Eradicating deafness?

Genetics, pathology, and diversity in twentieth-century America

Is deafness a disability to be prevented or the uniting trait of a cultural community to be preserved? Combining the history of eugenics and genetics with deaf and disability history, this book traces how American heredity researchers moved from trying to eradicate deafness to embracing it as a valuable cultural diversity. It looks at how deafness came to be seen as a hereditary phenomenon in the first place, how eugenics became part of progressive reform at schools for the deaf, and what this meant for early genetic counselling. Not least, this is a story of how deaf people’s perspectives were pushed out of science, and how they gradually reemerged from the 1950s onwards in new cooperative projects between professionals and local signing deaf communities. It thus sheds light on the early history of culturally sensitive health care services for minorities in the US, and on the role of the psycho-sciences in developing a sociocultural minority model of deafness. For scholars and students of deaf and disability studies and history, as well as health care professionals and activists, this book offers new insight to changing ideas about medical ethics, reproductive rights, and the meaning of scientific progress. Finally, it shows how genetics came to be part of recent arguments about deafness as a form of biocultural diversity.

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