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Theoretical Approaches to the Human Rights of Marginalized and Excluded Individuals or Groups – Part I: A Short Critique of Human Dignity

Author: Veronika Flegar

In an earlier post on this blog Paul van Trigt pointed to the frequent neglect of viewing human rights in their larger historical context. This is not only true for historians but, arguably, even more so for human rights lawyers. Due to this neglect, human rights lawyers seem to sometimes suffer a bias towards the salience of human rights and seem to be primarily preoccupied with the interpretation of international treaties and case law. Such interpretations often neglect to question the human rights system or its underlying assumptions as such. Yet, a more critical approach towards the central ideas of international human rights law seems necessary in order to build a sustainable system that is to the benefit of all human beings – including persons or groups who are commonly marginalized or excluded.

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Ongevraagde vondsten

Author: Anaïs van Ertvelde

Iek! Ik kan een kreetje niet onderdrukken wanneer het me overkomt, vaak na dagen vruchteloos ploeteren. Senioren die hun familiestamboom zitten uit te pluizen kijken licht geërgerd op. In archieven wordt doorgaans gezwegen. Frivole uitroepen van arbeidsvreugde zijn ze er niet gewend. Een historisch vondstje brengt me nu eenmaal een kinderlijk gevoel van bevrediging. Lang gehouden vermoedens die plots bevestigd of weerlegd worden door een weggegooide zin, ergens aan het einde van het vergeelde verslag van een kabinetsvergadering. Noem me sentimenteel, verwijt me een hang naar het ambachtelijke, maar ik ben zo één van die historici die graag in een archief zit. Iemand die liever hanepoten in notitieboeken krabbelt dan praktisch op een laptop typt. Lettertypes die al decennia niet meer in zwang zijn, maagdelijke bundeltjes die je voor de eerste keer losstrikt. Het is niet alleen charmant – charmanter dan een ingescande tekst door een pdf-zoeker draaien. Het is ook allemaal context, die je iets vertelt over de inhoud van wat je aan het lezen bent. Als historici iets kunnen doen, is het wel context bieden.

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Disability, development and humanitarianism: the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy

Author: Sam de Schutter

Today “the world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the end of the second world war”, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs recently declared. This statement shows that humanitarianism is very much alive today, but that it apparently also has a history. But why am I writing about that on a blog related to the history of disability? That is because I participated in the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA), organized by the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz and the University of Exeter, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Over the span of two weeks in July, spent both in Mainz and Geneva, this event brought together thirteen scholars from all over the world working on issues related to humanitarianism, international humanitarian law and human rights. I was lucky to be one of them, and got inspired to write this short blog about it.

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‘A Right to Live Where They’re at Home’: Identity, Nation-Building and the International Year of Disabled Persons 1981 in Greenland

Author: Anna Derksen

Vision of inclusion: aasivik ‘81

In the summer of 1981, fifteen disabled Greenlanders went aboard the M/S Disko, travelling along the rugged coastline of West Greenland to the abandoned village of Illorpaat about 425km north of the polar circle. Their destination was the annual aasivik, originally an Inuit summer gathering on plentiful hunting grounds. Since 1976, the tradition had been resurrected as a music festival and discussion forum for political, social and cultural issues closely linked to Greenlandic identity and independence. (more…)

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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