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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

Does literature ever give anything other than a negative image of disability?

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By Flora Amann “Does disability ever represent anything other than a negative image?” In 1998, Paul Longmore, a pioneer of the Society for Disability Studies (London, UK), had chosen this unsettling question to open a conference regarding the disabled bodies in European painting given by Henri-Jacques Stiker.   In his presentation, he showed how images of disability allowed modern European culture to portray corrupt humanity but also to acknowledge its lower instincts. The discussion which followed met with this pitfall: if the fiction of misery was paralleled with the representation of disabled bodies, could the fiction of disability represent something else than miserable people?   This debate led two members of the Society, David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder, to theorize the humanities’ input for Disability Studies. Through a quick investigation around the character of the “mute ” aristocrat and its links with speeches on deafness in post-revolutionary French sentimental nove

‘What is their Crime?’ Disability, Race and Eugenics in Britain’s Brexit Debate

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By Emmeline Burdett Disability and the Brexit Debate One of the features of the debate about Brexit (Britain’s departure from the European Union) has been that Remainers (who should probably now be called Rejoiners) portray people who voted in favour of Brexit as being complicit in the resurgence of aggressive nationalism of which Brexit, along with such things as the presidencies of Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Donald Trump in the United States, is widely seen as forming a part. Rejoiners rightly show this resurgent nationalism as being dangerous not only in itself, but also because it represents an alarming return to the attitudes which facilitated the rise of fascism in the early twentieth century.  The subject of this blog post will be the way in which many Rejoiners assume that being historically-aware requires one to be extremely sensitive to issues of race, but very little else. One of the results of this is that disablist insults (insults which either imply that one’s opponent’s

Parental Advocacy and the Changing Attitudes Towards Down syndrome in Post-war Britain

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By Sophie George This article is based on a wider dissertation on ‘The Changing Attitudes Towards Down syndrome in Post War Britain’ written in 2019. It discusses the role of parental advocacy as a force for evolutionary change towards the inclusion of people with Down syndrome in post war Britain. I will therefore be focusing on the movements towards integrated education and the process of de-institutionalisation, as well as commenting on the introduction of the pre-natal test and its effects on the parental community.  At the start of the post war era, most children with Down syndrome were transferred to institutions and many were deemed ‘uneducable’. With the help of the parental movement, institutions were improved, community living was becoming a reality and education for people with intellectual disabilities like Down syndrome was more accessible and integrated. Whilst the parental movement helped change attitudes towards Down syndrome, it was not revolutionary and represents a

“People with disabilities in the GDR” – perspectives on public history from an inclusive historical research project

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By Isabell Paulick and Sebastian Balling Disability Studies is a trans- and interdisciplinary branch of science, which emerged from the international disability movement of the 1960s and has been discussed in scientific contexts in Germany since 2001 (Köbsell, 2012; Waldschmidt, 2015). It is based on a social model of disability, according to which people are hampered by society, for example by barriers, attitudes, actions and laws. This can be understood as a criticism of the medical model according to which people are handicapped due to a "defect".  Disability Studies thus represent a human rights model of disability (Degener, 2015). The emancipatory slogan "Nothing about us without us" is at the center of Disability Studies and therefore emphasizes the active role instead of the passive role of people with disabilities in the research process. Started in April 2002 with the founding of the nationwide working group "Disability Studies in Germany" (AG

Depression – A life threatening disability in Nazi Germany

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By Jörg Watzinger In this article I give a biographical sketch of my grandmother’s life in the context of Nazi psychiatry. She died in the psychiatric clinic Göppingen in May 1945. My grandmother Marie Watzinger was born in 1880 in Munich where she grew up with two sisters. Her father was a professor of pathology. Marie had no professional training and did not visit university. Theatre and literature became a central part of her life as a young woman. Marie as a young woman in Munich. Private photo. In 1912 she married my grandfather Carl Watzinger, who worked as a professor for archeology at the university of Gießen. Together they had three children: Karl Otto, my father, born in 1913, Helmut, born in 1915 und Irmgard born in 1921. While my grandfather Carl was far from home as a soldier during WW1, Marie brought up the two boys single-handedly. In October 1918, following the call for a professorship of the Archeological Institute, the family moved to Tübingen. In family

Augustin Thierry and the Many Eyes of a Blind Historian

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By Giorgia Vocino Born in 1795, shortly after the end of the reign of Terror, Jacques Nicolas Augustin Thierry was an enfant prodige . Born in a modest family, delicate and often sick, he could not live off his family income nor start a military career, but he could count on his sharp intelligence to climb the social ladder. Graduate from the École Normale, in 1811 he started working as the secretary of Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, count of Saint-Simon. Vibrant supporter of the liberal party and close to the milieu of the Carbonari , Thierry began an independent career as a journalist, but was soon drawn to the study of history: in 1820 he published in the Courrier Français nine Lettres sur l’Histoire de France , while in 1825 the publication of the Histoire de la conquête de l’Angleterre par les Normands crowned him as a historian and won him a place among the most reputed scholars and authors of his time. It was in those years of hectic and passionate study that his health problems