Back from Disability History Conference

I got back very early this morning (2am) from the Disability history conference and extended vacation with various family members.  Penny Richards has a post on her panel here.  My panel, and the conference as a whole, went extremely well.  It was reassuring to hear others mention the need to look at disability outside of institutions.  Sarah Rose, a recent Ph.D. from U of Illinois, Chicago, observed that in working-class neighborhoods, having a work-related disability was “normal” — individuals injured on the job continued to be part of their communities, although their employment opportunities and income were markedly diminished.

There were also a number of papers related to childhood/adolescence — and I recommended that folks at the conference submit proposals for the Society for History of Childhood and Youth conference at Berkeley next July.

One of the most interesting discussions regarded the limits of the medical model/social model dichotomy (briefly, the medical model situates defines disability as pathology, and places the burden on the disabled person to “recover” or “overcome”; the social model, on the other hand, looks at how social forces work to exclude disabled persons from full participation in society. )  Paul Longmore argued that access to appropriate medical treatment has always been part of the disability rights movement, and he does not see any incompatibility between seeking medical treatment and advocating for civil rights.  He is more concerned with public policies and social service professions that pathologize disabled persons and treat them as something to be “fixed” or “cured” or at least “corrected” into adopting a “positive” outlook on life.

Some other issues raised by Rosemary Garland Thompson in the final plenary session:

1.  The conceptual framework of disability

2. The intersectionality of disability with other identities, such as race, gender, class, age.

3. materiality — i.e. the interaction between the physical body and the material world.

4. how to maintain the political aspect of our work while avoiding presentism.

These are brief notes — maybe Penny can help me out here?

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1 Comment

  1. I didn’t stay for the last panel on Sunday, but your notes sound about right. The conference was fine, as conferences go–but I’m not a big fan of the “sit and listen and sit and listen some more” format, as you know–I can “sit and listen” at home! And for an independent scholar, the conversations about academic life and the networking aren’t so useful either. But it was fun to be in San Francisco, wonderful to see some great scholars and their presentations, and especially nice to meet my Scottish colleague–we’ve been working together for seven years, it’s about time, eh?

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