HIS*394*11 Description

SpTp: History of Disabilities

This reading-intensive seminar introduces students to the history of disability-both as a concept and as a collection of lived experiences-in the United States. We will explore disability as it pertained to a variety of events in nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. history, including slavery and emancipation, immigration, the Progressive Era, World Wars I and II, and the Great Depression. We will examine several phenomena that have particularly defined or shaped disability in the United States, including the birth of the asylum, the rise and fall of eugenic science, and modern campaigns for veterans' health care. Recurring themes will include the distinction between disability and bodily, cognitive, and psychological impairment as well as the relationship between disability and race, class, and gender. We will analyze medical and social models of disability and we will also grapple with ableism, a perspective that normalizes or otherwise privileges the able body at the expense of the impaired. In so doing, we will contemplate the ways in which ability and disability have mutually constituted one another throughout U.S. history.