Video Disability History Lecture XI – Prof. Patrick Devlieger

The lecture given by Prof. Patrick Devlieger entitled “De erfenis van lepra” (The legacy of leprosy) is now available by clicking on this link. Please do note that the lecture was given in Dutch and that it simultaneously was translated into Flemish sign language. In order to make the video as accessible as possible it consists of Patrick’s voice and a close-up of the translator Flemish sign language. Please do not hesitate to send us any comments/suggestions in order to improve the accessibility of these videos. These will be greatly appreciated!

Upcoming Disability History Lecture XIII – Dr. Marion Schmidt

Eradicating pathology, preserving diversity. Genetic deafness research in 20th century America.

Dr. Marion Schmidt

Thursday 27th April 2017 4-6 pm//Venue to be announced soon

Is deafness a disability to be prevented by genetic technology or merely a non pathological variation that has given rise to a sociocultural minority? Is it ethical to prevent the birth of a child with deafness, and are deaf parents acting immoral if consciously choosing a deaf child? Over the last 100 years, American geneticists have shifted from a clearly medical-pathological defnition to acknowledging Deaf culture and the Deaf community, conscious of the potential ‘genocidal’ impact of reproductive technology. I will ask why, and show an arc from the late 19th century triumph of oralism– the practice of teaching lip-reading and speech at the exclusion of sign language –, with its strong ties to medical and eugenic prevention to the emergence of alternative, sociocultural defnitions of deafness among geneticists and other professionals concerned with hereditary deafness. In particular, I point to the importance of the psychosciences in forming genetic counseling and beliefs about identity and disability. Negotiations over deafness as disability or difference are an integral part of 20th century debates over citizenship, national identity, and overcoming otherness. I talk about how Deaf perspectives were pushed out of science and medicine, of how they slowly entered it again, and what happened when scientists began to pay attention to their d/Deaf clients and patients.


Bio note: Currently Marion Schmidt is an affliated research partner at the University College Freiburg division for Science and Technology Studies. Her research concerns the overlap between the history of biomedicine, disability and the psycho-sciences, with a particular focus on US and German history. She was a 2014/15 recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship for Work on Religious and Ethical Values, and has also received teaching fellowships for classes on disability, gender and science. She is dedicated to anchoring disability history more strongly in European academia and am an editorial board member of the journal Considering Disability.

Disability History Lecture XII – Dr. Gaby Admon-Rick

Disability, Injured workers and State: The Emergence of Disability Percentages and the Israeli National Insurance (1948-1957) 

Dr. Gaby Admon-Rick

The lecture will take place on Thursday October 27th 2016 from 16h30 until 18h in the Pedagogical Institute room 00.10, A. Vesaliusstraat 2 (Leuven, Belgium).

The disability percentages system is used in many countries for determining eligibility to pensions and services. This system is often viewed as a necessary bureaucratic process, allowing distribution of benefits, and is rarely critically analyzed. Nevertheless application of such a system for calculating disability was, and remains, more than an administrative process. Defining physiological injuries in percentages entails structuring disability as a calculable medical phenomenon while other facets of disability such as social barriers and accessibility are set aside as irrelevant. Furthermore, the ability and scientific expertise required to encode disability became part of the function of the government agency, which was also to register, evaluate and provide rehabilitation services to work-injured disabled.

The proposed talk follows the emergence of the disability percentages system for work injuries from the end of the British Mandate period in Palestine in 1948, into the newly established administration of the State of Israel. It will address the process in which national insurance for work injuries was established, while at the same time constructing a new understanding of disability.


Disability History Lecture XI – Prof. Dr. Patrick Devlieger

De Erfenis van Lepra: Damiaan, erfgoed, kennis en samenleven in de toekomst//The Legacy of Leprosy: Damien, heritage, knowledge, and ways of living together in the future

Prof. Dr. Patrick Devlieger

The lecture will take place on Saturday October 15th 2016 from 10h until 12h30 in the Damian centre, Sint-Antoniusberg 5 (Leuven, Belgium). The lecture will be given in DUTCH. A sign language interpreter can be requested by sending an e-mail to The lecture is co-organized by the Damian Fund (KU Leuven).

In this first Damien Lecture the starting points are the political, religious, and social exclusion circumstances in the 19th century as well as a short historical overview on the context of leprosy and social exclusion. Comparisons will be made between the situation in Molokai (Hawaii), Robben Island, leprosy villages in Yunnan Province in China, and leprosy settlements in the context of Japanese occupation, such as the leprosy village on Sorok Island in South Korea. We will then focus closer on the situation of Molokai, the influence of Damien, and the material conditions of life in a leprosy colony. The following questions are addressed: (1) How should we deal with this legacy?; (2) What is the knowledge that was produced and what is necessary for the future?; and (3) How does one live with the threatening, unknown, and negative that leprosy stood and stands to be a model of? The answer to such questions is in an open and combative position to deal with the foreign in ourselves, the necessity for interdisciplinary research in which new forms of engagement are being sought, technological progress, and alternative ways of living together in the context of transmodern cultures, with attention to experimenting, design, learning, and engagement.