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Photography, Disability, and European Colonialism

KU Leuven Health Humanities Lecture Series

The fourth lecture in this series is of particular interest to medical historians.

There is a rich and growing body of literature on the relationship between the rise and development of photography in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and European colonialism and Orientalism. An aspect of the history of photography that remains little explored is the representation of “Oriental” non-normative bodies: impaired, disfigured, deformed, grotesque, odd. This talk examines European representations of disabled bodies in the Ottoman Empire, especially in its Arab provinces, and in North Africa. It argues that representations of disability were used as metaphors for the abject state of the Ottoman Empire and served to reinforce the notion of the Orient as the “Other.” Thus, disability was inextricably intertwined with the European colonial project.

Dr. Sara Scalenghe is an Associate Professor and the Chair of the History department at Loyola University Maryland (USA). She is a historian of the social and cultural history of the Middle East. Her first book, Disability in the Ottoman Arab World, 1500-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2014) won the 2016 Disability History Association Outstanding Book Award. She is currently researching her second book, on the history of disability in the modern Arab world.

For registration information see the KU Leuven website.