Experiences of Dis/ability from the Late Middle Ages to the Mid-Twentieth Century
22-23 August 2019
University of Tampere, Finland
Keynote speakers: David Lederer, Maynooth University; Donna Trembinski, St. Francis Xavier University; David Turner, Swansea University
In recent decades, dis/ability history has become an important field in its own right, standing at the crossroads of the social history of medicine, the history of minorities and the history of everyday life. Conceptions of and attitudes to physical and mental wellbeing and to difference are and have always been key elements in any human society, while the lived experience of dis/ability has varied across societies and time periods, but also depending on the person’s socioeconomic status, age, gender, and the nature of the impairment. Experiences of disability, whether personal or communal, have long continuities in the past, but they have also changed dramatically with the development of medical science and institutionalized care.
This conference aims to concentrate on the experiences of those with physical or mental impairments and chronic illnesses, with special reference to the period between the late Middle Ages and the mid-twentieth century. We understand dis/ability in a broad sense, covering a wide range of physical, mental and intellectual impairments and chronic illnesses. How, then, were various dis/abilities lived and experienced, how did communities shape these experiences, and what similarities and changes can we detect over the course of time? An important viewpoint is also that of methodology: how can a modern scholar approach the experience of those living in the past?
We thus invite papers that explore the ways in which ‘disabilities’ have been lived and experienced, in all stages of life, and by people of different social status and background. The conference aims to promote dialogue between disability historians across national and chronological borders and we welcome papers presenting new research and work in progress.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- How to approach the experience of disability (sources, methodology)? Different categories of disability experience, or what counts as experience of disability?
- How have society, religion and practices of care and cure defined the experience of disability?
- Lived religion and disability
- Medicalization, institutionalization and everyday life
- The impact of gender, age and social status on the experience of disability
- Lived welfare and everyday experiences of people with disabilities, e.g. living at home, in a workhouse or mental institution, the impact of various welfare systems