The Disability History Association’s Statement on Anti-Racism

The murders of George Floyd, Ahmad Aubrey, and Breonna Taylor have sparked a firestorm of collective grief, anger, and protests against structural racism and the resulting systematic oppression and widespread violence. The Disability History Association (DHA) stands in solidarity with anti-racism activists and their fight for racial justice. We affirm that Black Lives Matter.

Our response to this moment demands a complex approach that is committed to both anti-ableist racial justice and anti-racist disability justice.

The rallying cry of the anti-racism movement, I can’t breathe—also the last words of too many Black people dying at the hands of police—emphasizes the ways Black disabled people’s health and well-being are disproportionately affected by white supremacy and social and environmental injustice. Chronic illnesses such as asthma, hypertension, and diabetes disproportionately affect Black communities. Systemic racism has created healthcare disparities through discriminatory diagnosis, institutional barriers, and lack of access. Structural segregation has also ensured that Black people are more likely to live in food deserts, areas without clean water or air, and high-poverty areas without access to green spaces. Moreover, Black adults often work in low-paying frontline jobs that expose them to greater occupational hazards and, thus, chronic illnesses or disabilities. Black disabled people also encounter law enforcement officials—including for welfare checks or during a mental health crisis—at disproportionately higher rates.

According to the National Disability Institute, fourteen percent of working-age Black people have a disability compared to Non-Hispanic Whites (11 percent) and Latinxs (8 percent). Furthermore, because both disability and race are determinants of socioeconomic inequality, Black disabled people remain one of the most vulnerable groups. Having a disability is costly, and ableism itself can severely limit disabled people’s economic opportunities. In the United States, to obtain disability benefits and health coverage, an individual has to prove they are incapable of work; at the same time, welfare programs require applicants to be employed, forcing disabled people to make difficult financial choices. These material realities can further exacerbate chronic conditions and delay/restrict necessary treatment and support. We have seen, time and again, the tragic results of these intersections.

The DHA recognizes the entanglement of racism and ableism, and that a multiplicity of historical processes created these conditions. We are aware of the ways that Black communities and Black disabled people have been targeted by the violent, racist, and ableist systems of white supremacy, in both the past and in the present. The legacies of U.S. racial chattel slavery remained entrenched in local policies, state laws, and federal legal decisions. They remained entrenched, as well, in the U.S. Constitution. Merged with eugenics, which gained remarkable popularity between the American Civil War and World War II, these oppressive forces have systematically targeted Black disabled people for institutionalization, immobilization, and violent interventions. Cases like those of Junius Wilson, a deaf man incarcerated in the Jim Crow South for a crime he did not commit, were not uncommon. After the Second World War, eugenics persisted in old and new forms. Eugenic philosophies and practices permeated debates about genetic counseling, public education, and the provision of healthcare, perpetuating the constitutive claim that white, able-bodied people were superior to Black and Black disabled people.

The impacts of these racist and ableist projects persist into our current moment. As a lethal and disabling pandemic grips the world, disability and Black communities across the United States have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The deadly combination of systemic racial injustices, spatial and economic discrimination, lack of equitable access to healthcare, and institutionalized ableism have proven especially dangerous for Black and disabled people. Not only are Black people more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, they are much more likely to die from COVID-19 than any other group. In New York, for instance, the COVID-19 death rate for Black populations was as high as 92.3 per 100,000 population, which is substantially higher than death rates for Hispanic/Latinx (74.3/100,000), white (45.2) or Asian (34.5) populations. Meanwhile, disabled people—Black and otherwise—have faced shortages of life-sustaining medications, been targeted for abandonment through resource scarcity protocols, and had do-no-resuscitate orders (DNRs) issued without their consent. There is also growing evidence that people who survive coronavirus may also have long-term disabilities, which are also likely to have disproportionate impacts on the Black community.

Despite these historically consequential connections between racism and ableism, Black disabled people’s stories have been erased from the annals of history. As activist Vilissa Thompson has asserted, without Black disability history, the political and societal developments that many of us take for granted might not have occurred. We need to spotlight histories of prominent Black disabled figures — such as Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Mary Church Terrell — and also acknowledge the roles many Black disabled people have occupied in the pursuit of justice. Members of the Black Panther Party not only aided disabled activists during the 504 sit-in protests, but also created networks of healthcare centers and food programs to address the disabling effects of medical and educational racism. Black and Latinx activists contributed significantly to twentieth-century efforts toward deinstitutionalization. And Black, disabled activists have been at the frontlines of American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT).

The DHA promotes the study of disabilities throughout history. We are committed to advancing Black membership and leadership within the DHA, and to cultivating partnerships with Black institutions and organizations. Our mission is to foster various perspectives, representations, and policies on disability, including the ways that disability and race are intertwined. We commit ourselves to anti-racism and the dismantling of white supremacy by:

  1. Critically reflecting on the DHA’s practices in order to identify the ways in which it participates or is complicit in the racist and ableist structures of higher education. This includes an examination of how we can dismantle implicit bias and systemic oppression in practices and uphold the DHA’s mission and anti-racist, anti-ableist stance. 
  2. Supporting, promoting, and amplifying historical work by Black and Black disabled people. We also strive to promote the documentation and dissemination of information about the history of Black disabled experiences, the intersection of racism and ableism, and Black disabled activism and resistance. We will continue to use our social media to elevate Black creators’ hashtag campaigns, including #BlackDisabilityHistory and #BlackDisabledLivesMatter.
  3. Supporting, promoting, and amplifying research into the historical intersections of race and disability, as well as the intersections between past and present experiences of being Black and disabled. We will continue to use our blog, All of Us, to encourage conversations about the connections between past and present Black disabled histories.
  4. Seeking diverse leadership, membership, and partnership in our organization. We commit to actively striving to recruit BIPOC historians of disability to join the DHA and to positions of leadership within the DHA. We also commit to inviting BIPOC historians to be interviewed for our podcast series, submit articles to our blog, and apply for our awards.

Readings on Disability & Race

Christopher M. Bell (ed.), Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2011.

Liat Ben-Moshe and Sandy Magaña, “An Introduction to Race, Gender, and Disability: Intersectionality, Disability Studies, and Families of Color,” Women, Gender, and Families of Color 2.2. (Fall 2014): 105-114.

Susan Burch and Hannah Joyner, Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

Chris Chapman, Allison C. Carey, and Liat Ben-Moshe, eds., Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada. New York: Palgrave, 2014.

Arida Imada, “A Decolonial Disability Studies?Disability Studies Quarterly 37.3 (August 2017).

Angel L. Miles, Akemi Nishida, Anjali J. Frober-Pratt, “An Open Letter to White Disability Studie and Ableist Institutions of Higher Education,” Disability Studies Quarterly 37.3 (August 2017).  

Therí A. Pickens, “Blue Blackness, Black Blueness: Making Sense of Blackness and Disability,” African American Review 50.2 (Summer 2017): 93-103.

Ellen Samuels, Fantasies of Identification: Disability, Gender, Race. New York: New York University Press, 2014.

Jorge Matos Valldejuli, “The Racialized History of Disability Activism from the “Willowbrooks of this World,” Activist History Review , Oct. 2019

Resources on Disability & Race

Museum of Disability History virtual exhibit on disability & the African American experience: https://www.museumofdisability.org/disability-and-the-african-american-experience/

“An Open Letter to the Disability Community on Why Black Lives Matter and Allyship”  letter to disability groups about Black Lives Matter

 ​”Ramp Your Voice!” “ an organization dedicated to issues of race and disability

Rooted in Rights, “Race and Disability”

Institutionalized Racism: A Syllabus

Crowdsourced Disability Studies Readings on the Intersections of Disability & Race

National Disability Institute, Financial Inequality: Disability, Race, and Poverty in America (2019).

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, “COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups” (2020).

Where to donate: https://www.nylon.com/life/black-people-with-disabilities-donations-resources

Podcast Episode 34 – The Life and Work of Lucy Gwin

Jim Odato discusses his new book on disability activist and Mouth editor Lucy Gwin.

Episode Image: This Brain Had a Mouth: Lucy Gwin and the Voice of Disability Nation, by James M. Odato. The cover shows a black-and-white portrait of Lucy Gwin sitting by a computer. She is a white woman with short dark hair, wearing a dark shirt.

Download mp3 file here.
Download pdf transcript here.

About Our Guest

James Odato is a graduate of University of Massachusetts Amherst and has a master’s degree in English from University at Albany. He is currently the editor of the Adirondack Explorer. Prior to this role, he was an investigative reporter at the Albany Times Union for eighteen years, and he previously worked with the Buffalo News, Schenectady Gazette, the Gannett Co., and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. He has also taught journalism as an adjunct professor at the University at Albany, The College of Saint Rose and the Sage Colleges. He can be reached at jim@adirondackexplorer.org.

Podcast Episode 33 – A Eugenic Institution in Progressive America

Chelsea Chamberlain discusses her research on the history of Pennsylvania’s Elwyn School.

Episode Image: Black and white engraving of Elwyn School. The image shows a large four-storey building with several wings, sitting on manicured grounds. Several people walk on paths in front of the building. The engraving is labelled “Pennsylvania Training School for Feeble-Minded Children.”
Source: Free Library of Pennsylvania (https://libwww.freelibrary.org/digital/item/44367)

Download mp3 file here.
Download pdf transcript here.

About Our Guest

Chelsea D. Chamberlain is a PhD Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. She has a MA from the University of Montana and is on the advisory board of the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance.

Podcast Episode 32 – Remembering Native Kinship in and beyond Institutions

Susan Burch discusses her new book on the individuals, families, and communities who were affected by Canton Asylum.

Episode Image: Committed: Remembering Native Kinship in and beyond Institutions, by Susan Burch. The cover shows an image of a quilt with colourful circles on a white field. Each circle features different patterned fabrics radiating out from a round blue center.

Download mp3 file here.
Download pdf transcript here.

About Our Guest

Susan Burch is a professor of American studies and a former director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Middlebury College. Her research and teaching interests focus on histories of deaf, disability, Mad, race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, and gender and sexuality. Material culture, oral history, and inclusive design play an important role in her courses. Burch is the author of Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History, 1900 to 1942 (2002) and a coauthor, with Hannah Joyner, of Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson (2007). She has coedited anthologies including Women and Deafness: Double Visions (2006), Deaf and Disability Studies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2010), and Disability Histories (2014), and also served as editor-in-chief of The Encyclopedia of American Disability History (2009). Burch has received numerous grants and awards for her work, including an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, National Archives regional residency fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities and Mellon Foundation grants, and a Fulbright Scholars award. Her latest book, which has recently received the National Women’s Studies Association Alison Piepmeier Book Prize, Committed: Native Families, Institutionalization, and Remembering (University of North Carolina Press, 2021) centers on peoples’ lived experiences inside and outside the Canton Asylum, a federal psychiatric institution created specifically to detain American Indians.

Thompson on Burch, ‘Committed: Remembering Native Kinship in and beyond Institutions’

Author: Susan Burch Reviewer: Lauren Thompson

Susan Burch. Committed: Remembering Native Kinship in and beyond Institutions. Critical Indigeneities Series. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2021. 222 pp. $95.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4696-6161-2

Reviewed by Lauren Thompson (Georgia State University) Published on H-Disability (November, 2021) Commissioned by Iain C. Hutchison (University of Glasgow)

Printable Version: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=56525

Committed: Remembering Native Kinship in and beyond Institutions is a model of how to write histories that are as inclusive and broadly accessible as they are necessary. Centering this study on the period 1902-34, Susan Burch sensitively conveys the story of the Native adults and children confined to the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, established in South Dakota under the auspices of the US government. The volume notes on a cover page that “this book embodies a commitment to access, to conveying content with as few barriers as possible. Access is a practice, not a checklist.” Burch “intentionally use(s) accessible language,” has chosen a font that maximizes legibility, and includes alt-text to convey transcriptions of the included photographs.

The book weaves together Native history, histories of medicine and institutionalization, and analyses of settler-colonialist frameworks to tell the story of the people and their families who experienced forced removal and involuntary confinement at Canton. Burch is careful to note that this is not a “neutral or balanced account of history” (p. 21). Instead, “this is an active effort to honor those who appear in this book as well as the many others whose stories converge, if less obviously, in its pages” (p. 20). Through informal phone and written correspondence, more formal oral histories, family visits, and material culture analysis, Burch meticulously constructs a story of kinship, cross-generational experience, and first-person accounts of life inside and after the asylum. It is both gripping and heartbreaking to read, and her central point is that the “slow violence” of institutionalization left lasting effects on families long past the hospital’s 1933 closure (p. 84).

Divided into six chapters, Committed opens with the forced removal of Elizabeth Faribault, a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Band of Dakota Nation. One morning in May 1915, officials arrived at her home to force her to go to Canton, citing evidence that she was alcoholic and insane. When Elizabeth’s husband, Jesse, arrived home, he discovered his wife missing and their two youngest children left home alone. What follows is both a story of generational trauma and the family’s efforts at healing and reclaiming sovereignty.

Burch traces Faribault’s life in the asylum, including the birth of her daughter, Cora Winona, in 1926, eleven years after Faribault was first incarcerated. In 1928, Faribault died, leaving Cora in the care of the asylum staff for two more years until she was removed to an orphanage in Arizona at the age of four. Educated at the orphanage and Indian boarding schools, Cora eventually became pregnant as a teen and gave birth to a son in 1945. At first, they lived in Phoenix’s Florence Crittendon home, part of a national organization of Crittendon homes in the United States that provided maternity care, vocational training, and moral education to “fallen women” and their children. White Crittendon staff encouraged her to relinquish her parental rights and her son was ultimately adopted by a white family. He had no more contact with Cora or other Faribault family members. Burch’s account reveals a family story of loss, separation, and forced confinement that spans three generations, all triggered by the events of a single day when officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs made their fateful decision about Faribault. Unfortunately, there were many days and many families where this kind of decision making was repeated with long and violent consequences.

Underlying the intimate family stories that make up this book are Indian and white conflicts. Government institutions like the Bureau of Indian Affairs sought to categorize, contain, assimilate, and ultimately erase whole tribes. The processes of removal undermined kinship ties, broke up families, and made instability a core feature in these families’ daily lives. Ironically, life within the Canton asylum, however, was known for its monotony and endless cycle of compulsory labor and chores that the staff required patients to complete. Of one individual confined, Burch writes, “Mundane, hourless time pulled on her, as it did every confined person at the Indian Asylum” (p. 71). Many of the patients, including Faribault, were subject to harassment and physical and sexual violence. They fought back—escaping, only to be captured and returned within days to even more restrictive measures. The author illustrates the bleak landscape of asylum architecture, writing, “By design, detention penetrated every level of the institution. Padlocked wards, secured windows, walls, and fences held people within its grounds. On a routine basis, straightjackets, shackles, and iron beds, as well as ward attendants, subdued numerous individuals” (p. 68). Patients were rarely returned to their families, many of them dying while institutionalized and then buried in unmarked graves on the grounds.

For the family members and descendants of the patients at Canton, their ancestors are both “absent and present, surfacing partly and poignantly” in memories, photographs, and family heirlooms. The next generation has since “worked to close the gaps that institutionalization had laid open” (p. 90). The families explain to Burch that telling their ancestors’ stories repeatedly is healing—a form of finally reclaiming what was not just lost but removed on purpose.

Through these individual stories, Committed reveals broad, interwoven histories of the power of the state over indigenous populations and the making of disability and the unfit in pursuit of settler values. By explaining in an accessible way the impact of these transformations over time, Burch helps us better understand the long reach of institutionalization within the lived experiences of multiple generations of indigenous families. This is a powerful book precisely because it is less of an academic history than it is an explanation of how people attempted to grapple with systems of power and coercion at a particular time and place. This is not to say that Burch does not rely on meticulous primary and secondary sources to make the case; indeed, her carefully researched footnotes add welcome detail and nuance to the main text.

For readers looking for deeper, more elaborated histories of eugenics, disability, incarceration, or Native American history, there are many more traditional scholarly sources to find further information. But in Committed, Burch adds only what is necessary for context so that the reader can more deeply understand the people and their experiences at the heart of these histories. In returning Elizabeth, Cora Winona, and the other individuals she discusses to the center of the book, Burch presents not only the forces that shaped them but also the ways these individuals responded, survived, and attempted to reclaim their lives.

Citation: Lauren Thompson. Review of Burch, Susan, Committed: Remembering Native Kinship in and beyond Institutions. H-Disability, H-Net Reviews. November, 2021. URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=56525

Oates on Joshua, ‘Physical Disability in British Romantic Literature’

Author: Essaka Joshua Reviewer: Rosamund Oates

Essaka Joshua. Physical Disability in British Romantic Literature. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism Series. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. x + 302 pp. $99.99 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-108-79917-1

Reviewed by Rosamund Oates (Metropolitan Manchester University) Published on H-Disability (November, 2021) Commissioned by Iain C. Hutchison (University of Glasgow)

Printable Version: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=56476

Essaka Joshua’s new book is a work of two parts. Part of the Cambridge Studies in Romanticism series, Joshua’s monograph is firmly located in the literary criticism tradition. Throughout, she draws on disability theory to provide new interpretations of important eighteenth-century texts, ranging from the political and social manifestos of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) and William Godwin (1756-1836) to novels by Frances Burney (1752-1840) and Mary Shelley (1797-1851). Along the way, she teases out some of the complexities of contemporary ideas of “deformity” and the “picturesque,” locating her analysis in the broader context of Romantic thought. Throughout, Joshua balances her reexamination of these texts with detailed critiques of earlier literary criticism, particularly those whose reading of physical impairment and disability may be seen as anachronistic or ableist.

The second theme running throughout the book is one that has wider implications, and whose significance should be felt beyond the field of Romantic literary studies. Joshua convincingly argues that many early modern histories of disability are inherently flawed, using anachronistic concepts and terms to analyze what Joshua describes as a “pre-disability era.” Instead, Joshua tries to explore bodily impairment using the terms that had meaning in the eighteenth century, namely, “deformity,” “weakness,” and “monstrosity,” as well as related concepts like “capacity” and theories of the picturesque. A clear and robustly argued introduction sets the reader up for her nuanced discussions of these various terms throughout the book, with the different threads brought together in a confident conclusion.

One of the challenges facing Joshua in this book is the balance between the two elements. As she herself writes in the introduction, her work is “a revisionist approach to Romantic studies, [and] it is just as much a rethinking of disability studies’ approach to history” (p. 5). While chapters 1 to 6, which offer detailed case studies of a range of texts, might be of more interest to literary critics, the introduction, conclusion, and an excellent appendix speak more generally to the disability historian. In the appendix, Joshua explores dictionary definitions of “disability” and “deformity,” noting that “no critical work has been done on eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century dictionary definitions of ‘disability’ and other relevant terms” (p. 185). What follows is a thoroughly fascinating discussion of the different meanings and uses of the word “disability,” as well as a critical analysis of the Oxford English Dictionary’s claims about usage. I hope that Joshua will be inspired to take this research further. Not only does her work in this section challenge how we analyze and identify “disability,” but she also shows that assumptions about binaries are often wrong. The appendix demonstrates that words we consider to be opposites (for example, able and disable, normalcy and disability) often come into being hundreds of years apart. This section also includes an illuminating discussion about wounded soldiers, care for veterans, and the use of the word “disabled” (particularly relevant for an earlier discussion about William Wordsworth’s “Discharged Soldier” [1798]). I only wish that this fascinating and important section was longer, and I suggest reading it before chapters 1-6; many of the ideas Joshua addresses in the main text are made explicit here.

At the heart of Joshua’s thesis is her argument that the term “disability” is not helpful in exploring attitudes toward, and experiences of, bodily impairment or difference in the Romantic period (and presumably earlier too). Drawing on terminology used in Romantic studies, she refers to the eighteenth century (and implicitly earlier) as a “pre-disability era.” She defines this as a time before the word “disability” was used to refer to the causes of inability rather than the “inability” itself. Joshua also points out that histories of disability are actually accounts of “specific bodily or mental configurations that are now clustered under the general category of disability” (p. 1). As a result, Joshua demands that we untangle our modern meanings of “disability” as a descriptor and as a term of analysis. Instead, she proposes that we are led by contemporary terms and, moreover, that we are sensitive to how the implications of those terms—like “capacity” and “deformity”—change depending on social context. As Joshua neatly puts it, “a disability studies approach that does not use the term ‘disability’ allows us to recover pre-disability concepts” (p. 3).

So, what are some of these words and concepts? Well, Joshua provides a nuanced reading of a range of texts, examining the terms used to describe bodily difference, “abnormality” and “deformity.” She takes a range of different works as case studies to analyze different ideas and words. She draws on the writings of the British radical William Godwin to explore the concept of “capacity.” Using his most famous work of political philosophy, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793), as a starting point, Joshua examines how Godwin used “capacity” as a measure of social value. Putting Godwin in his broader intellectual context, it becomes clear that for Godwin, “capacity” is closely related to physical and mental ability. Social value—which is determined by the ability to contribute to the “general good”—appears, therefore, to be a function of “able-bodiedness and able-mindedness.” Those with physical and cognitive “incapacities” are apparently excluded. Joshua stresses that this ableism is not a result of a belief in a “norm” but rather the product of Godwin’s vision of the “general good”: a more nebulous, but no less powerful, concept.

Joshua then turns to Godwin’s wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, to explore how Wollstonecraft understood capacity as existing in three senses: social, intellectual, and physical. In Wollstonecraft’s writings—most notably her Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)—women deserved equality because of their potential capacities. Again, corporeal and cognitive ability underpins Wollstonecraft’s vision of an equitable future. Academics have already drawn on disability studies to analyze Wollstonecraft’s work. Douglas C. Baynton, for example, has demonstrated that nineteenth-century suffragettes used ideas of disability to argue for emancipation (arguing that since women were not disabled, they deserved the vote, and further, that women were “disabled” by society).[1] Joshua addresses this analysis and complicates it by exploring Wollstonecraft’s vision of weakness and its apparent opposite, vigor. As Joshua argues for Wollstonecraft, “weakness [w]as a category of exclusion before disability emerged as a concept” (p. 95).

The next interesting case study is Frances Burney’s novel Camilla (1796). While Burney’s novels are well known for exploring female identities, Joshua focuses on Burney’s depiction of the physical “deformity” of one of the characters, Eugenia, in Camilla. Eugenia was dropped by her uncle in childhood and acquired a spinal injury, leading to a limp and restricted growth. She also caught smallpox, and her face bore the scars of her illness. As a result, Eugenia was routinely dismissed, pitied, and mocked for her “deformities.” Burney was acutely aware of the difference between a bodily condition and the social construction of disability; in the novel it is only when Eugenia grows up that she becomes aware of the social significance of her “deformity.” Joshua argues that this illustrates an early sense of the “social model” of disability and sets it in the context of functional and aesthetic meanings of disability. Her analysis here is part of a larger discussion of the meaning of “deformity,” drawing on theories of the picturesque to think about ideas of “deformity,” ugliness, and their opposites.

The influence of deformity as a term of analysis continues into the last chapter when Joshua explores Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein (1818). Joshua points out that, whereas deformity is largely a matter of aesthetics, “monstrosity” is a “physiological and mythological” category. However, both are used in contemporary and critical discussions about Frankenstein and in the elision of moral virtues and physical features. While Joshua addresses this, she focuses on “transformative vision,” drawing on Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s work on “staring at the other” to argue that critics have ignored the importance of sight in Frankenstein (p. 155).[2] Joshua asks whether “blindness” removes prejudice, addresses the creature’s search for a sympathetic viewer, and highlights “Shelley’s interest in how looking constructs monstrosity/deformity” (p. 178).

Joshua uses writing about disability and disability theory to bring a new perspective to her analysis of these texts. As a result, this is an important contribution to literary criticism of the Romantic era. There is a larger historical significance too in her careful reading of the nuance of language and the evolution of terminology we use in our discussions of disability history.

Notes

[1]. Douglas C. Baynton, “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History,” in The New Disability History: American Perspectives, ed. Paul K. Longmore and Laura Umansky (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 33-57.

[2]. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Staring: How We Look (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Citation: Rosamund Oates. Review of Joshua, Essaka, Physical Disability in British Romantic Literature. H-Disability, H-Net Reviews. November, 2021. URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=56476