The history of disabled people in the Western world is in part the history of being on display, of being visually conspicuous while politically and socially erased. The earliest record of disabled people is of their exhibition as prodigies, monsters, omens from the gods, and indexes of the natural or divine world. From the New Testament to the miracles of Lourdes, the lame, the halt and the blind provide the spectacle for the story of bodily rehabilitation as spiritual redemption that is so essential to Christianity. From antiquity through modernity, the bodies of disabled people considered to be freaks and monsters have been displayed ...
... by the likes of medieval kings and P. T. Barnum for entertainment and profit in courts, street fairs, dime museums and sideshows. Moreover, medicine has from its beginnings exhibit the disabled body as what Michel Foucault calls "the case", in medical theatres and other clinical settings, in order to pathologize the exceptional and to normalize the ordinary (Birth of the Clinic 29). Disabled people have variously been objecs of awe, scorn, terror, delight, inspiration, pity, laughter, or fascination - but they have always been stared at. (Garland-Thomson, 2002)
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- Garland-Thomson, T. (2002). The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography. In: Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities.
- photograph (Radical Beauty Project) via