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Inside the History of Learning Disability

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 By Owen Barden Inside the History of Learning Disability was a 2018-2020 participatory project on the history of learning disability. The project focused on two points in time, the mid-19th  Century and the present day. It thus spanned the history of institutionalisation. Although participatory methods are becoming more common in inclusive research, and in learning disability research particularly, it is – as far as we can tell – unique in using this approach with digital archive material. “We” are two teams of researchers who worked on the project. One team was based at The Brain Charity and Liverpool Hope University, in Liverpool. The other team came from the Teaching and Research Advisory Committee (TRAC) at the University of South Wales. The teams were made up of people with learning disabilities, their families and advocates, and academics. One academic worked with the Liverpool team and one with the TRAC team. We used material from a digital archive called the UK Medical Herit

Hadamar from the inside

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by Christoph Schneider   When U.S. troops advanced to Hadamar, a little village in the Northern part of the Federal State of Hessen right at the border to North-Rhine-Westphalia, in late March 1945, they encountered a Nazi "euthanasia" killing facility. Unlike a concentration camp, which ceased to exist at the moment of liberation, the institution remained in function. Initially, very few people were arrested: the head physician and also the head nurse. The head of administration had escaped. This means that in the first months after liberation - at least until June, in some cases until November 1945 -, patients were often confronted with the same personnel as before. However, patients could now escape with impunity, and the U.S. military administration increased food rations for the often extremely debilitated inmates. Nevertheless, the word "liberation" promises a caesura that did not exist in Hadamar.   There were survivors of Hadamar, but in fact these people we

Inspiration Porn and Depictions of Impairment in Early America

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 By Meg Roberts Picture: An example of an almanac of a similar style and period as Daniel George’s. Entitled ‘The New-Jersey Almanack for the Year of our Lord 1779’, printed by Isaac Collins in New Jersey. Image sourced from Rutgers University Library and in the public domain. In 1775, seventeen-year-old Daniel George, a ‘student in astronomy’ from Massachusetts, composed an almanac. In an eclectic fourteen pages of printed text and tables, he recorded the rising and setting of the sun and the moon, the location of the planets, the tides, the weather, Quaker Meetings, ‘Remarkable Days’, ‘Liberty Days’, and poetry. He also included ‘for the use of the gentlemen officers and soldiers in the American army’ a narrative of the Battle of Concord, recently fought at the outset of the Revolutionary War. George had studied mathematics and astronomy extensively, and the almanac was the result of painstaking calculations throughout the year. In August 1775, George and his father visited the Rever

At Face Value: Review of Andrew Kötting’s The Whalebone Box

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By Saul Leslie In the North Pacific, a deaf whale sings. For thirty years this animal has swum through empty seas, has spoken out, but never yet received an answer. Taxonomically uncategorised, marine biologists in Cape Cod call this particular creature ‘the 52 Hertz Whale’. Through a hydrophone, its song registers at the ‘basso profundo frequency, just above the lowest note on a tuba’ . By comparison, th e song of blue whales is identifiable at 10-39Hz, and fin whales at 20Hz. Experts speculating about why this whale sings at 52Hz have posited that its hearing is impaired, making it unable to sing at the frequency of other ‘normal’ whales, and incapable of hearing their replies. As with humans, so with whales: both mammals have limits to what they can hear. As with humans, so with whales: both mammals experience impairment and disability. These kinds of equivalences between people and whales might have seemed strained if not for Andrew Kötting’s 2020 film The Whalebone Box . The film

Images of disabled people in children's literature

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By Udo Sierck For the German version of this essay see below . Literature for children and adolescents evokes thoughts, captures moods, animates actions, reflects socio-historical conditions and states of the present.Therefore, it is astonishing that in the standard works of literary studies on this subject the keyword 'disabled' is usually missing. When it does appear, it appears only in individual studies and is limited to individual periods and rather instructive aspects (e.g. Ammann/ Backofen/ Klattenhoff 1987; Elbrechtz 1979; Nickel 1999; Richlick 2002; Zimmermann 1982). At the same time, there is a tendency in these publications to sort by forms of limitations, following the medical model of disability. In the stories, narratives and picture books for children and young people, standards are set, values are transported and norms are planted in the memory. In this context, there is the tradition of depicting disabled people and conveying their alleged characteristics. What

Asylum “Ghost Tours” are Grotesque Tours

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By Tracy Mack and Geoffrey Reaume  Abandoned or renovated psychiatric asylums have inspired countless urban legends and ghost stories, overshadowing the lives of the people who lived, worked, and died there, with most of their histories remaining untold. Building on this folklore, ‘ghost tours’ of former psychiatric hospitals have become a popular attraction in which the historical lives of asylum inmates are portrayed as still being present, this time as “ghosts” haunting the grounds. These guided tours of asylum premises are presented as educational and entertainment but are actually exploitative and stigmatizing. Being a patient in a psychiatric facility is not an enjoyable experience. Not in the past. Not today. It is not fun to be feared, laughed at and held up as examples of voyeuristic glares by people because of one's psychiatric history. Yet, this is what happens with “ghost” tours. It encourages precisely this sort of prejudice. Even after previous protests, it is still h

Problematic Icons: Greta Thunberg and Helen Keller

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By Emmeline Burdett   Spitting Image The British satirical puppet show Spitting Image was originally broadcast on the TV station ITV between 1984 and 1996, but it has recently been revived. As the show satirises politicians and other public figures, it is inevitable that the puppets featured in the revival are different from the ones in the original programme One of the puppets in the revival is of teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. This has led to claims that Spitting Image is not satirising Thunberg as an individual public figure, but instead encouraging the public to regard all autistic people as figures of fun. This is far from the first time that Thunberg’s autism has been portrayed as something which makes her very vulnerable, and means that criticism of her is unfair. Some of her detractors have gone further and suggested that it also means that her perception of reality is flawed , and thus that what she says about climate change is unreliable.   The inabili