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Disability History

Beginnings of mental institutions

amweiner's picture

Chapter 3 introduces the idea of either confining or sending away a mental impaired (or perceived mentally impaired) family member. I want to discuss this origin story to draw comparison to how mental institutions work today. I want to analyze the fact that towns would pay individuals to take care of the "crazy" people and how families would lock their own kin in a basement or room. It was illuminating to understand these roots because I see similar trends in mental institutions, nursing homes, and prisons today. 


ndifrank's picture

The thread that I followed was the concept of community and who had access to the larger community or the ability to dictate their community. Within Native American communities the distinction of disability was far different than what it is today. People who were ostracized or seen as less than were ones who did not give back to community members in some way, with the example of a man with a disability of some sort that would be strong enough to deliver water as someone who would not be ostracized because of his disability. As our history progresses and with colonism in the Americas concepts of what makes a good community member shifts. It is not that someone is expected to provide for others in some way but more that they are viewed as fit.


courtney's picture

In the book we read for class this week, I was most interested by the classification and categorization of appropriate citizenship. The need for a uniting collective (and normative) bodily identity emerged specifically within the USA after periods of war and revolution, it seemed. A standard of citizenship was used to bring people who differ--whether in original nationality, ethnicity, political beliefs, etc--together under a unifying idea of what it means to be a citizen, i.e. productive, contributing to the community, self-sufficient. Ironically enough, some people with disabilities didn't (and still don't) 'measure up' to those ideas of citizenship that so intentionally try to bring diverse people together under one national identity.

"Disabling Transgressions"

smalina's picture

Entering the book looking for intersections between gender, sexuality, and disability, I found that these strands (especially in relation to marginalization and oppression) were interlocking in ways far more deep and extreme than I had anticipated--while I expected to find anecdotal reference to the unique, interesecting oppressions experienced by disabled women, what I have read of Nielsen's text instead references notions of disability embedded within female bodies. Reading through history, it became increasingly clear to me that these multiple oppressions didn't just coexist; rather, they were actively used to justify each other in sickening ways.