by Susan Burch

About Susan Burch

Susan Burch is Professor of American Studies and former Director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Middlebury College. She is the author of Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History, 1900 to World War II (NYU Press, 2002). She also coedited Women and Deafness: Double Visions (2006), with Brenda Jo Brueggemann; Deaf and Disability Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches, with Alison Kafer (2010); and Disability Histories, with Michael Rembis (forthcoming). She and Hannah Joyner coauthored Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson (2007). Burch served as editor in chief of the three-volume Encyclopedia of American Disability History (2009).


Historians grapple with and learn from disability via two distinct but overlapping methods of analyzing change over time. First, they examine the daily and structural lives of those considered disabled and others who interact with them; second, they analyze changing historical conceptualizations of disability, able-bodiedness, and able-mindedness. Many disability historians also explore disability and ableism’s relation to other frameworks of power—such as race, class, sexuality, age, gender, and family. Central to disability history is the analytical and archival task of unpacking the largely Western and contemporary cross-impairment category we now call disability.