When Categories Constrain Care: Investigating Social Categories in Health Norms through Disability History 1909-1958


  • Dr Coreen McGuire

    University of Durham, United Kingdom

Project summary

We think of categories like height, weight, and sex as integral to health assessment. My project examines how such categories were made integral over the twentieth century through genetic science, and how they worked to construe disability as either biological or social. My approach combines insights from disability history and history of science to examine the historical processes that constructed these categories. This is important because how these categories were constructed influenced subsequent provision for the disabled. When Categories Constrain Care uncovers the hidden damage categories used in healthcare can cause and reveals the socio-historical forces that have shaped how these categories were used. Making disability visible in the categorisation processes central to science will destabilise the personal health paradigm and invigorate our understanding of how the environment and the individual interact, addressing the needs of the first generation to have grown up aware that they carry recessive (disabling) genes.