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Colloquium: Jai Virdi – Hearing Happiness (March 3rd, 1pm)
March 3 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
In 1886, the New York Times editorialized: “Deafness is the commonest of the more serious physical infirmities to which flesh is heir. In this country it is particularly prevalent.” This talk examines how within ever-shifting boundaries of cure and control, medical and technological fixes for deafness are thoroughly embedded in the cultural imagination and deeply anchored in American conceptions of normalcy. Journeying from the 1860s to the present, this talk outlines the endless quest for a deafness cure: ear trumpets, violet ray apparatuses, vibrating massagers, electrotherapy machines, airplane diving, bloodletting, skull hammering, and many more. Hundreds of procedures and products have promised grand miracles but always failed to deliver a universal cure—a harmful legacy that is still present in contemporary biomedicine.
Bio: Jai Virdi is an award-winning historian whose research focuses on the ways medicine and technology impact the lived experiences of disabled people. Her first book, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History (University of Chicago Press, 2020) raises pivotal questions about deafness in American society and the endless quest for a cure. She has published articles on diagnostic technologies, audiometry, hearing aids, and the medicalization of deafness and has published essays in The Atlantic and the New Internationalist. As an educator, Virdi has taught at Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, and Brock University. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Department of History at the University of Delaware where she teaches courses on disability histories, the history of medicine, and health activism.
Online Event: For Zoom link, please contact the IHPST.