Just published: Murray Simpson’s important new addition to the historical literature

Murray K. Simpson’s Modernity and the Appearance of Idiocy: Intellectual Disability as a Regime of Truth (Edwin Mellen Press) represents a decisive new approach to our understanding of ‘intellectual disability’ as a social and linguistic category. It breaks both with essentialist approaches, which ground the understanding of intellectual disability in the putative physical and intellectual materiality of individuals, and with social constructionist approaches, which are caught in an inescapable paradox of being unable to grasp their nebulous target. Anyone with an interest in the history of people with learning disabilities will need this book to counteract the effect of standard histories which focus on the long-stay institutions without examining the conceptual basis for their existence, the specific material conditions of their tenacity, or the vice-like grip they retain on the policies and practices of an era that claims to be leaving them behind. It finally shines a critical light on the numbing cliché of the popular and research historian alike: that the people put away then were simply “our” present-day learning disabled people – “discovered” by science rather than “constituted” by social and cultural transformations.

“Tellingly, Simpson concludes with a cautiously optimistic ‘refusal’ of the current way of doing things for people with intellectual disability as the only way of doing things, wondering if his archaeological investigations can, in some minimal sense, serve as a demonstration that what is, has not always been and might in the future cease to be.”

Professor Chris Philo, University of Glasgow School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
“His thought-provoking work scrutinizes the competing agendas of psychiatrists and lay society, and of education and medical psychology. This is a work which will stimulate debate across academic disciplines where there is already deep fascination surrounding mental health and how society felt it should respond to it over a two-hundred year period.

Dr. Iain C. Hutchinson, University of Stirling

22. July 2014 by admin
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