About the DHA

The Disability History Association (DHA) is an international non-profit organization that promotes the study of disabilities throughout history. This includes, but is not limited to, the history of individuals or groups with disabilities, perspectives on disability, representations/ constructions of disability, policy and practice history, teaching, theory, and Disability and related social and civil rights movements.

We define both history and disability widely. This organization is both inclusive and international, reflected in our diverse topics and approaches. Membership is open to scholars, institutions and organizations, and others working in all geographic regions and all time periods.

The DHA offers its members a community of active and interesting historians; access to our resources page, which includes a newsletter, conference information, sample syllabi, a new Zotero library, and helpful links; as well as an opportunity to help build an exciting field.

Board of Directors

Nicole Belolan (Secretary) is the Public Historian at Rutgers University-Camden, where she serves as the Co-Editor of The Public Historian and the Digital Media Editor, both for the National Council on Public History (NCPH). She also directs the continuing education program in historic preservation at Rutgers’ Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH). She is a scholar of the history of disability and material culture (objects ranging from crutches and artificial limbs to adult cradles and easy chairs) in early America and is working on a book manuscript on that topic. She is the author of peer-reviewed and popular publications on disability history, including “The Material Culture of Gout in Early America,” in Elizabeth Guffey and Bess Williamson, eds., Making Disability Modern: Design Histories (New York: Bloomsbury, 2020), 19-42. Nicole earned her PhD from the History of American Civilization program and her MAs in American Material Culture and history, all at the University of Delaware. Nicole is also a collector of disability history artifacts from all time periods. She is advocates for making public history and academic settings more accessible and inclusive for disabled people. You can find her on Twitter.

Kathleen Brian (President) teaches in the Honors College and the Department of Global Humanities & Religions at Western Washington University (WWU). She also serves on the leadership team of a coalition of disabled faculty, staff and students working with non-disabled allies to launch Western’s Institute for Critical Disability Studies. Her research appears in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine and the Activist History Review, among other places, and she co-edited Phallacies: Historical Intersections of Disability and Masculinity (Oxford UP, 2017). She has held fellowships with the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, and with the New York State Archives. These institutions have supported work on her current manuscript. The Quarry: Suicide, Risk, and the Epistemology of Dread charts the emergence of “the suicide risk” by interrogating nineteenth-century medicolegal an bureaucratic formations alongside finance capitalism’s speculative fictions. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from George Washington University.

Jasper Conner (Director of Graduate Student Affairs) is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Harrison Ruffin Tyler Department of History at William & Mary where he works on the history of disabled African Americans in the modern U.S. South. Combining archival research with oral history, his work uncovers the lived experiences of Black disabled people at residential schools, at work, and in the community. Jasper’s work is informed by the birth of his second child, who is Deaf. He has presented research at the annual conferences for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Labor and Working-Class History Association, and most recently the Organization of American Historians where he organized the panel “Beyond White Disability Studies: Explorations of Southern Black Disability History.” His research has been supported by the Kentucky Historical Society, William and Mary Libraries, and the William P. Heidrich Research Fellowship. Jasper received his BA from Virginia Commonwealth University in African American Studies in 2015.

Laurel Daen (Treasurer) is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame, where she is affiliated with the Program in Gender Studies and the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values. Her research and teaching focus on disability, sickness, medicine, and health in America, primarily during the 18th and 19th centuries. She is currently completing her first book, which examines the exclusion of disabled people from legal and political rights in early America. Laurel has published articles in the Journal of Social HistoryJournal of the Early RepublicEarly American Literature, and History Compass. Prior to joining Notre Dame, she received her MA and PhD from William & Mary and held long-term NEH fellowships at the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy (Director of Publications) is an Associate Professor of Caribbean, Atlantic World, and Disability History at the University of New Brunswick. Her scholarship brings together critical disability studies, feminist theory, animal studies, and critical race studies to examine the constitutive relationship between disability, slavery, and anti-black racism in the Caribbean. In addition to several book chapters and articles, Hunt-Kennedy is the author of Between Fitness and Death: Disability and Slavery in the Caribbean (University of Illinois, 2020), which received the 2021 Disability History Association Outstanding Book Award. She is currently collaborating with Dr. Jenifer Barclay on an edited collection entitled, Cripping the Archive: Disability, Power, and History. She is also the primary investigator of The Anglo-Atlantic Slave Law Project, a website that will provide worldwide access to the British Atlantic slave laws from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Stefanie’s disability advocacy lies at the intersections of addiction, disability, and the criminal justice system. She lives in New Brunswick with her partner and three young children.

Caroline Lieffers (Board Member) is an Assistant Professor of History, specializing in nineteenth and twentieth-century social and cultural history, at King’s University, Edmonton. Her research examines the relationship between disability and U.S. imperialism, and she also writes about the histories of food, travel, and childhood. Caroline is currently working on two books based on her PhD dissertation. The first examines disability on the Panama Canal, and the second looks at physical, cultural, and spiritual disability in the history of the Omaha Nation. She is also interested in questions of historical practice and methodology, such as how to write history that is accessible and inclusive, and how to use history to make change in the world. Caroline is the co-host of the Disability History Association Podcast, and you can contact her at clieffers@gmail.com.

Jiya Pandya (Director of Communications and Outreach) is a PhD candidate at Princeton University in the Department of History and Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Their interests include the history of South Asia, theories of the body, crip, feminist, and queer theory, and transnational networks of race, caste, and disability. Their dissertation project, on which they are currently working, focuses on the traffic of the concept of “disability” and its connection to “social disability” in social welfare spaces in postcolonial India, with an eye to hierarchies of care, tiered forms of participation in the nation-state, the delineation of “social” versus “civic” sectors, and alternative notions of welfare and embodiment. They have recently compiled the #CripCOVID19 Syllabus, and also serve on the board of the Asian Americans with Disabilities Initiative.

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Wayne Tan (Director of Programs) Wayne Tan received a Ph.D. in Japanese history from Harvard University in 2015. He was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Dartmouth College (2015-2016) and is currently an Assistant Professor of History at Hope College. In his teaching and research, he is passionate about seeking new intersections in the humanities, such as the medical humanities, to broaden conversations about the world we live in today. He is particularly interested in using disability as a window onto the social and material aspects of everyday life in premodern and modern societies. He is revising his book manuscript, which explores the social and cultural history of blindness in Japan to provide comparative historical perspectives on disability. His research has been published in edited book volumes and in the Journal of Japanese Studies and Annals of Science.


Interns

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Kristen Nassif (Intern) is a Ph.D. Candidate in Art History at the University of Delaware. Her research focuses on nineteenth century American art, visual culture, and material culture. In particular, she is interested in the intersections between art and science, optics, the construction of vision, and the psychological and scientific forces at play in seeing. She is currently at work on her dissertation “Blindness: Unseeing Sight in American Art and Material Culture,” which explores how blindness permeated and fundamentally shaped experiences of making and viewing aesthetic objects at the end of the nineteenth century.  


Web Credits

Website Design and Information Architecture by: Celeste Sharpe and Jannelle Legg

Website Maintenance by Jasper Conner and Kristen Nassif