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From monsters to patients: a history of disability

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This dissertation addresses the tendency among some disability scholars to overlook the importance of congenital deformity and disability in the pre-modern West. It argues that congenital deformity and disability deviated

This dissertation addresses the tendency among some disability scholars to overlook the importance of congenital deformity and disability in the pre-modern West. It argues that congenital deformity and disability deviated so greatly from able-bodied norms that they have played a pivotal role in the history of Western Civilization. In particular, it explores the evolution of two seemingly separate, but ultimately related, ideas from classical antiquity through the First World War: (1) the idea that there was some type of significance, whether supernatural or natural, to the existence of congenital deformity and (2) the idea that the existence of disabled people has resulted in a disability problem for western societies because many disabilities can hinder labor productivity to such an extent that large numbers of the disabled cannot survive without taking precious resources from their more productive, able-bodied counterparts. It also looks at how certain categories of disabled people, including, monsters, hunchbacks, cripples, the blind, the deaf and dumb, and dwarfs, which signified aesthetic and functional deviations from able-bodied norms, often reinforced able-bodied prejudices against the disabled.

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Date Created
  • 2013

Troubling disability: experiences of disability in, through, and around music

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The purpose of this study was to trouble existing conceptions of disability that ground music education literature and practice. I sought plausible insights into how disability is experienced in, through,

The purpose of this study was to trouble existing conceptions of disability that ground music education literature and practice. I sought plausible insights into how disability is experienced in, through, and/or around music by participants who are disabled persons/persons with disabilities (DP/PwD). Insights gained might allow readers to complexify and trouble taken-for-granted assumptions about disability. Questions included: (a) How do participants experience disability in, through, and around music? (b) What plausible insights related to disability can be gained by attending to participants’ experiences of disability in, through, and around music? (c) What plausible insights related to inclusion can be gained by attending to participants’ experiences of disability in, through, and around music? The inquiry approach was grounded in Buberian relational ontology, phenomenology, interactional theories of disability, and narrative.

Seven DP/PwD participated in this study: (a) Erica, a 14-year-old diagnosed with a developmental disability of unknown etiology; (b) Duke, a drummer diagnosed with Williams syndrome; (c) Birdie, an abstract visual artist with epilepsy who used music to inform her art; (d) Daren, a b-boy/breakdancer diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, (e) Sienna, a legally blind social work college student who played banjo in a music therapy-based bluegrass band and participated in musical theatre; (f) Ice Queen, an undergraduate flute player recently diagnosed with Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and (g) Culann, an adult counselor and music listener with ADHD and mood disorders. Data generation included conversational interviews, observations, artmaking, and serendipitous data.

Data co-generated with participants were crafted into narratives of their lifeworlds, including description of their experiences with disability in, through, and around music and in other aspects of their lives. An envisioned conversation among all participants demonstrates the shifts and complexities in the meanings of disability and unpacks different ways participants describe and understand disability and the myriad roles that music plays in their lifeworlds. The final chapter of the study offers discussions and suggestions regarding thinking about and approaching disability (i.e., interactional theories, intersectionality, and identity), inclusion (i.e., belonging, suggestions by participants, and anti-ableist pedagogy), and research/writing.

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Date Created
  • 2019