Esme Cleall

May 19, 2023

Colonising Disability

Impairment and Otherness Across Britain and Its Empire, c. 1800-1914

Cambridge University Press 2022

Colonising Disability: Impairment and Otherness Across Britain and Its Empire, c. 1800-1914 (Cambridge UP, 2022) explores the construction and treatment of disability across Britain and its empire from the nineteenth to the early twentieth century. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Esme Cleall explores how disability increasingly became associated with 'difference' and argues that it did so through intersecting with other categories of otherness such as race. Philanthropic, legal, literary, religious, medical, educational, eugenistic and parliamentary texts are examined to unpick representations of disability that, overtime, became pervasive with significant ramifications for disabled people. Cleall also uses multiple examples to show how disabled people navigated a wide range of experiences from 'freak shows' in Britain, to missions in India, to immigration systems in Australia, including exploring how they mobilised to resist discrimination and constitute their own identities. By assessing the intersection between disability and race, Dr Cleall opens up questions about 'normalcy' and the making of the imperial self.

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Shu Wan

Shu Wan is currently matriculated as a doctoral student in history at the University at Buffalo. As a digital and disability historian, he serves in the editorial team of Digital Humanities Quarterly and Nursing Clio. On Twitter: @slissw.

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