Publication Awards

The Disability History Association is pleased to announce its 9th annual Outstanding Publication Award. Submissions are welcome from scholars in all fields who engage in work relating to the history of disability. Initially, from 2012 to 2017, the award alternated between books and peer-reviewed articles or book chapters. The DHA award committees now award both the Outstanding Book and the Outstanding Article/Book Chapter prizes each year.

Although the awards are open to all authors covering all geographic areas and time periods, publications must be in English, must have significant historical content, and must have a publication date within the year preceding the submission date (i.e., 2019 for the 2020 award cycle).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 books or in peer-reviewed academic journals. The amount of the book award is $300 for the winner and $100 for the honorable mention. 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 delivered directly to the award committee by no later than May 15 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. Please follow the updated instructions for the 2020 book award and the 2020 article/book chapter award. The Disability History Association usually announces the recipient of the DHA Outstanding Book and Article/Book Chapter Awards in September.


Award Winners

2020 Outstanding Article or Book Chapter Award

Coreen Anne McGuire of Durham University was declared the winner for “The Categorisation of Hearing Loss in Inter-War Telephony,” History and Technology 35, no.2 (September 2019): 138-155.

The judges comments included:

‘A splendid piece, with great use of disability studies scholarship combined with the history of technology.’

‘… explores a largely neglected theme that places an interesting comparison of assumed state responsibility and deaf advocacy.’

‘… well-written, historically grounded, and provides a significant contribution to our understanding of how standards of normality and disability have been historically created outside of the medical sphere.’

Honorable Mention

Sam de Schutter of the University of Leiden was awarded the Honorable Mention with “A Global Approach to Local Problems? How to Write a Longer, Deeper, and Wider History of the International Year of Disabled Persons in Kenya”, Diplomatica 1 (2019), 2: 221-242.

The judges’ comments on Sam’s entry included:

‘This is a much-needed piece of work on disability in the global South, and it is clearly and cogently presented, making contributions to the history of disability and diplomacy alike.’

And, ‘Revealing on the disconnect between international goals and on the ground realities.  Argues that what happened in Kenya had a lot to do with public health practices from the colonial era rather than adherence to international goals.’

2019 Outstanding Article or Book Chapter Award

Maria Cristina Galmarini-Kabala, “Psychiatry, Violence, and the Soviet Project of Transformation: A Micro-History of the Perm Psycho-Neurological School-Sanatorium,” Slavic Review 77, no. 2 (Summer 2018): 307-332.

Praise from the committee: “The article is an example of micro-history at its best.”

“This microhistory of a child psychiatric institution makes a compelling argument that expands our knowledge of asylums and social control in the 20th century.”

“An insightful article within a specific period of time, within a specific institution, and under a range of specific regime approaches.”

“The conclusion that “violence existed—in the asylum and in Soviet society—in a continuum of cure and harm” is nuanced, sensitive to current disability scholarship, and extremely useful for scholars. Excellent article!”

Honorable Mention

Natalie Spagnuolo, “Mobilising Historical Knowledge: Locating the Disability Archive,” in Katie Ellis, Rosemarie Garland-Thompson, Mike Kent, and Rachel Robertson (eds.), Interdisciplinary Approaches to Disability: Looking Towards the Future (New York: Routledge, 2018), 153-163.

Praise from the committee: “… brings together disparate ideas to create a compelling, intelligent and thought-provoking whole.”

“… well written with a sophisticated analysis that will, I hope, start useful conversations in the field about the choices we make in our historical scholarship and the consequences of these choices for present-day disability activism.”

“… provides a nice historiography of broad themes and dilemmas in the field of disability history. Moreover, Spagnuolo raises important questions for the future of the field.”

2019 Outstanding Book Award (Co-Winners)

Book cover of The Oxford Handbook of Disability HistoryMichael Rembis, Catherine Kudlick, and Kim E. Nielsen, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Disability History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018).

Praise from the committee: “The capacious geographic, conceptual, and methodological reach of The Oxford Handbook of Disability History demonstrates just how far the field of disability history has come in the past two decades. The book also shows the manifold ways in which incorporating disability history promises to help scholars think anew about topics ranging from the histories of gay rights, work, and material culture to the nature of archives and historical documentation.”

Book cover of Anne Parsons's From Asylum to PrisonAnne E. Parsons, From Asylum to Prison: Deinstitutionalization and the Rise of Mass Incarceration after 1945 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2018).

Praise from the committee: “Lucidly written, Parsons’ powerful account places disability at the center of the burgeoning histories of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex. From Asylum to Prison is especially compelling and insightful in the way it brings together race, prisons, the disability rights movement, and the related yet distinct deinstitutionalizations of people diagnosed with psychiatric disabilities and those labeled as having intellectual or developmental disabilities. Always attentive to historical complexities and the unintended consequences of policymaking, Parsons shows how we cannot fully understand the rise of mass incarceration without incorporating disability.”

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.”

“Superb Scholarship!”

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.”

Honorable Mention

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.”

“…theoretically sophisticated.”

“‘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

Book cover of Sarah Rose's No Right to Be IdleSarah 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.”

Honorable Mention

Cover of Molly Ladd-Taylor's Fixing the PoorMolly 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.”

Honorable Mention

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.”

Honorable Mention

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.”

Honorable Mention

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 Statesed. 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.”

Honorable Mention

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.