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Past events


Postponed until later notice: Leiden Interdisciplinary Disability Seminars 4. Disability in the Global South with Tyler Zoanni

Due to Covid-19 (the Corona-Virus) both the Disability Seminar 4 with Tyler Zoanni and the Filmscreening will be postponed until a date that later will be determined. 


Original invitation: 

Seminar 4. Disability in the Global South with Tyler Zoanni.

Wednesday 18 March, from 3 to 5 PM, Rethinking Disability organizes an interdisciplinary, public seminar titled ‘Appearances of Disability’ in collaboration with the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development, Disability Studies in the Netherlands and anthropologist Tyler Zoanni. 

Zoanni works from an anthropological perspective on (cognitive) disability in Uganda. After the presentations, there will be a response of Alice Schippers, director and researcher of Disability Studies in The Netherlands.

In the evening a public film screening will be held (see below), that can be well combined with the seminar. The filmscreening has Audio Description and English subtitles.

Presenters (will be updated)

Tyler Zoanni, is a postdoctoral researcher in anthropology (Ethnologie Afrikas) at the University of Bayreuth. He is currently writing a book about personhood and the lives and worlds of people with cognitive disabilities in Uganda. He also wrote the article ‘Appearances of Disability and Christianity in Uganda‘.

Program seminar:

15:00 h Introduction
15:10 Presentation by Tyler Zoanni:
Appearances of Disability and Christianity in Uganda
15:45 Response by Alice Schippers
16:00 Conversation with the audience
17:00 Drinks & Bites

Film screening

18:30 Start film & introduction by Jyothi Thrivikraman
20:15 – 20:30 Conversation with Cathy Kudlick and the audience


  • Location: Auditorium Leiden University College, Anna van Buerenplein 301 2595 DG The Hague
  • Seminar time: Wednesday 18 March 2020, 15.00-17:00
  • Film screening time: 18.30-20.30
  • Accessibility: The filmscreening has Audio Description and English subtitles.
  • Costs: Attendance is open to anyone and free, but please register by sending an email to: rethinkingdisability@hum.leidenuniv.nl



Leiden Interdisciplinary Disability Seminar 3: booklaunch Marginalized Groups, Inequalities and the Post-War Welfare State

On the occasion of the publication of the volume Marginalized Groups, Inequalities and the Post-War Welfare State, you are warmly invited to attend a seminar about the book with Prof. Jet Bussemaker, Dr. Anouk de Koning and the editors Prof. Monika Baar and Dr. Paul Van Trigt.

During the seminar we will discuss the main ambitions of the volume: its focus on marginalized groups, its engagement with the problem of inequality and its critical scrutiny of the dominant narrative of the post-war welfare state. The volume builds on recent criticism of the assumption about the existence of unique national welfare state models as well as of the criticism of the model-based approaches to welfare states.  Rather than dispensing with these analytical categories, the contributions in the volume test their limitations through the examination of inequalities in the welfare state from the perspective of marginalized groups. The editors argue that any study of the welfare state should take into account its transnationality, its inherent links to processes of immigration, Europeanization and globalization. Moreover, the volume aims to demonstrate that social policies addressing marginal groups have often deviated from dominant welfare trajectories. From the vantage point of these groups both the welfare-state consensus and the subsequent neoliberal consensus fostered unexpected inequalities.

  • Time: 30 January 2020, 2-4pm.
  • Location: M. de Vrieshof 4 room 8A

Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us on Twitter @ERC_Rethinking or to send an email to rethinkingdisability@hum.leidenuniv.nl.


Symposium 2 December 2019 'Consumer rights and human rights: enemies or allies?'

Consumer rights and human rights: enemies or allies?

On 2 December 2019, on the eve of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the team of the ERC research project Rethinking Disability organizes a symposium in the International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam (IISG/IISH)

The ideology of the free market has become increasingly criticized because it is held responsible for socio-economic inequality and the malfunctioning of the public sector. But not so long ago, the free market was embraced by a broad range of actors across the entire political spectrum. One sign of this endorsement was the use of market terminology – such as consumers and clients – by self-advocate organizations of people with disabilities and patients active at local, national and international levels. During the last decades, many of these organizations have also started to employ the language of human rights. Although the relation between human rights and free market ideology or neoliberalism has increasingly started to receive attention, the question how self-advocacy organizations have dealt with these ideologies and concepts has hardly ever been posed. During the symposium ‘Consumer rights and human rights activism: enemies or allies?’ we will explore this question with self-advocates and historians working on relevant issues.

During the symposium historians, lawyers and self-advocates will give short pitches, which will be followed by a panel discussion and debate with the audience. Participants in the panel are:

  • Andrea Schouw-Naphegyi (human rights expert and activist)
  • Peter van Dam (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
  • Marjolein Swaanenburg-van Roosmalen (College voor de Rechten van de Mens)
  • Gabor Petri (European Disability Forum)

The symposium will be concluded with the launch of a new initiative: A Global Public History of the International Year of Disabled Persons (see Call for Blogs) and a digital collection on the Dutch International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) at the website DisPLACE.nl.

The event will start at 3.30pm sharp and after the blog launch at around 5pm there drinks & bites will be available.

Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us on Twitter @ERC_Rethinking


Leiden Interdisciplinary Disability Seminars 2: Visual sources of the international year of disabled persons.

Seminars 2: Visual sources of the international year of disabled persons.

  • Venue: International Institute of Social History, Cruquiusweg 31, Amsterdam. Max Netlau Room.
  • Time: Monday 2 December from 13.00 to 15.00

Visual sources of the international year of disabled persons. Discussion of visual sources with Master students from the Public History course of the University of Amsterdam. These students are doing a public history project on the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) and will highlight what they have found.



Leiden Interdisciplinary Disability Seminars 1: Sport, handicap en oorlog

In 2020 vieren we 75 jaar bevrijding. In datzelfde jaar zijn in Den Haag de Invictus Games en in Tokio de Paralympische Spelen, allebei sportevenementen voor mensen met een handicap. Het lijkt toeval dat Tweede Wereldoorlog en gehandicaptensport zo bij elkaar komen, maar niets is minder waar. Het begin van de gehandicaptensport heeft namelijk alles te maken met de oorlog. Daarom organiseert Rethinking Disability op maandagmiddag 25 november 2019 een seminar over de historische relatie tussen sport, handicap en oorlog.
Het seminar begint met een bijdrage van sporthistoricus Jurryt van Vooren. Hij schrijft een boek over sport in de Tweede Wereldoorlog en zal vertellen over het verzorgingstehuis Kareol. Dat werd in juli 1940 in Aerdenhout geopend voor gewonde Nederlandse militairen met een hoofdrol voor sport in de dagelijkse medische verzorging. Dat was nog nooit eerder gebeurd in ons land. Honderden soldaten met een handicap werden daar succesvol verzorgd.
Vervolgens wordt met de deelnemers een inventarisatie gemaakt van gebeurtenissen en personen die onder het thema sport op de website DisPLACE een plek moeten krijgen. Als je wilt komen of een bijdrage aan DisPLACE wilt leveren, stuur dan een bericht naar info@displace.nl.
Het seminar duurt van 15 tot 17u en vindt plaats in zaal A002 van het KOG gebouw, Steenschuur 25 te Leiden.


We hope to give a follow-up to this seminar during the Invictus Games, which will take place in the The Hague next year. Although this multi-sport event was only initiated in 2014, the organization of sport events for disabled veterans has of course a much longer history. Therefore the Rethinking Disability website is available for public history blogs about different aspects of sport, disability and war – also covering more contemporary issues. If you are interested in contributing to the blog series, please contact rethinkingdisability@hum.leidenuniv.nl.

Workshop 16-17 September

Virtuous Suffering: New perspectives on the Ethics of Suffering for Critical Global Health and Justice

  • Venue: Leiden University, Kamerlingh Onnes Gebouw, room B016

Preliminary Programme

Monday 16 September 2019

11.30 Registration

12.00 Opening

12.30 Keynote Jeffrey Flynn: What’s Wrong With Alleviating Suffering?

14.30-15.30 Panel 1 Negotiating suffering (chair: Victoria Nyst)

  • “We always suffer from hunger and nakedness” Disability, social suffering, and international development in Kenya, 1940s-1980s (Sam De Schutter, Leiden University)
  • Ambiguities of suffering and coping in Uganda, 1980s-90s (Yolana Pringle, University of Roehampton)

16.00-17.30 Panel 2 Marginal suffering (chair: Monika Baar )

  • Adapting to suffering: the art and struggle of surviving everyday life with a disability in a ‘participation society’ (Ivonne Hoen, University for Humanistic Studies, Utrecht & Gustaaf Bos, VU University, Amsterdam)
  • Social justice and people with intellectual disabilities in contemporary Ukrainian society (Hanna Zaremba-Kosovych, The Ethnology Institute of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine)
  • Pains from the Conflicting Views of Blindness: traditional cultural and scientific views of blindness versus the experiential views of the blind (Thomas Tajo, independent researcher)

18.30 Dinner with speakers, discussants and chairs

Tuesday 17 September 2019

10.00-11.00 Panel 3 Religious suffering (chair: David Kloos)
  • Faithful suffering and Christian humanitarianism in rural Zambia (James Wintrup, University of Oslo)
  • Waiting at the end of life: the narrative navigation of care and suffering in Aceh, Indonesia (Annemarie Samuels, Leiden University)
11.30-12.30 Panel 4 Narrating suffering (chair: Anna Derksen)
  • Appropriating Suffering: According Positive Value to the Suffering and the Consequent Realisation – A Case Study of Post-traumatic Growth of Individuals in Literature (Goutam Karmakar, Barabazar Bikram Tudu Memorial College)
  • Destroying and creating subjectivity through suffering and pain at the end of life with dementia (Natashe Lemos Dekker, University of Amsterdam)
14.00-15.30 Panel 5: Strategic Suffering (chair: Lidewyde Berckmoes)
  • Victimhood and the visibility of suffering in the aftermath of road accidents in Italy (Irene Moretti, Leiden University)
  • The Suffering of the Violent, Entitled, and Powerful: Using Suffering to Avoid Responsibility (Allysa Lake, Fordham University)
  • Suffering responsibility. Moral agency in court cases with disabled convicts (Paul van Trigt, Leiden University)
15.30-16.30 Drinks & bites + closing remarks


The workshop is initiated by Annemarie Samuels (Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology) and Paul van Trigt (Institute for History) and hosted by the research team of the ERC project ‘Rethinking Disability: the Global Impact of the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) in Historical Perspective’, based in the Institute for History at Leiden University.

If you want to visit a panel or keynote lecture (organized as lunch seminar), please send an email to rethinkingdisability@hum.leidenuniv.nl


16 September: Keynote lecture “What’s Wrong With Alleviating Suffering?” by Jeffrey Flynn (Fordham University)

This paper aims to put us in a better position to understand and evaluate the imperative to reduce suffering, not just as an abstract principle but in terms of the concrete social practices in which it gets instantiated and how they change over time. The paper makes three interrelated claims. The first claim, most closely linked to the workshop theme, is that the category of “virtuous suffering” falls within the domain of an “ethics of suffering” and that properly understanding and evaluating an ethics of suffering requires uncovering the “politics of suffering” that accompanies it. The second claim is that every politics of suffering brings with it a more or less explicit conception of the social causes of suffering and a repertoire of remedies. I focus here on the shift in the modern West to a secular framing of suffering and its causes – the rise of “social suffering.” The third claim is that assessing any politics of suffering requires being attentive to shifts in the meaning and practice of alleviating suffering over time. I focus here on the shift in the latter half of the twentieth century toward a “neo-liberal politics of suffering” and the eclipse of social suffering.


  • Venue: Leiden University, Kamerlingh Onnes Gebouw, room B016
  • Time: 12.30

Disability, Communities and Politics

Joint workshop of the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, University of Exeter and Rethinking Disability, University of Leiden



 18:00 WINE RECEPTION, WCCEH library

19:30 Workshop dinner at the Hourglass



WCCEH Boardroom, Queen’s Building

9:00 Welcome remarks by Prof. Monika Baar and Dr. Dora Vargha


Participants informally present their research (5 min), leaving plenty of time for conversation

9:00-10:30 Monika Baar (Leiden), Luna Dolezal (Exeter), Erik Olsman (Leiden), Anna Derksen (Leiden), Rebecca Johnson Bista (Exeter)


11:00-12:30 Jesse Stanier (Exeter), Sam de Schutter (Leiden), Dora Vargha (Exeter), Annemarie Samuels (Leiden), Kate Fisher (Exeter)

12:30 LUNCH








Criptic Identities. Historicizing the identity formation of persons with disabilities across the globe


Leiden University, Institute for History, 21 – 22 March 2019

Download the program here (pdf)


Wednesday  |  20 March  |  Location: Museum Volkenkunde


14:30-16:00 — Launch event DISPLACE

DisPLACE is an online platform with stories about living with disabilities. These stories are told from the perspective of people with disabilities and brought in an accessible way.

The main language of this event is Dutch, with ASL and NGT interpreting.

16:30-17:30 — Keynote lecture by Prof. dr. Pieter Verstraete (KU Leuven)

“Silence, history & identity: Reflections on the value of silence for persons (with disabilities)”

Pieter Verstraete is a professor in educational history and director of the Centre for the History of Education (Centrum voor Historische Pedagogiek) at Leuven University in Belgium.

Discussant: Sam De Schutter (Leiden University)

The lecture will be in English, with ASL and NGT interpreting.

18:00-20:00 — Film screening Doof Kind/Deaf Child

Deaf Child is a documentary film by Alex de Ronde in which he portrays the life of his son, a charismatic young man who happens to be deaf.

The language of the film is Dutch, with English subtitles.

Thursday  |  21 March  |  Location: Academiegebouw Leiden

There will be NGT and ASL interpreters throughout the whole day.


09:30-10:00 — Arrival & registration __ room 01

10:00–10:30 ­— Introduction by the organizers

10:30–12:00 — Panel stream 1

1A. Constructing & deconstructing disabled identities __ room 01

Chair: Andries Hiskes (Leiden University)

Sebastian Schlund (Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel), Disability and identity construction through an intersectional lens

Akriti Mehta (King’s College London), Cripping Madness: Historicising the identities of persons with psychosocial disabilities in the Global South

Octavian E. Robinson (St. Catherine University), Construction of deaf culture in the US, 19th-20th century

1B. Disability & race __ Faculteitskamer Rechten

Chair: Sara Polak (Leiden University)

Esme Cleall (University of Sheffield), Tilly Aston (1873-1947): disability and identity in colonial Australia

Laurel Daen (College of William & Mary), Race, disability, and taxes in American history

Marion Schmidt (University Medical Center Göttingen), The “cripple as negro”: Leonard Kriegel’s “Uncle Tom and Tiny Tim” as a reflection on disability, minority and identity in 1960s America

12:00-13:30 — Lunch break

13:30–15:00 — Panel stream 2

2A. (Post-) Socialist visions __ room 01

Chair: Monika Baar (Leiden University)

Ina Dimitrova (Plovdiv University Paisii Hilendarski), Desiring economization: disability identities in Bulgaria and the work utopia

Cristina Popescu (Universität Bielefeld), (In)visible citizenships. A socio-historical approach to disability in Romania

Filip Herza (Charles University), Socialist humanism between a promise of social improvement and commitment to normative social order: Integration of Roma and people with disabilities in 1970s-1980s Czechoslovakia

2B. Intersecting identities __ Faculteitskamer Rechten

Chair: Anna Derksen (Leiden University)

Katarzyna Ojrzyńska (University of Łódź), Commemorating the disabled victims of the Nazi regime in contemporary Polish culture: Remembrance, empowerment, and responsibility

Hanna Lindberg (Tampere University), Constructing “the Finland-Swedish Deaf”: Deaf identification in the intersection of ethnicity and disability among the Finland-Swedish Deaf, c. 1950-2000

Raphael Rössel (Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel), Gendered childhoods and disabilities in West German parental discourse from the 1960s to 1980s

15:00–15:30 — Coffee & tea break

15:30–17:00 — Panel stream 3

3A. Institutional witnessing __ room 01

Chair: Paul van Trigt (Leiden University)

Nathanje Dijkstra (Utrecht University), Making up disability? Disability benefit legislation and disability identity formation in cases of traumatic neurosis in the Netherlands (1901-1921)

Erwin Dijkstra (Leiden University), Governing identities: Interactions between institutional assumptions and the identity of the impaired

Jen Rinaldi (University of Ontario Institute of Technology), Kate Rossiter (Wilfrid Laurier University) & Siobhán Saravanamuttu (York University), The responsibility of the witness in institutional survivors’ testimonial & identity work

3B. Disability & the nation __ Faculteitskamer Rechten

Chair: TBA

Anna Derksen (Leiden University), Disability in postcolonial Greenland

Stephanie Wright (University of Sheffield), Rethinking war disability: the case of Francoist Spain, 1936-1975

Kateřina Kolářová (Charles University), Rehabilitative citizenship and the inarticulate post-socialist crip

17:30-18:30 — Keynote lecture by Prof. dr. Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova (NRU Higher School of Economics, Moscow)

“Dis/Abling the Russian Public Sphere”

Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova is professor in the department of General Sociology at the faculty of Social Sciences of the NRU Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

Discussant: Anaïs van Ertvelde (Leiden University)

Venue: Academiegebouw Leiden, room 01

18:30-20:30 — Drinks & bites (aka ‘borrel’)

We will end the day in typical Dutch manner with a ‘borrel’, which means as much as having some drinks and bites. This will take place at the Hortus, which is located near the conference venue.


Friday  |  22 March  |  Location: Academiegebouw Leiden

There will be NGT and ASL interpreters throughout the whole day.


10:00-11:00 — Keynote lecture by Anahi Guedes de Mello (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina)

“My Cochlear Implant, My Crip Sex Toy”

Discussant: Gildas Bregain (EHESP)

Venue: Academiegebouw Leiden, room 01

11:00-11:30 — Coffee & tea break

11:30–13:00 — Panel 1. Disability protests __ room 01

Chair: Edit Zsadanyi (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest)

Vassiliki Chalaza (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh) and University of the Aegean), C. Tsakas (AUTh), K. Kavoulakos (AUTh), From charity to social welfare: Blind people struggle for their rights in post-dictatorial Greece (1974–89)

Magdalena Zdrodowska (Jagiellonian University), Deaf/Disability protests in present-day Poland and the 1980s-era US: The convergence of strategies and differences in demands

Gildas Bregain (Ecole des hautes études en santé publique), Representations of disability in disability protests in Latin America. Comparative study of the 1968’s and the period 2001-2018

13:00-14:00 — Lunch break

14:00–15:30 — Panel 2. Commemorations & representations __ room 01

Chair: Pieter Verstraete (KU Leuven)

Diane Driedger (University of Manitoba), Paintings, poems and pain: Forging a disabled identity

Natalia Magdalena Pamula (University at Buffalo), Bodies in motion: Disability, work, and masculinity in Polish 1970s and 1980s young adult literature

Karla Garcia Luiz (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina), The sexuality of people with disabilities on the cover of Sentidos Magazine: Inclusion or perpetuation of stigma?

15:30-16:00 — Coffee & tea break

16:00–17:00 — Wrap up


Call for Abstracts

In recent years, ‘identity politics’ has evolved as a controversial, but also prolific concept within political, academic and activist debates. A growing body of literature sheds light on different assumptions about identity as a concept that is as much related to expressions of individuality and subjectivity as it is to specific social groups, typically described as outsiders on the margins of society and the political mainstream. Various groups like women, ethnic minorities, queer or elderly have strategically used identity as a tool for creating a common culture and gaining agency to bring about social change (Bernstein 2005). Against current discussions – are identity politics still valuable, and if not, what could be the way forward for political organizing as well as more personal processes of emancipation – this workshop wants to delve into disability as an identity.

Historically, disability politics have included both the professional and institutional negotiation of individuals as socially ‘deviant’ and ‘unfit’, as well as organized collective action from within communities of persons with disabilities themselves. How did these differing identities of disability come about? And of equal importance, in which ways did disability not become an identity? What kinds of identity formation processes can we detect in different societal contexts as well as cultural settings, and do these follow comparable or diverging trajectories?

As Julie Livingston (2006) has pointed out: « As disability history and disability studies increasingly open up to non-Western histories, opportunities arise not only for gaining new empirical knowledge but also for rethinking the very categories that underlie the socially constructed models [of disability] on which so much analysis rests. Botswana is different from the United States or France. Yet these countries’ histories are entangled in one another in complex ways that we have yet to even begin to unpack.»

This begs the question of how to take into account specific local contexts, transnational entanglements and exchanges, as well as intersectionality with other ‘identities’ like gender, class, ethnicity or age? What have historical examples beyond the dominance of Anglo-Saxon narratives to offer to the thriving field of disability studies? With this workshop, we hope that new, evidence-based studies on the identities of disability and ‘the disabled person’ from various places around the globe will not only shed light on historical conceptualizations, but may provide new reflections and insights on how we as scholars conceptualize disability today, and in which ways these two might be related.

Confirmed speakers

  • Anahi Guedes de Mello / Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil
  • Elena R. Iarskaia-Smirnova / NRU Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
  • Pieter Verstraete / KU Leuven, Belgium

We welcome original proposals that analyse the history of disability perceptions, expressions and identity formation processes within, beyond and across nation states and different cultural settings. The workshop is not confined in focus to any region, but encourages studies on areas that remain underrepresented in disability history, in particular Eastern Europe and the Global South.

A publication is envisaged on the basis of a selection of the papers presented during the workshop. However, the willingness to contribute to the publication is not a precondition for participation.

Possible topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • collective identities of disability, e.g. in the form of social movements, organizations, protests, communities and religious institutions
  • cultural constructions and productions of disability, by persons with disabilities themselves and about persons with disabilities
  • knowledge production, by persons with disabilities themselves, by government experts, academics or medical professionals
  • disability in colonial and postcolonial settings, the Cold War, international development, neoliberalism and globalization
  • disability in the context of health and rehabilitation, education, livelihoods, indigeneity

Submission guidelines

Applications are invited from historians and scholars from related fields working on the nexus of disability and identity at any stage of their careers and with diverse geographical backgrounds. We aim at providing an informal setting in which selected participants will present their research (up to 20 minutes) and engage in an open exchange of ideas and perspectives. If you wish to participate in the workshop, please send an abstract of about 350 words and a short CV no later than 1 November 2018 to the following email address: rethinkingdisability@hum.leidenuniv.nl. Questions to the organizers can be sent using the same address. Notification of acceptance will be given by the end of November 2018.

Other practicalities

The conference will take place at Leiden University, in close vicinity to Amsterdam Airport (Schiphol). Catering will be offered to all selected participants at no cost, but participants will be expected to cover their own travel and accommodation expenses. If you have any specific (accessibility) requirements, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate such requests. A small number of bursaries might be available on a competitive basis, an opportunity particularly intended for junior scholars and those without research funds from their own institutions. Please indicate when submitting your abstract if you would like to be considered for subsidy.


The workshop is initiated and hosted by the research team of the ERC project ‘Rethinking Disability: the Global Impact of the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) in Historical Perspective’, based in the Institute for History at Leiden University.

The Call for Papers can be downloaded in pdf-format here.