Susan Burch is a professor of American studies and a former director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Middlebury College. Her research and teaching interests focus on deafness, disability, race, and gender and sexuality in late nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. history. She is the author of Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History, 1900 to 1942 (2002) and a coauthor, with Hannah Joyner, of Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson (2007). She has coedited anthologies including Women and Deafness: Double Visions (2006), Deaf and Disability Studies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2010), and Disability Histories (2014). She also served as editor-in-chief of The Encyclopedia of American Disability History (2009). She has received an American Council of Learned Societies' Fellowship, a National Archives regional residency fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities and Mellon Foundation grants, and a Fulbright Scholars award. Her most recent work, Committed: Remembering Native Kinship in and beyond Institutions (2021) centers on peoples' experiences inside and outside the Canton Asylum, a federal psychiatric institution created specifically to detain American Indians.
Centering on lived histories of people institutionalized at the Canton Asylum, this lecture examines Native self-determination, kinship, institutionalization, and remembering. Between 1902 and 1934, this federal psychiatric hospital in South Dakota confined nearly 400 men, women, and children from more than fifty Native nations. Institutionalization not only impacts those removed, but ripples through families, communities, and nations, and across generations. Burch's talk expands the boundaries of Native American, disability, and general U.S. social and cultural history by bringing these multiple analyses into conversation with each other.