Academic Ableism and America’s Latent Eugenics Ideology

                The introduction to Jay Timothy Dolmage’s Academic Ableism is a stark reminder of the real history of anti-disabled social Darwinist ideology and its origins in the early 20th century North American university’s academic eugenics movements. Dolmage details in brief not only how universities have ignored or tokenized their students and faculty with disabilities, but also systematically assisted in my marginalization and attempted eradication of those same populations. While things have certainly changed, Academic Ableism begins with a premise towards being skeptical of disability and access initiatives as anything more than compliance. The introduction sets up the discussion about disability well. It positions American universities as both purveyors and perpetuators of marginalization for people with disabilities. Several key factors of Dolmage’s view regarding disability and the methodology through which he will be analyzing it are laid out early in the introduction.

                Overall, the introduction does a good job of setting up the study of disability and the academy’s relationship to it. Dolmage points out some key issues of intersection that occur between universities and disable people with other non-hegemonic qualities like race, gender, sexuality, as well as others. Having an intersectional approach to disability is important when addressing systemic issues, because people with disabilities can come from every race, every gender, with every sexuality and with every religious background. This kind of recognition places this book in conversation with many different perspectives on diverse populations among people with disabilities. This is especially important when talking about eugenics, as all of the qualities stated above have at times been separate criteria for eugenics.

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