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Title: Spiritual Rehabilitation: Religion and Cognitive Disability in Postwar America
Authors: Walker-Cornetta, Andrew
Advisors: Weisenfeld, Judith
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: American Religion
Cognitive Disability
Disability Studies
Postwar America
Subjects: Religion
Disability studies
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This project offers an account of a particularly transformative moment in the history of disability in the United States. It examines changing cultural attitudes and social activism surrounding what was described in the middle of the twentieth century as “mental retardation.” Looking across both previously explored and heretofore unexamined archives, it demonstrates that religious grammars, conventions, and communities—as well as talk about religion—saturated discourses surrounding cognitive disability in the postwar era. It makes the case that much of what animated public investment in these forms of difference at mid-century were the ways in which many Americans found them generative for thinking about the conditions of modern life and what might transcend them. This proves especially clear in what one might think of as explicitly religious contexts, for example, in the memoirs of parents of children with cognitive disabilities published by evangelical presses or in the work of Catholic schools dedicated to this population. Half of this dissertation focuses upon such sites and texts, exploring their place within the broader landscapes of mid-century engagements with cognitive disability and the claims mobilized within them. However, just as important to this project is the task of examining similar phenomena in contexts less explicitly religious. By also attending to the work of nonsectarian advocacy organizations and the prescriptions of so- called “mental deficiency” professionals, this dissertation illustrates that constructions of cognitive disability were often inextricable from broader moral and theological questions about the meanings of kinship, human difference, and social reproduction in postwar America.
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Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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