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Meet Wendy Gagen, New DHA Board Member

My work on disability history sprang from an interest in the relationship between gender and corporeality. More specifically, whilst at the University of Essex in the UK, I wanted to explore masculinity and the male body during the First World War in Britain. In this case I saw disability as a lens through which to understand the relationships we have with our bodies.  In understanding the narratives surrounding gender and corporeality via the state and individual experience, I wanted to  ask­ What impact did war have on doctor-patient relations; how did art interact with medical discourses of the body; what factors shaped the construction of gender and disability, and how was rehabilitation constructed in a period of upheaval? Some of these discussions can be found in ‘Remastering the Body, Renegotiating Gender: Physical Disability and Masculinity during the First World War, the Case of J. B. Middlebrook’, European Review of History (December 2007).

Continuing to utilise disability as a lens through which to understand the past, I have begun to explore disability and bioethics at the Peninsula Medical School in the UK, where I have helped set up the Disability History Group. This research has focused upon prenatal screening and treatment for spina bifida and the way in which ethical issues and disablement was constructed within a particular period. (See, ‘Ethics, Justification, and the Prevention of Spina Bifida’, Journal of Medical Ethics September 2007 (33), 501-507, co-written with Dr Jeffrey Bishop).  By combining ethics and history, I think more searching questions can be asked about the relationship between medicine and disability and the impact of wider political and socioeconomic factors that go to shape medical practice and the medical model.  Such questions have always influenced my teaching which has recently brought together history and contemporary medical practice through teaching medical students at the Peninsula Medical School.
Wendy Gagen
Peninsula Medical School, UK
wendy.gagen@pms.ac.uk

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