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

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


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
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

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

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 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


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: