Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thoughts on Security & Disability in the Journal of American History

Readers may find the presidential address to the 2010 Organization of American Historians, by Professor Elaine Tyler May (Minnesota--History & American Studies), timely and of interest. It is printed in the current issue of the Journal of American History (March 2011). The abstract of May's talk follows, along with a link to the reprint of the address (access is to members, only).

Security against Democracy: The Legacy of the Cold War at Home

In her presidential address to the 2010 Organization of American Historians annual meeting, Elaine Tyler May observes that over the last half century, Americans have become obsessed with security: national as well as personal. When American leaders talk about security, they often emphasize the need to protect and preserve our democracy. But since the early Cold War era, Americans have understood that it was their individual, private responsibility to provide security for themselves and their families in the face of internal and external threats. This has led Americans to distrust each other as well as their government and to develop a vigilante mentality. May argues that rather than strengthening democracy, the quest for security has undermined and weakened democratic practices. (pp. 939–57) Read online

Scholars of civil rights and disability rights might find the following article of interest.

Disability, Antiprofessionalism, and Civil Rights: The National Federation of the Blind and the “Right to Organize” in the 1950s

Felicia Kornbluh problematizes the familiar timeline of civil rights histories. Instead of seeing the major civil rights campaigns in America as a succession of movements, starting with the one against Jim Crow in the late 1940s and ending with the movement for disability rights in the 1970s, Kornbluh suggests that these post–World War II movements emerged simultaneously and influenced one another as they developed. She argues that the challenges to medical, psychiatric, and social-scientific expertise usually associated with the 1960s and 1970s may in fact have originated in the activism of blind people and others in the movement for disability rights in the 1940s. Finally, by focusing on issues of disability, such as the passage of legislation creating the civilian program of occupational rehabilitation, she offers a new view of the 1950s as an era of expansion in domestic social and health policies. (pp. 1023–47) Read online >


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