Spring 2020: Bodies as Science and Spectacle

I’m teaching a course related to tech & dis (but is not tech & dis) for Spring 2020: —

STS 4304/STS 5424
A unique course offered only in Spring 2020!
Mondays 2:30-5:15pm

Bodies as Science and Spectacle

Take a deep dive into the ways human bodies
are problematized and viewed in medical literature,
featured in historical freakshows and contemporary entertainment, and made “other” in popular narratives about disability.
Queries, contact Dr. Ashley Shew

Email me if you’d like the course flyer.

Update:

A student emailed for greater detail, here is some: In the Bodies as Spectacle and Science class, we’ll look at how bodies are featured in spectacles and science in a couple of different domains (still deciding on some of those), but we’ll be taking a deeper dive on —

  • disabled sports bodies in the paralympics and sporting contests,
  • freakshows and the display of disabled bodies for public entertainment,
  • critical work on racialized bodies and violence in the spectacle of lynchings (which were public events where people bought postcards and were part of a terror campaign that drove the great migration),
  • the work of at-the-time progressive science in creating eugenical categories to sort out undesirable people,
  • and the ways in which bodies are displayed in medical literature. 

The materials are not yet firmly set, but we will likely read: Staring by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Freakshow USA by Rachel Adams, Patient by Bettina Judd, as well as excerpts from The Object Stares Back by James Elkins and Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington. We’ll be watching the 1932 film Freaks, and probably at least one documentary (there are too many wonderful ones on these topics for me to have it narrowed down yet, but thinking about using the film Reel Indian about how Native American bodies and narratives have been taken up on film). In all these materials, we’re interested in how bodies have been taken up, co-opted, narratives told and rewritten, distorted, and seen.

This semester, Spring 2020, also coincides with an open and public forum event called Choices and Challenges: Technology and Disability: Counternarratives that will bring in a number of scholars on topics in technology, display, public perception, and authentic experience of disability. This will take place on Friday, March 27th, and class members will be able to develop the questions for panelists as part of this event.

Author: techanddis

Dr. Ashley Shew, Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech. Please address queries to shew@vt.edu.

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