SHOT Joint Session

The Meanings of Things: How Disability Reframes Histories of Knowledge and Its Artifacts


Jessica Martucci

Science History Institute

Hemachandran Karah

Indian Institute of Technology, Madras


Amy Slaton

Drexel University


Session Abstract

In this joint HSS/SHOT roundtable session, speakers will each present and discuss a unique scientific artifact or organism through the lens of disability, ranging from a 19th century wooden crutch to a 20th century space glove , from mass-produced hearing aids to the hands of blind students. The goal of this session will be to engage our audience in a critical analytic process meant to elicit a new way of ""seeing"" scientific instruments and technologies, one which calls attention to the ableist, hidden assumptions and imaginings embedded in the artifacts of knowledge production. Five distinct objects will help us examine the provocative ways diverse materials can be read through a disability framework. We'll ask: How does a disability studies framework call attention to an imagined body or mind of the user? How is the concept of the bodymind, which resists the framework of Cartesian duality, useful for understanding the creation and application of scientific knowledge? What assumptions do scientific and technological artifacts make about what constitutes ""skill"", ""success"" or ""personal fulfillment"" in STEM settings and beyond? How do questions about aesthetics and desire enrich our understanding of ""merit"" and knowledge production, both technological and scientific? In keeping with the session's focus on the materiality of knowledge, the audience will be invited to engage with the objects.

Presenter 1

Nicole Belolan

Rutgers University-Camden

Presenter 2

Pallavi Podapati

Princeton University

Presenter 3

Ashley Shew

Virginia Tech

Presenter 4

Jaipreet Virdi

University of Delaware