Disability History Lecture 5

Prof. Dr. Rosemarie Garland Thomson – Emory University – March 10th 2014 – Why Disability? Or Who Should and Should Not Inhabit the World?

This lecture is co-organized by Grip vzw & the Department of Special Education UGent

And will take place at Provinciehuis Vlaams-Brabant, Provincieplein 1, B-3000 Leuven (Belgium) between 15 o’clock and 17 o’clock

A sign language interpreter will be present

This presentation addresses the question of why we might want disabled people in the world. Much has been written about the logic of eugenics, the pseudoscience that developed along with modernity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Enacted worldwide in policies and practices that range from segregation to extermination, the aim of eugenics was to rid society of disability and, by extension, disabled people. Eliminating disability and disabled people from the world as a utopian effort to improve the social order, a practical health program, or a social justice initiative is simply common sense to most people. This presentation puts forward a range of counterarguments asserting that disability might be conserved and that we might want disabled people to inhabit the world. To do so, it examines an eclectic variety of positions and perspectives–often instrumental or pragmatic–that defend disability against the eugenic understanding that individual citizens and social orders should be liberated from disability. In short then, this presentation collects up speculations that range from ardent to skeptical about what disability might be good for.