Monday, December 29, 2008

About This Event

Representing Human Inferiority:
Medical Genocide as Policy and Ideology

Professor Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
Monday, February 16 at 1:00-2:30p
Tivoli 640 "The Zenith Room"

University of Colorado Denver

Aktion T4 was the name given to the Nazi program of extermination against people with disabilities carried out between 1939 and 1945. What began as medical genocide against people the Nazis considered physically inferior and “asocial” expanded to the ethnic genocide directed against Jews and Sinti/Roma. This presentation lays out the logic of medical genocide, which represents people with disabilities as “life unworthy of life” in order to justify eugenic euthanasia. Nazi propaganda materials recruit disabled bodies as self-evident testimonies to their own essential and irredeemable inferiority through a four-part logic that employs rationalization, instrumentalism, medical authority, and scientific fact.

This event is the beginning of a larger series designed to encourage disability studies scholarship and scholars, and to raise awareness of disability as diversity on campus and beyond. This presentation will model accessible technologies to fully include all in the discussion.

About the Speaker: Rosemarie Garland-Thomson is Professor of Women's Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her fields of study are feminist theory, American literature, and disability studies. She is the author of Staring: How We Look (Oxford UP, forthcoming 2008), Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Literature and Culture (Columbia UP, 1997); editor of Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body (NYU Press, 1996), and co-editor of Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities (MLA Press, 2002). She is currently writing a book called Cure or Kill: The Cultural Logic of Euthanasia, which traces eugenic thought through American literature.

For questions about this event or to request disability accommodations, please contact: Professor Amy Vidali (UCD English) at or 303-556-4765.

CU Diversity & Excellence Grant, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UCD Office of Diversity and Inclusion, UCD English Department, and the UCD Disabilities Committee.

Curriculum/Pedagogy Ideas for Garland-Thomson

Garland-Thomson will be speaking about eugenics, and there is a rich field of work on this topic that might prepare undergraduate or graduate students for her talk. I'm happy to speak with others brainstorming for their classes, and please send along resources (to this blog or to

A few resources:

-- the (amazing) eugenics archive:
-- on Disability Studies and eugenics (great!):
-- eugenics collection at Univ of Virginia:
-- Georgetown's Ethics Institute:
-- Dartmouth's site provides syllabi, timelines, and other docs:

Stephen Jay Gould's discussion of different tests given to new immigrants at Ellis Island. These are detailed in The Mismeasure of Man. Useful websites include:
-- Gould overview, bibliography:
-- sample "fill-in" test from Gould's Mismeasure of Man:
-- Gould, Steven. "Carrie Buck's Daughter.” The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History. New York: Norton, 1985. 306-316. (also available at

A great source for connecting the rhetorics of "old" and "new" eugenics is:
-- Eckberg, Merryn. “Second Opinions: The Old Eugenics and the New Eugenics Compared.” Social History of Medicine 20.3 (2007): 581-593. If you email me I can send a PDF of this article (