Eradicating deafness?

Genetics, pathology, and diversity in twentieth-century America

By Marion Andrea Schmidt

Eradicating deafness?


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3817-0
  • Pages: 216
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: April 2020
  • BIC Category: History, MEDICAL / History, HISTORY / United States / 20th Century, HISTORY / General, North America (USA & Canada), Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000, Society & social sciences / Disability: social aspects, Medicine / History of medicine
  • Series: Disability History


Is deafness a disability to be prevented or the uniting trait of a cultural community to be preserved? Combining the history of eugenics and genetics with deaf and disability history, this book traces how American heredity researchers moved from trying to eradicate deafness to embracing it as a valuable cultural diversity. It looks at how deafness came to be seen as a hereditary phenomenon at all, how eugenics became part of progressive reform at schools for the deaf, and how, from the 1950s on, more sociocultural approaches to disability and minority led to new cooperative projects between professionals and local signing deaf communities. Analysing the transformative effects of exchange between researchers and objects of research, this book offers new insight to changing ideas about medical ethics, reproductive rights, the meaning of scientific progress and cultural diversity.


Introduction: of races and genocides
1 The sciences of deafness: deaf people as objects of research, reform, and eugenics, 1900-1940
2 Concerned and puzzled: heredity research and counselling at the Clarke School, 1930-1960
3 Minorities and pathologies: psychogenetic counselling at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1955-1969
4 Preventing tragedy, negotiating normalcy: the changing meaning of Usher syndrome 1960-1980
5 Signing risk and chance: collaborating for culturally sensitive counselling, 1970-1990
Conclusion: from Bell to biodiversity


Marion Andrea Schmidt is a Research Associate at the Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine at the University Medical Center Göttingen

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