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The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public (The History of Disability) Hardcover – May 1, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0814740576 ISBN-10: 081474057X Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: The History of Disability
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press; First Edition edition (May 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081474057X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814740576
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #865,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1881, the Chicago City Code read, "Any person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed... shall not... expose himself to public view." These "ugly laws" began in San Francisco in 1867, then spread through the U.S. and abroad; many in the U.S. weren't repealed until the 1970s. English professor Schweik (A Gulf So Deeply Cut: American Women Poets and the Second World War), co-director of UC Berkley's disabilities studies program, explores the emergence of these laws and their tragic consequences for thousands. Motivated largely by the desire to reduce beggar populations and to expand the role of charitable organizations, in practical terms the ugly laws meant "harsh policing; antibegging; systematized suspicion...; and structural and institutional repulsion of disabled people." Schweik discusses the nineteenth century conditions that created a demand for these laws, but notes how the resulting practices have carried through to the present. Schweik draws on a deep index of resources, from legal proceedings to out-of-print books, to tell the story of individuals long lost to history. Her detailed analysis will be of primary interest to those involved with the history of social justice in the U.S. and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 18 Illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. The stark photo by Paul Strand illustrating The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public conveys perfectly the realities and subtleties described in its pagesincluding the fear, pity, and revulsion with which the public so often regards those with physical disabilities.”

-California Lawyer,

“Shweik combines a sophisticated grasp of disability, critical race and social theory, extensive archival and legal research, close textual analysis, and broad reading in a wide range of historical and other literatures. Her account brings the insights of disability history and theory to bear on systems of exclusion, subordination, and othering more generally in American life as the United States entered the twentieth century... This is a powerful book, essential reading for scholars of disability, race, gender, sexuality, immigration, urban, legal, social movement, and twentieth-century history more generally—indeed, for anyone concerned about law and its power and the limits of that power to define borders of belonging.”-American Historical Review,

“Standing at the intersection of “disability history” and “poor people’s history,” opens a window on an attractive landscape for scholars to explore.” -Journal of American History,

“Overall, this is a thorough, careful, and sensible work, which is both fascinating and also moving as an account of social oppression of disabled people.”
-Metapsychology Online Reviews

,

“In analyzing the ugly laws, Schweik reveals how individuals have come to define their identities around work and self-sufficiency, and how the failure of those with disabilities to do so can result in character assassination of these individuals as frauds and morally bankrupt, diseased tricksters and thieves. A subtle and complex study.”

-Choice,

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gabriel on April 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
I found this book absolutely fascinating. It gives engaging, nuanced, and insightful analysis of the complex interests surrounding these laws and the intersections of disability, class, race, ethnicity, immigration, gender and sexuality they implicate. While these particular laws may have fallen out of favor, the issues remain _highly_ relevant today. I rarely find an "academic" book so readable and compelling.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By sirwilliam on May 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Ugly Laws is a very thorough and interesting historical account of how the disabled were treated and mistreated in America's past. It does have its shortcomings, however. For one thing, it is very verbose and repetitive. It also delves too deeply into side issues such as language semantics and characters in fiction literature. It would have been much better if it had more stories of real people affected by the ugly laws, such as Arthur Franklin Fuller. Still, in spite of its problems, The Ugly Laws captured my attention and kept it for the duration of my reading of it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jamakaya on August 15, 2013
Format: Paperback
I respect the research Susan Schweik has done in "The Ugly Laws" but found its arcane language and theorizing off-putting. As others have noted, what insight is presented here is buried in highly academic, theoretical language that probably only a few eggheads will fully understand. All the post-modernist buzz words and jargon about heteronormativity, cultural bodies, apparatuses of disruption, Foucault, etc. wore me down and made me lose interest in the jumble of theories. I've read other books about disability and have a graduate degree, so I'm no slacker. It would be nice if academics made some effort to be a little more accessible. I recently read Kim Nielsen's concise A Disability History of the United States (ReVisioning American History) so it can be done. That's probably an unfair comparison, as Schweik's book is a detailed analysis of the ugly laws while Nielsen's is a survey of disability history over several centuries, but I learned and retained a lot more from Nielsen's clearly written, engaging book (including the essence of what one needs to know about the ugly laws). "The Ugly Laws" may indeed be a valuable contribution but it's very hard to wade through and I don't recommend it for general readers.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Seth Galanter on December 10, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has two faces.

On the one hand, it reflects an enormous amount of original research, locating obscure local ordinances from around the country and relying on important archival sources. Kudos to the author for not merely resting on the research of others. I am keeping this book on my shelf as a reference.

But the book is almost impossible to read cover to cover. Instead of just starting with a theoretical framework and using that theory (or theories) to describe the results of the research, the theory overwhelms almost every chapter. And the author seems to continually shift perspectives -- trying in the same page (and sometimes the same paragraph) to describe the enactment and enforcement of the laws as a historical events, critically examine the motives of the actor under various perspectives, and also explain how the incidents were used and understood in the modern disability-rights movement. While each point is important, mushing them together makes it hard to understand anything.
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