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“[L]ess than accessible and seriously disheartening”: Unfolding Transatlantic Eugenics in Disability Scholarship

Gesine Wegner

Pages 189 - 214



This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

As a discussion between American historian Ruth Schwartz Conan and Disability Studies scholar Rosemarie Garland-Thomson illustrates, reaching consensus on what a term like eugenics means and how it might be used accurately in contemporary discourse proves to be highly difficult. This article shows that Disability Studies methodologies enforce a reassessment of the United States’ eugenic past, and, further, that by looking at the ‘long arm’ of this eugenic ideology, Disability Studies has provided ample ground for the reconsideration of eugenic discourses of normalization and their influence on biopolitical questions of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Looking at these discourses through a Literary Studies lens, I aim to stress the importance of creative nonfiction within Disability Studies writing. Disability Studies scholars challenge academic forms of knowledge production through unconventional aesthetics and change how questions of eugenics (past and present) are being addressed in the United States and beyond.

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