What is Public Disability History?

Public Disability History is a blog journal and a forum for exchange between the diverse actors involved and invested in issues regarding disability. It’s a website to gather and provide resources for the history of disabilities. Furthermore, it offers a “fast track” publication mode for theoretical/methodological reflections with a lower threshold than full scholarly publications.

Who are we?

Editors-in-chief and editorial board are historians from all over the world.

Who are our readers?

Public Disability History is for all people interested in the history of disabilities. This includes academic historians, activists, persons with disabilities, history teachers, public historians, curators, heritage counsellors, fellow disability historians, etc.

Who can contribute?

All people who have something to say, report or illustrate on the history of disabilities. Use our contact form to write us or use this email: editors@public-disabilityhistory.org

What is innovative on Public Disability History?

We think that Disability History is an undertaking which is ideally democratic, open and emancipatory. This blog is a way of implementing that approach in a mode of communicating and disseminating. Furthermore, it combines different existing research traditions – public history, disability history, heritage and performance studies etc. – in a way that a discussion-friendly and accessible to everyone, thus providing the opportunity for those interested in overcoming dichotomous thinking and speaking.

Our mission: Disability Histories for the Present//Presenting Disability Histories

Since its first steps in the 1990’s, the field of disability history has been growing and is now established as a specialized, specific and accepted historical sub-discipline. By means of conferences, special issues published by international recognized journals, courses on academic curricula, a number of book series hosted by academic publishing houses as well as research centres, memory sites and museums, contemporary disability history emphasizes the value of ‘disability’ for scholarly research in general and historical research in particular.

One of the core characteristics of the disability histories told so far is their strong connection to environments outside of academia. Whereas other scholarly fields sometimes struggle to reach out to public debates, politics, and activism, disability history originated outside of the academic world and has steadily worked its way inside the field of scientific research and discussion. Histories produced by disability historians aim to trigger public debate. They want to enlarge our understanding of contemporary and past disability discrimination and to contribute to ongoing theoretical as well as practical struggles towards emancipation, participation and advocacy. In short, disability histories have always tried to come up with scholarly work that is also meaningful for a broader audience: The public!

This Public Disability History blog wants to stimulate and support activist as well as academic reflection on the public character of disability histories. It’s main aim thus consists in promoting and systematizing reflection with regard to the divergent ways curators of exhibitions, directors of documentaries, theatre plays and dance performances, authors of graphic novels and edited volumes, university professors etc. have (un)successfully integrated disability histories in order to reach out to a certain public and bring about societal change.

Our understanding of Public Disability History is centred around the notion ‘public’. By means of ‘public’ we understand four different though interrelated meanings.
First making disability and disability history public refers to a process that transforms disability into a debatable thing, the subject of public debates. Second, making disability and disability history public also entails a process of translation that challenges disability historians to invent new ways to make the results of their work known to a broader audience. Third, the blog’s understanding of public also has to do with the possibility of setting up and intensifying cooperation between people with and without disability. Fourth, this blog sees it as its duty to reflect on the different ways we can and should make not only the results, but above all the practices of doing disability history research accessible to everybody.

Sebastian Barsch/Anne Klein/Ylva Söderfeldt/Pieter Verstraete

Public Disability History
ISSN 2510-3873

Prof. Dr. Sebastian Barsch
Kiel University
Institute of History
Leibnizstr. 8
24118 Kiel, Germany