Disability Studies and Mad Studies

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Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to conduct@chstm.org.

Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • November 9, 2021

    In The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy, Hannah Zeavin argues that, far from being a recent concern driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, teletherapy is as old as psychoanalysis itself. Starting with Freud's treatments by mail, psychotherapy has operated through multiple communication technologies and media. These have included advice columns, radio broadcasts, crisis hotlines, video, personal computers, and mobile phones; the therapists (broadly defined) can be professional or untrained, strangers or chatbots. In The Distance Cure, Zeavin proposes a reconfiguration of the traditional therapeutic dyad of therapist and patient as a triad: therapist, patient, and communication technology.
    In "The Far Voice," Zeavin discusses the rise of the suicide crisis hotline (originated by Protestant clergy) in England and the United States in the 1950s and 1960s and investigates how this service first became thinkable, and then widely adopted and used. She redescribes the hotline as psycho-religious in origin and intent, rather than as the secular service it has usually been assumed to be. She argues that these services, in their use of the peer-to-peer modality, radically upset former regimes of pastoral care and counseling, as well as those of psychodynamic therapy. Hotlines generate a new, hyper-transient frame for the helping encounter, removing nearly all the traditional aspects of the therapeutic setting except for speech and listening. At the same time, some hotlines devalue the need for expertise and rescind the fee associated with that expertise to protect callers; they use anonymous interactions to shield users from the careral imperative. They challenge every clinical concept associated with the structure and dynamic of the analytic encounter. It is contingent, it is not in person, and requires (or permits) a distanced intimacy with no guarantee of repeating; and it makes use of the phone—an appliance paradoxically thought of as capable of bringing people together and as responsible for their greater alienation.
    Hannah Zeavin is a Lecturer in the Departments of English and History at the University of California, Berkeley. Additionally, she is a visiting fellow at the Columbia University Center for the Study of Social Difference. Zeavin’s first book, The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy is now out from MIT Press, with a Foreword by John Durham Peters. She is at work on her second book, Mother’s Little Helpers: Technology in the American Family (MIT Press, 2023).

  • October 12, 2021

    Title: Jim Crow in the Asylum: Psychiatry and Disability in the American South
    In the United States plantation system, psychiatric and medical discourses were central to the creation of beliefs about the alleged inferiority of the enslaved person in both body and mind. Physicians invented mental illnesses to pathologize normal reactions or resistance to the brutality of slavery. These ideas did not disappear at the end of the Civil War but continued to permeate the emerging profession of psychiatry into the twentieth century, creating an epidemic of trauma through the mistreatment of disability and mental illness. In this project I draw on extensive archival sources to show the ways that Southern psychiatric hospitals in the mid twentieth century had become home to many thousands of Black patients with mental and physical disabilities, where treatment and care was custodial at best, violent and abusive at worst. From the process of admission, to misdiagnosis and lack of care, psychiatric hospitals in the Jim Crow South were no place of asylum for Black patients. They functioned as symbolic and actual spaces of institutional terror, approached by Black communities with caution. Yet they were also the scene of important Civil Rights activism in the 1960s which revealed the ways that psychiatry functioned as a tool of white supremacy. This activism led to the end of segregation, but could not fix the racism that underpins the provision of mental health and disability care today.
    Kylie Smith is Associate Professor and the 2021-2022 President’s Humanities Fellow at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University. Kylie teaches the history of race and US health care in both the School of Nursing and the Department of History at Emory. Her previous book “Talking Therapy: Knowledge and Power in American Psychiatric Nursing” was published by Rutgers University Press in 2020 and was awarded Book of the Year from both the American Journal of Nursing and the American Association for the History of Nursing. Her new book project called “Jim Crow in the Asylum: Psychiatry and Civil Rights in the American South” is supported by a grant from the National Library of Medicine. 

  • September 14, 2021

    Jenifer L. Barclay, “Family Matters: The Social Relations of Disability in Enslaved Families and Communities.” 
    The meeting will be a discussion of a chapter entitled “Reimagined Communities: Disability and the Making of Slave Families, Communities, and Culture” from Barclay's first book, The Mark of Slavery: Disability, Race, and Gender in Antebellum America (University of Illinois Press, 2021). The chapter examines the overlooked and unacknowledged roles of enslaved people with disabilities in contributing to the social cohesion of their vulnerable families and communities. Historians of slavery have noted that factors like age and gender shaped the daily lives of enslaved people, but ignored the social relations of disability in these spaces. Because they were devalued by slaveholders, enslaved people with disabilities were less likely to be sold and more likely to contribute important family and community-based labor. Yet ableism also existed within slave communities that sometimes left them marginalized and excluded. 
    Barclay is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University at Buffalo. Her work has been supported by fellowships at the University of Virginia’s Carter G. Woodson Institute and Case Western Reserve University. Barclay is an associate editor for Review of Disability Studies and her first book, The Mark of Slavery: Disability, Race, and Gender in Antebellum America, appears in the University of Illinois Press’s “Disability Histories” series. With Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy she is editing a collection, 'Cripping the Archive: Disability, History, and Power', and is working on her second project, 'Between Two Worlds: Disability and Segregation in Southern Education from Emancipation to Integration'.

  • June 8, 2021

    Kateřina Kolářová, "Rehabilitative Post-Socialism: Disability, Race, Gender, and Sexuality and the Limits of National Belonging" (forthcoming with University of Michigan Press).
    The meeting will be a discussion of a chapter entitled “The Inadaptable (Non-)Citizen: The Racialised Logic of the Provisionally Permanent Abandonment."
    Kolářová teaches at the Department of Sociology in the Gender Studies program, Charles University, Prague. Her work engages intersections of disability, crip, queer and race theories. Most recently, her manuscript Rehabilitative Postsocialism: Disability, Race, Gender and Sexuality and the Limits of National Belonging won the 2019 Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in Humanities (forthcoming with Michigan University Press). Together with Martina Winkler she co-edited Re/Imaginations of Disability in State Socialism: Visions, Promises, Frustrations (forthcoming with Campus Verlag in 2021).
    Please join us. All are welcome. We will provide CART. Please contact Mike Rembis if you have any questions or concerns, or you need further accommodation.

  • May 11, 2021

    Susan Burch, Committed: Remembering Native Kinship in and Beyond Institutions. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2021).
    Burch is a professor of American Studies at Middlebury College. Her research and teaching interests focus on deaf, disability, race, ethnicity, indigeneity, and gender and sexuality in late nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. history. Material culture, oral history, and inclusive design play an important role in her courses.
    Please join us. All are welcome. We will provide CART. Please contact Mike Rembis if you have any questions or concerns, or you need further accommodation.
    Please use the following URL to access the open access book: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469663364_burch

  • April 13, 2021

    Jaipreet Virdi, "Weaving History & Memoir: Writing Hearing Happiness."
    Virdi is the author of, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2020).
    Jaipreet Virdi is a historian of medicine, technology, and disability. Her research and teaching interests include the history of medicine, the history of science, disability history, disability technologies, and material/visual culture studies. She received her Ph.D. from the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto (2014).
    Please join us. All are welcome. We will provide CART. Please contact Mike Rembis if you have any questions or concerns, or you need further accommodation.

  • February 9, 2021

    Bruce J. Dierenfield and David A. Gerber, Disability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education: The Story behind Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District (University of Illinois Press, 2020).
    Bruce J. Dierenfield is a professor of history and director of the All-College Honors Program at Canisius College. His five previous books include the prizewinning The Battle over School Prayer: How Engel v. Vitale Changed America. David A. Gerber is a University at Buffalo Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus and director emeritus of the University at Buffalo Center for Disability Studies. He is the author of Authors of Their Lives: The Personal Correspondence of British Immigrants to North America in the Nineteenth Century and editor of Disabled Veterans in History.
    Please join us for our first meeting. All are welcome. We will provide CART. Please contact Mike Rembis if you have any questions or concerns, or you need further accommodation.

Group Conveners

  • JBarclay's picture

    Jenifer Barclay

    Jenifer Barclay is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University at Buffalo, Associate Director of the university’s Center for Disability Studies, and Associate Editor for the Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal. She specializes in 19th century U.S. history, the history of slavery, the history of disability, race and global health.


  • ottk's picture

    Katherine Ott

    Katherine Ott, Ph.D., is a curator in the Division of Medicine and Science at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. She is the author or co-editor of three books and has curated exhibitions and published on such topics as the history of disability, medicine, polio, HIV and AIDS, skin, LGBTQ+, and scrapbooks. She received the 2016 Society for Disability Studies Senior Scholar Award, is an OAH Distinguished Lecturer and teaches a graduate course in American Studies at the George Washington University. Ott tweets @amhistcurator about her work.


  • npamula's picture

    Natalia Pamula

    Pamula is Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies and Disability Studies at the University of Warsaw, Poland. She specializes in Polish literature, American literature, and gender.


  • MikeRembis's picture

    Mike Rembis

    Mike Rembis is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University at Buffalo and the Director of the university’s Center for Disability Studies. He specializes in 19th and 20th century U.S. history, the history of psychiatry, the history of institutions, the history of eugenics, the history of disability, and mad people's history.


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