Telling Disability Stories: Legacies, Imaginations, Coalitions

What can we learn from studying history guided by the disability slogan "nothing about us without us"?

Lecture Description

Disability historians play a critical role in telling and retelling stories of the past. Centering on the lived experiences of disabled people in this presentation, Burch raises questions that reflect the complex, messy process of recalling the past and of repopulating it. Disability scholars must contend, for example, with the intimacy and vulnerability of forced commitments, sterilizations, and lobotomies—to name just a few medical interventions in global disability history. For many reasons, the stories told by superintendents and policymakers often shout louder than the versions disabled people might tell. This encourages many disability historians, then, to seek and tell disability histories even when the sources weigh heavily in the favor of other perspectives. The disability historian’s work in retrieving disability stories may stir questions of privacy and shame, but may also preserve the everyday acts of solidarity and creativity that continue to inform disability cultures. Our work ultimately may restructure knowledge itself, in form, content, and interpretation.

CATEGORIES

Disability Social Movements

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