Video Disability History Lecture 4 – Dr. Josephine Hoegaerts

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Disability History Lecture 4

Dr. Josephine Hoegaerts – KU Leuven – December 12th 2013 – To guard the public speaker from physical disability: Vocal practices and acoustic constructions of the able body in the long nineteenth century

Disability is often conceptualized in visual terms: its historical presence is imagined as a paradoxical situation of invisibility (in the historical record, and in most historical work), and of a simultaneous conspicuousness (according to Garland-Thomson, “the history of disabled people in the world is in part the history of being on display”). Especially in the nineteenth century, the story of disability is one of increasing scrutiny as disabled people became subject to not only casual stares, but also the medical gaze and the disciplining institutional gaze. To afford these gazed upon historical actors more agency, vocal metaphors abound: researchers have strived to “give a voice” to those forgotten by conventional history, or to simply “speak up”. While analyses of the hierarchic gaze and practices of gaining voice have debunked modern notions of the disabled body, they also seem to relegate disabled agency to the voice – and therefore run the risk of buying into what Jonathan Sterne has called the ‘audiovisual litany’ in which the powerful, rational world of the eye is juxtaposed with the more somatic, emotional sound of the powerless.

In this lecture, I will try to turn the metaphoric audiovisual litany on its head by focusing on those disabilities that were only audible. Vocal impairments (such as aphasia, dysphonia and stuttering) have an ambiguous relation to the body: they only manifest themselves during the act of speaking, and are therefore necessarily ‘performative’.Through speech impediments, a more fluid notion of disability presents itself, which calls attention to the necessity and inherent danger of the constant performance of vocal ‘ability’, and also problematizes the practice of ‘speaking up’ against the (medical) gaze.

Disability History Lecture 3

Prof. Dr. Michael Roper – University of Essex – November 5th 2013 – The long Great War: Psychological legacies across the century.

The participants have passed from the scene, but as the debates surrounding its centenary indicate, the First World War has lost little of its capacity to grip our emotions. In this address I ask why it is that the war refuses to settle in memory, and explore the ways in which its psychological legacies were carried through the century, within families and across generations, and within cultural forms that include history itself.  The established historical narrative of the war’s emotional aftermath in Britain starts with a presumed post-traumatic silence in the early to mid 1920s, followed by a burgeoning of personal narratives in the late 20s and 30s, a slipping from view amidst a second global conflict and its aftermath, and a resurgence from the 1960s sparked by peace movements, the rise of history from below, and most recently by trauma scholarship and the ‘victim culture’. This chronology is based on a conception of historical work and memory of the war as largely impelled by later social changes, and fails to account for the emotions transmitted from the past and the war itself.

I will describe two ongoing projects on the psychological legacy of the First World War in Britain, both of which focus on the child. The first is based on interviews with men and women whose fathers were returned soldiers, and investigates how parents’ experiences of war became – and remain – part of the children’s subjectivities. The second is concerned with the development of psychoanalysis between the wars, and seeks to identify how the aftermath of the war contributed to the post-war focus on mother-child relationships. These cases-studies illuminate different kinds of psychological legacy, the one occurring within family relationships, the other within interwar cultural and social movements concerned with subjectivity. Historians have not sufficiently appreciated the affective force of cultural and personal legacies such as these, which, a century after the conflict, continue to erupt within and animate debates about the war.


This lecture is officially sponsored and supported by:


logo 100 jaar WOI nederlands

Disability History Lecture 2

Dr. Ylva Söderfeldt – University of Aachen – April 25th 2013 – Understanding disability with Habermas and vice versa: The German Deaf movement and the public sphere.

Since the education of deaf people was institutionalized in the late 18th century, a new kind of deaf person emerged in increasing numbers: the educated deaf man, who independently supported himself as an artisan, craftsman, or professional. Like other propertied and cultivated urban men in the 19th century, they formed clubs and associations for socializing, manifesting their status, and advocating their interests. However, they encountered considerable obstacles even in their seemingly unconfrontational endeavours to form their communities and improve their social condition. As their entitlement to participate in the discussion and decision-making concerning deafness and the deaf was not accepted among the hearing experts and authorities, their attempts to be acknowledged as members of the public sphere failed. In this lecture, I will analyze the strategies developed by the deaf movement in response to their disqualification from the sphere of public reasoning. I will argue that the processes of power and exclusion I uncovered within the 19th and early 20th century deaf movement resemble the situation of most emancipation movements by disadvantaged people. Furthermore, I will ask why the deaf were unable to enter the public sphere, even though they fulfilled the criteria of ”property and education”. I will offer an explanation based on Habermas’ work on the bourgeois public sphere, while also suggesting that considering the role played by disability adds a new dimension to his model.