Blog

A new take on human rights history? Investigating the United Nations’ Observances

Author: Paul van Trigt

In a recent debate about human rights historiography Lynn Hunt points to the presumption of leading scholars in the field that ‘the history of human rights must be first and foremost a political history in the most old-fashioned sense, that is, a history of diplomacy (covenants) and warfare (interventions).’ Therefore she emphasizes the relevance of the writing of ‘a social history of internationalism that is attentive to the role of women and non-Westerners’.[1]

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Window, Mirror, Meeting Place – Part II: An evening at the Leuven Disability Film Festival

Author: Anaïs van Ertvelde

The hallways of the Leuven provincial house are more lively than usual after dark. Scattered groups of people, most of them rather youthful, only a handful of them visibly disabled, are trying to find their way to the auditorium where one of the screenings of the 2017 edition of the Leuven Disability Film Festival, with the theme Bodies and Minds, will soon begin. Among them is Pieter Verstraete, professor of history of education at the research unit education, culture and society (KU Leuven, Belgium), who has been co-organizing the Leuven Disability Film Festival since 2011. I talk to him about the origins of the Leuven festival:

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Window, Mirror, Meeting Place – Part I: A very short history of disability film festivals

Author: Anaïs van Ertvelde

Film festivals are a core site of disability culture labor’, Petra Kuppers posits in her 2014 publication Studying Disability Arts and Culture. The disability culture activist, performance artist and professor at the University of Michigan goes on to point out that the increased accessibility of recording devices has made it easier than ever before for minority groups to take representation into their own hands. Technological possibilities – video cameras on every smartphone, online communities pooling resources and facilitating distribution – are opening up new ways of representing, sharing and educating through cinematic means. (more…)

Disability on Display – Part III: 21 portraits for chromosome 21

Author: Anna Derksen

Part III: 21 portraits for chromosome 21: ‘Ikoner/Icons’ at Fotografiska Museet, Stockholm

In an era in which prenatal screening has made it possible to detect and prevent genetic and chromosomal diseases, disabilities such as Down syndrome are becoming increasingly rare. And as their number dwindles, some fear that a significant component of our social diversity will disappear with them. But have people with Down syndrome ever really been visible before? No, the exhibition ‘Ikoner/Icons’ by Fotografiska Museet in Stockholm postulates. On the contrary: “From times immemorial there has been a group which had constantly been neglected, excluded and made invisible; those who are born with Down Syndrome.”

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Disability on Display – Part II: ‘A history of Denmark that must not be repeated’

Author: Anna Derksen

Little Henrik, about six years old, sits in his wheelchair with bracers around the spastic arms to prevent them from contracting, so that the muscles don’t become too short. ‘He is a pretty boy, but ‘empty’, they say. But his eyes aren’t empty. I place a picture book in front of him. The book stands on its head. With pain and misery he manages to turn it around, despite the bracers and jerky movements. When the picture is the right way up he gives me a radiant smile. He is not empty.”

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Disability on Display – Part I: Human bodies in the service of science

A vitrine showing the effects of fractures and diseases on the human skeleton, bones and skulls.

Author: Anna Derksen

Malformed embryos in formalin, a school desk for wheelchair users at a former institution for intellectually disabled, and artfully staged portraits of people with Down syndrome dressed as kings, divas or superheroes: As diverse as the subject of disability can be, showing it in museums is generally considered a sensitive issue. During an archival field trip to Denmark and Sweden in December 2016 for my PhD research on Nordic disability history, visits to museums and archives of disability organisations not only provided me with additional insight into this little researched topic – they also show how histories of disability are being narrated to the broader public today. A foray through three exhibitions that span several centuries of medical, political and social response to disability in its various forms.

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Welcome!

Welcome to the blog of the research project Rethinking Disability, based at Leiden University and funded by the European Research Council. In this project we investigate the global impact of the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) in historical perspective.

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