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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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  • 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

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Shifts in attitude towards disability observed through seven German films

Description

Disability is a label accompanied by a multitude of misconceptions and stereotypes. During various periods in Germany, attitudes towards disability have ranged from disgust and fear, to acceptance and inclusion.

Disability is a label accompanied by a multitude of misconceptions and stereotypes. During various periods in Germany, attitudes towards disability have ranged from disgust and fear, to acceptance and inclusion. Being disabled in Germany once meant certain isolation; at the hands of the Nazi regime, it was met with almost certain premature death. Since those darker days of Germany's history, the country has become one that now affords its disabled citizens with the same rights as the non-disabled population and seeks to create a barrier-free environment. This study examines these perceptions of disability in Germany from the 1920s through the first decade of the 21st century. In order to accomplish this goal, cinema is used to provide insights into contemporaneous ideas about disability. By drawing upon analyses of six films that span the course of nearly 80 years, careful examination of disability portrayals reveal philosophical shifts in how the German people interpret disability. When analyzing these films, aspects of physical and mental disability are brought to the surface and discussed in terms of their sociopolitical and philosophical implications. To provide a social and cultural framework that gives significance to the changes in these cinematic roles, a historical survey of the German disability rights movement is folded into the discussion. The films explored in this study serve as culturally important visual aids that illustrate positive changes for the disabled living in Germany. Although not directly influencing cinematic portrayals of disability, the German disability rights movement that arose in the postwar period shaped ideas about disability and allowed disabled Germans to be accepted and included in society. With these rights now available disabled Germans are able to lead a self-determined life and portray themselves as equals.

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  • 2010