Does anyone remember “lobotomy”?

Picture of brain surgery

The New York Times recent Surgery for Mental Ills Offers Both Hope and Risk raises, for me, one big question: why the enthusiasm for bringing experimental brain-fu*king to the public’s attention right now? As the article reports but does not underscore in the name of balance, the history of psychosurgery is one of moral and medical failure, though failures recognized only in retrospect. What could be so different now? That we’re not considering lobotomies (which sever the frontal lobes) but cingulotomies (which sever into the anterior cingulate) and capsulotomies (which sever the connections between the cortex and the medulla that make up the internal capsule)?

h/t to ARPH’s Psychosurgery promoted by the NYT: Here we go, again; for a more optimistic take on this, see also Mind Hack’s Psychosurgery : new cutting edge or short, sharp shock (the only comment up there gives some pause, however).

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The Fragility of “Normal”

This week’s print edition of Maclean’s features an article by Mark Steyn blaming gay rights advocates for the “imminent threat” of legalized polygamy in Canada. Once you make one amendment to what is normal, Steyn claims, you won’t be able–or even justified–to prevent further changes.

The article is interesting for two reasons. First, naturally, there is no mention of what relevant differences there are between the two forms of marriage. Steyn ignores a vast body of literature on the subject, which is more than a slight oversight for a journalist. Second, Steyn’s underlying attitude appears to be that we should fear any departure from normal, where the definition of normal he uses is typified by the pretty, white suburbs of 60 years ago.

I recommend reading it, and perhaps writing a letter.

CFP: Special issue on Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO A SPECIAL ISSUE OF 

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FEMINIST APPROACHES TO BIOETHICS (IJFAB)

Vol. 3, no. 2, Fall, 2010         

 

From the Margins to the Center:

Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

 

Guest Editor,  Shelley Tremain

 

In recent years, work done in mainstream bioethics has been challenged by the emerging field of disability studies.  A growing number of disability theorists and activists point out that the views about disability and disabled people that mainstream bioethicists have articulated on matters such as prenatal testing, stem cell research, and physician-assisted suicide incorporate significant misunderstandings about them and amount to an institutionalized form of their oppression.  While some feminist bioethicists have paid greater attention to the perspectives and arguments of disabled people than other bioethicists, these perspectives and arguments are rarely made central.  Feminist disability theory remains marginalized even within feminist bioethics. 

 

This issue of IJFAB will go some distance to move feminist disability studies from the margins to the center of feminist bioethics by highlighting the contributions to and interventions in bioethics that feminist disability studies is uniquely situated to make.  The guest editor seeks contributions to the issue on any topic related to feminist disability studies and bioethics, including (but not limited to): Continue reading

Longmore on Palin and Obama

The esteemed historian of American history and disability history Paul Longmore has an article in Huffington Post entitled “Palin Talks About Special Needs Children, But Obama Has Substantive Plans for All People with Disabilities.”  Here is an excerpt:

Ever since Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech, there has been a great deal of talk about “special needs” children but little about the issues that concern the 54 million Americans with disabilities of all ages. Pollsters and pundits almost completely ignore the tens of millions of voters in the disability rights constituency—adults with disabilities, family members, and many professionals—but they will play a much larger role in this election than most observers recognize. That makes understanding their issues important.

Palin’s promise to be a “friend and advocate” for the families of children with disabilities has some parents understandably excited. In August, University of North Carolina researchers reported “chilling” rates of “hardship” among both middle class and poor families with disabled children as they struggle “to keep food on the table, a roof over their heads, and to pay for needed health and dental care.” Large numbers of adults with disabilities face the same hardships. 

Read the entire article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-k-longmore/palin-talks-about-special_b_131758.html

The Criminal Brain

Cover of Rafter's The Criminal Brain showing two head shots

Cover of Rafter's The Criminal Mind showing two head shots

Criminologist / sociologist Nicole Rafter has a new book out, The Criminal Brain: Understanding Biological Theories of Crime, with NYU Press. The flyer here will give you a spanking 20% off, and I’d be happy to send it to anyone who needs one. Rafter has written extensively on crime, science, film, and, most relevant for me and many readers of this block, on the history of eugenics. Her White Trash: The Eugenic Family Studies: 1877 – 1919, which is surprisingly hard to get now (our library, with over 5 million volumes, doesn’t have it …) collects the now classic “white trash studies”, starting with Dugdale’s “The Jukes”, which provided the core of the scientific basis for eugenic sterilization policies in North America, including here in Alberta. You can get heaps more information about Rafter from her website. And for a special 20% discount … Continue reading

Three Cheers for Granta!

Cover of Granta 102, The New Nature Writing, showing a person in a semi-cleared field

Cover of Granta 102, The New Nature Writing, showing a person in a semi-cleared field

I am a long-time Granta subscriber, and it remains one of the most informative and fun things I read on a regular basis. For those not in the know, Granta is “the magazine of new writing”, published out of the UK, and it published issues 100-102 under the new editorship of Jason Crowley this year. It includes fiction and poetry, but also essays, autobiography, photo essays, and other forms of writing. Two things about it that might be of interest to readers of this blog.

The first is that under Crowley’s short-lived editorship (he has now moved on, or perhaps back, to The New Statesman), Granta now has a significant online component, much of which is free. You can go there and check out interviews with authors, weekly updates on relevant stories, recent events, and much more. Some of this complements the printed version, but much of it is free-standing and so of use to those who don’t subscribe to or otherwise read Granta. Two on-line items worth checking out are Continue reading

Call for Contributions: Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS

TO A SPECIAL ISSUE OF

 

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FEMINIST

APPROACHES TO BIOETHICS (IJFAB)

Vol. 3, no. 2, Fall, 2010

 

From the Margins to the Center:

Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

 

Guest Editor,  Shelley Tremain

 

In recent years, work done in mainstream bioethics has been challenged by the emerging field of disability studies.  A growing number of disability theorists and activists point out that the views about disability and disabled people that mainstream bioethicists have articulated on matters such as prenatal testing, stem cell research, and physician-assisted suicide incorporate significant misunderstandings about them and amount to an institutionalized form of their oppression.  While some feminist bioethicists have paid greater attention to the perspectives and arguments of disabled people than other bioethicists, these perspectives and arguments are rarely made central.  Feminist disability theory remains marginalized even within feminist bioethics. 

 

This issue of IJFAB will go some distance to move feminist disability studies from the margins to the center of feminist bioethics by highlighting the contributions to and interventions in bioethics that feminist disability studies is uniquely situated to make. The guest editor seeks contributions to the issue on any topic related to feminist disability studies and bioethics, including (but not limited to): Continue reading