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 and Board Member) 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 and Board Member) 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.
Laurel Daen (Treasurer and Board Member) 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 History, Journal of the Early Republic, Early 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.
Wayne Tan (Board Member) 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.
Jaipreet Virdi (Board Member) is an Assistant Professor of history of medicine, technology, and disability at the University of Delaware. She received a B.A. from York University, a M.A. and PhD from the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. She is currently completing her first book, Hearing Happiness: Fakes, Frauds, and Fads in Deafness Cures, to be published by the University of Chicago Press. She is also working on three other projects: Objects of Disability, an online resource database of historical artifacts used by, and/or crafted by disabled people; a second book project, From Prevention to Conservation: American Research on Hearing Impairment, 1910-1960, which focuses on collaborative programs that constructed hearing loss as a public health issue; and a co-authored project with Dr. Coreen McGuire on scientific research on deafness, nutrition deficiencies, and breathlessness, titled instrumental Injustices: Women Scientists and the Politics of Disability in Interwar Britain. She is also Contributing Editor of the journal Pharmacy in History and Co-Editor of Communiqué, the newsletter of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science.
Jasper Conner (Grad Student Representative and Board Member) 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.
Caroline Lieffers (Board Member) is an Assistant Professor of 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. Caroline is the co-host of the Disability History Association Podcast, and you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.