The Disability History Association is excited to announce its Outstanding Book/Article Award. Submissions are welcome from scholars in all fields who engage in work relating to the history of disability. Initially, the award alternated between books and peer-reviewed articles. Starting in 2018, the DHA award committee will be evaluating both the Best Book and the Best Article/Book Chapter each year.
Although the award is open to all authors covering all geographic areas and time periods, the publication must be in English, and must have a publication date within the year preceding the submission date (i.e., 2018 for the 2019 award cycle). Book submissions may be single- or multiple-authored and may be a single monograph or an edited collection, provided the latter contains new and original scholarship. Articles may also be single- or multiple-authored and must be published in a peer-reviewed academic journals. The amount of the book award is $400. The amount of the article/book chapter award is $200 for the winner and $100 for the honorable mention.
Authors should arrange for copies of the book or article to be mailed directly to the award committee by no later than May 1 of each year. Submissions may be sent electronically in a format compatible with screen reading software, such as a .doc file or a text-based .pdf. Submissions may also be sent in hard copy. Detailed instructions for the next round of the book award and the article/book chapter award will be announced in January 2019. The Disability History Association board will announce the recipient of the DHA Outstanding Book/Article Award in September.
2018 Outstanding Article or Book Chapter Award
Laurel Daen, “Martha Ann Honeywell: Art, Performance, and Disability in the Early Republic,” Journal of the Early Republic 37, no.2 (2017): 225-250.
Praise from the committee: The article, “fits into the often-debated genre of ‘freakery’ by offering a well-researched case study of Martha Ann Honeywell. Daen positions Honeywell as exploiting her identities of being both disabled and enabled, and ultimately being able to exercise her own agency in ‘exhibitionism’, capitalising on curiosity surrounding her physical appearance, but also her craftsmanship in various forms of artistic expression. [Daen] argues that Honeywell was not exploited, but capitalised on various attributes to exercise agency and be independent, while knowing how to manage the expectations of her target audiences through conforming to their prejudices surrounding gender, social class, gentility and American-ness.”
It “draws on a wide array of sources” to uncover the “interplay of disability, gender, and vocation in the life of an artist,” and “demonstrates how Honeywell’s career invoked and was grounded in broader ideas about disability itself.”
Russell Johnson, “‘Better Gestures’: A Disability History Perspective on the Transition from (Silent) Movies to Talkies in the United States,” Journal of Social History 51, no. 1 (Fall 2017): 1–26.
Praise from the committee: Johnson’s work offers a “fascinating portrayal of the complicated relationship between the arrival of talkies and the ascendency of oralism in the 1920s. It uses a wide range of sources to trace how spoken language came to dominate both movies and deaf schooling in this era, thereby enforcing normalcy in language, education, and the cinema.”
“‘Better Gestures’” brings “innovative attention to linkages and influences in late 1920s USA to the culmination of the ascendency in oralism by its advocates, and the effects of ‘talkie’ cinematography on marginalizing signing movie viewers from an entertainment where they had found near-equality with hearing people.”
2018 Outstanding Book Award
Sarah F. Rose, No Right to Be Idle: The Invention of Disability, 1840s-1930s (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2017).
Praise from the award committee: It “is a much-needed examination of how ideas about bodily difference and productivity became linked during the nineteenth century, and an exploration of the contradictions inherent in the suggestion that disability meant an inability to perform labor – most importantly… in the ways that figures of authority called for the institutionalization of apparently unproductive disabled people, but at the same time reinvigorated economically-strapped institutions by giving them unlimited access to the unpaid labor of these ‘unproductive’ inmates. In this way, such unpaid labor stopped being work and became, instead, therapy.”
No Right to Be Idle “ably tackles one of the big themes of disability — its connection to the labor force — and gives us a fundamental recalibration in how people with disabilities were labeled and pushed out of the labor force rather than having ex ante impairments that made them ‘unfit’ laborers. It shows the malleability of the disability label within historical context.”
Molly Ladd-Taylor, Fixing the Poor: Eugenic Sterilization and Child Welfare in the Twentieth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017).
Committee members offered the following praise for Fixing the Poor: “This book clearly and powerfully argues for a reconceptualization of the history of American eugenics, one … focused on the practical needs and desires of impoverished, institutionalized people themselves.” It “ties eugenics to broader welfare state policies.” “Carefully researched and powerfully argued!”
2017 Outstanding Article or Book Chapter Award
Laura Micheletti Puaca, “The Largest Occupational Group of All the Disabled: Homemakers with Disabilities and Vocational Rehabilitation in Postwar America,” in Disabling Domesticity, ed. Michael Rembis (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 73-102.
Praise from the committee: “[Puaca] analyzes the importance of gender and broader conceptualizations of work. If much of the definition of disability is tied to gainful employment, this piece really broadens both the definition of disability and that of work itself.”
“Puaca’s article is well-researched and well-written. She brilliantly weaves together economic, gender, disability, and policy histories providing new and important insights into the dominant postwar and social movements narratives.”
Rabia Belt, “Ballots for Bullets?: Disabled Veterans and the Right to Vote,” Stanford Law Review 69 (February 2017): 435-490.
Comments from the committee: ““Ballots for Bullets?” skillfully examines why and how Civil War veterans housed in charitable institutions were systematically disenfranchised. Through a careful reading of a wealth of court cases, state hearings, and newspaper articles, Belt focuses on veterans who experienced mental trauma to challenge the dominant narrative of disabled veterans holding a privileged place among people with disabilities. The result is a major contribution to both Disability Studies and U.S. History.”
Sarah Handley-Cousins, “‘Wrestling at the Gates of Death’: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Nonvisible Disability in the Post-Civil War North,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 6 (June 2016): 220-242.
Comments from the committee: “A haunting and rigorous examination of the oft-ignored dynamics of non-visible disability in Civil War America. Through the case study of a single Union solider Handley-Cousins traces the contentious process, which sought to demarcate disability from ability via the rubrics of gender, racial identity and the state. Evincing deep archival research with theoretical acumen and a lively and engaging writing style this paper effectively and eloquently blurs the borders of disability.”
2016 Outstanding Book Award
Sara Scalenghe, Disability in the Ottoman Arab World, 1500-1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Comments from the selection committee: “Wonderful intervention on disability history: unique for its non-Western and pre-modern focus (as well as its points about “academic imperialism” in disability history)… Terrific examples and analysis of contingencies and ‘loopholes’ in Ottoman legal practices and categories.”
“[Disability in the Ottoman Arab World is an] excellent contribution to disability history that helps open up a new and much needed non-Western (and preindustrial) perspective in the field. Beautifully written in clear and accessible prose, Scalenghe’s book is also a very enjoyable read.”
“… accessible and informative. [Disability in the Ottoman Arab World] continues the important work of globalizing disability studies; it opens up new possibilities for comparative approaches; and it challenges the category of disability itself.”
Paul K. Longmore, Telethons: Spectacle, Disability, and the Business of Charity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).
Comments from the committee: “[Telethons is a] superb study and a model of how to write disability history. Longmore’s book will surely be consulted by disability scholars and historians for years to come. Engagingly written and full of profound insights into a wide range of issues, it compellingly demonstrates the significance of disability to modern American culture.”
“… in-depth look at a common cultural phenomenon in America, impressive research and consideration of different factors (gender/social class, etc.), well-written and cited… [Longmore makes an] important intervention into the links between politics, the media, and private interests in constructing and presenting disability in modern U.S. discourse.”
2015 Outstanding Article or Book Chapter Award
Dea H. Boster, “‘I Made Up My Mind to Act Both Deaf and Dumb’: Displays of Disability and Slave Resistance in the Antebellum American South,” in Disability and Passing: Blurring the Lines of Identity, ed. Jeffrey A. Brune and Daniel J. Wilson (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013), 71-98.
Praise from the committee: “In her article Boster sets off for an intriguing historical journey along the intersection of disability and race in antebellum American history. She does so in a manner that is perfectly in line with up to date disability studies perspectives, namely examining history in order to demonstrate that disability (the concept as well as the embodied experiences) cannot be summarized by adjectives like passive, dependent and repugnant. On the basis of impressive historical source analysis Boster convincingly shows how slaves made use of the category and reality of disability in order to resist their actual living conditions. By feigning to be disabled they sought to change their lives for the best – hoping to become free citizens or to be released from work for some time. By demonstrating that disability, in Boster’s words, became “a contested space for masters and slaves to negotiate authority over enslaved bodies” she opens up a promising field of historical research and demonstrates the value of the cultural model for disability historians. Moreover, and equally important, she has included Sieber’s concept of masquerade into her analyses which resulted in a perfect blend of historical craftsmanship and theoretical capacity. This is an engaging paper, connecting the histories of slavery and disability and asserting the deployment of disability as a means of agency and empowerment. Boster focusses on the intersection between race and disabilities and shows how the construction of disabilities becomes apparent. By taking up different perspectives the paper shows vividly how disabilities were used for strategic life planning in the past. Furthermore, by turning to aspects of resistance, the narrative shows how disabilities framed identities over the time.”
Daniel Blackie, “Disability, Dependency and the Family in the Early United States,” in Disability Histories, ed. Susan Burch and Michael Rembis (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 17-34.
Stacy Clifford, “The Capacity Contract: Locke, Disability, and the Political Exclusion of ‘Idiots’,” Politics, Groups, and Identities 2 (2014): 90-103.
2014 Outstanding Book Award
Sebastian Barsch, Anne Klein, and Pieter Verstraete, eds., The Imperfect Historian: Disability Histories in Europe (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2013).
The selection committee’s comments: “Drawing primarily, but not exclusively, on the provocative and far-reaching insights of the French philosopher Michel Foucault, The Imperfect Historian makes important methodological contributions to the field of disability history. Its temporal and geographic breadth and its deliberate engagement with theory and the methodologies of disability history are refreshing and provide a powerful framework for future historical investigation. Although the stated focus of this edited collection of historical essays is on Europe, various chapters explore disability history in Argentina, Brazil, and Spain and British Mandate Palestine and Israel, challenging the way we think about national boundaries. The seemingly disparate collection of essays that span Medieval and Early Modern European societies and late-twentieth century HIV/AIDS discourse are held together nicely by the volume’s strong focus on postmodern theorizations of identity, bio-politics, narrative, and governmentality. In clearly written, accessible prose, the contributors to this innovative volume challenge existing historiography and frameworks for understanding disability history.”
2013 Outstanding Article or Book Chapter Award
Audra Jennings, “‘An Emblem of Distinction’: The Politics of Disability Entitlement, 1940-1950,” in Veterans’ Policies, Veterans’ Politics: New Perspectives on Veterans in the Modern United States, ed. Stephen R. Ortiz (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012), 94-116.
Praise from the committee: “In many ways, Jennings’ essay is both exemplary and exceptional disability history. Beautifully written and powerfully argued, Jennings’ work situates the voices and experiences of disabled people at the center of her analysis. She explains why rehabilitation and employment programs for people with physical disabilities grew exponentially in the United States after World War II, but were made available largely only to disabled veterans. Civilian disability activists and liberal policy makers had hoped to use the post-war interest in disability to “create a broader social safety net for all Americans.” This, however, was not to be. Veterans and their allies claimed that they deserved rehabilitation and employment assistance because of their sacrifice and service for the nation. While a powerful political and organizing strategy, this argument excluded large numbers of disabled Americans from disability policy. Much can be learned from this analysis of unfortunate but consequential divisions — ideological as well as organizational — in the early U.S. disability rights movement.”
Jay Dolmage, “Disabled Upon Arrival: The Rhetorical Construction of Race and Disability at Ellis Island,” Cultural Critique 77 (Winter 2011): 24-69.
Douglas C. Baynton, “‘These Pushful Days’: Time and Disability in the Age of Eugenics,” Health and History 13, no. 2 (2011): 43-64.
David Serlin, “Carney Landis and the Psychosexual Landscape of Touch in Mid-20th-Century America,” History of Psychology 15, no. 3 (August 2012): 209-216.
2012 Outstanding Book Award
David M. Turner, Disability in Eighteenth-Century England: Imagining Physical Impairment (New York: Routledge, 2012).
The selection committee very much appreciated the book’s wide scope, deep engagement with disability history and theory, and the ways Turner used archival sources both to make an overarching argument and reveal individual stories from both elites and the lower classes. Disability in Eighteenth-Century England weaved the ideas of popular culture and individual representation together in nuanced and often humorous, but always respectful, ways. Turner’s witty and very readable prose combined with his thorough analysis of archival material make Disability in Eighteenth-Century England as a must-read for students and specialists.