaf people in the way that deaf cultural leaders had hoped. Just as the French republic exhibited cultural and racial prejudice toward its colonial subjects¹ and denied civil liberties to women,² it often relegated deaf people to the margins of French society.

      In this essay, I will investigate the historical context of the turn-of-the-twentieth-century...

    • CHAPTER 15 Property, Disability, and the Making of the Incompetent Citizen in the United States, 1860s–1940s
      (pp. 308-320)

      When James Otis made his famous pre–Revolutionary War speech against the British writs of assistance in 1761, he proclaimed that “the fundamental principles of law” guaranteed the basic rights of human beings. He even acknowledged, according to his astonished friend and future U.S. president John Adams, “the rights of Negroes” (but didn’t mention women or those of indigenous nations). Otis explained that control of one’s own property, the “freedom of one’s house,” was “one of the most essential branches of English liberty.” The only group of people whose rights could be “surrendered or alienated,” Otis insisted, was “idiots or madmen.”¹...

    • CHAPTER 16 “Salvaging the Negro”: Race, Rehabilitation, and the Body Politic in World War I America, 1917–1924
      (pp. 321-344)

      In August 1922, Buster Sunter, an African American veteran of World War I, informed the Veterans Bureau of alleged mistreatment at his local veterans’ training center. Sunter, who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, wrote “I want to let you know that I have not been treated right here, when I take this training I was suppost to have four years here but they have cut my time down to two years. . . . They bully me and have me work like I aint sick so I want you to look into the matter for me for I am not...

    • CHAPTER 17 Engendering and Regendering Disability: Gender and Disability Activism in Postwar America
      (pp. 345-363)

      In 1953, Mary E. Switzer, director of the U.S. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Howard A. Rusk, chair of the Department of Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine at New York University College of Medicine, argued that “disablement of the wife and mother” was a leading cause of “broken homes and the disintegration of healthy family life.” They warned that disability, especially of a wife and mother, had the power to “destroy a home, cast children adrift, exhaust the husband’s earnings, and produce public costs which are so large, and so prolonged, as to be almost immeasurable.”¹ While Switzer and Rusk penned...

    • CHAPTER 18 Self-Advocacy and Blind Activists: The Origins of the Disability Rights Movement in Twentieth-Century India
      (pp. 364-380)

      Blind activists were among the pioneers in the disability rights movement in India. Blind graduates of residential schools proved particularly important in shaping the nature of the movement. From the earliest days of their growth, residential schools evolved into seedbeds of advocacy in the 1970s. To date, however, most scholarship in disability history has focused on the global North. This chapter offers a different location and historical experience. It analyzes the origins of the disability rights movement in India by situating it within its social and historical context and analyzing crucial issues that shaped its nature during the initial years...

  10. About the Contributors
    (pp. 381-384)
  11. Index
    (pp. 385-401)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 402-402)