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Jaipreet Virdi is a historian of medicine, technology and disability. Her research and teaching interests include the history of medicine, the history of science, disability history, disability technologies and material/visual culture studies. She received her Ph.D. from the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto (2014).
Dr. Virdi's first book, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History (University of Chicago Press, 2020), rethinks how therapeutic negotiation and the influence of pseudo-medicine shaped what it meant to be a "normal" deaf citizen in American history. Examining how deaf/deafened individuals attempted to amplify their hearing through various types of surgical, proprietary and/or technological "deafness cures," the book charts the dissemination of ideas about hearing loss from beyond medical elites to popular culture and the popular imagination. Hearing Happiness received the British Society for the History of Science's Hughes Prize and the American Association for the History of Medicine's Welch Medal.
Her second book, tentatively titled Medicalizing Deafness: Aural Surgery in Nineteenth Century Britain (McGill-Queen's University Press), examines how British ear specialists attempted to define a professional identity and defend their practice by influencing educational, progressive and eugenicist programs to restrict or eradicate deafness. Dr. Virdi is collaborating with Dr. Coreen McGuire on a study of the historical roots of scientific research on disabilities—such as deafness and breathlessness—and the role of women scientists. Focusing on Phyllis M. Tookey Kerridge's work, this project, tentatively titled “Setting Standards: Phyllis M. Tookey Kerridge and the Science of Disability in Interwar Britain," highlights how scientific instruments were used by women to demonstrate the value of their research against criticism and assert control over disabled bodies. Dr. Virdi also writes about hearing aid design and marketing, incorporating history of science perspectives to examine how the engineering and calibration of twentieth-century hearing aids were informed by design adaptions made by deaf people.
Dr. Virdi's next projects focus on the history of disability design. She is creating an online resource database project—Objects of Disability—which historicizes how disabled people tinkered with their prostheses and perceived their devices as prosthetic extensions of themselves. Through case studies of users adopting what Dr. Virdi terms as “the disabled gaze," this project confronts how disabled people challenged medicalized assumptions about their bodies and crafted their own identities. She is also working on a new interdisciplinary project, DEAF FUTURITY, which examines the design and engineering of hearing aids, from aesthetics of 20th century devices, to prototypes that attempt to redesign how we think of deafness, and deaf/tech collaborations.
Hearing Happiness Deafness Cures in History, University of Chicago Press, 2020.
“Colonial Histories of Plant-Based Pharmaceuticals," co-edited with Geoff Bil. History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals 63.2 (2022).
Disability and the Victorians Attitudes, Interventions, Legacies. Edited by Iain Hutchison, Martin Atherton and Jaipreet Virdi. Manchester University Press, 2020.
Recent Articles and Chapters:
“How to Write the History of Disability," in Helen Carr and Suzannah Lipscomb (Eds.) What is History, Now? (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2021), 129-146.
“Respiratory Technologies and the Co-Production of Breathing in the Twentieth Century," with Coreen McGuire and Jenny Hutton, in Anne Hanley and Jessica Meyer (eds.), Patient Voices in Modern Britain: Historical and Policy Perspectives (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2021), 183-222.
“Material Traces of Disability: Andrew Gawley's Steel Hands," Nuncius: Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science 35.4 (2020): 606-631.
“Materializing User Identities through Disability Technologies," in Bess Williamson and Elizabeth Guffey (eds.), Making Disability Modern: Design Histories (Bloomsbury, 2020), 225-241.
“Medicalising Deafness in Victorian London: The Royal Ear Hospital, 1816-1916," in Martin Atherton, Iain Hutchison, and Jaipreet Virdi (eds.), Disability and the Victorians: Attitudes, Legacies, Interventions (Manchester University Press, 2020), 73-91."Finger Surgery for Deafness: Rethinking Quackery in Medical History," Canadian Medical Association Journal 191.7 (February 2019): 192-4.
"Phyllis M. Tookey Kerridge and the Science of Audiometric Standardization in Britain, co-authored with Coreen McGuire, British Journal for the History of Science 51.1 (March 2018): 123-146.
Recent Public History Essays:
“The FDA's New Hearing Aid Won't Solve the Bigger Problems in the Market," Washington Post: Made by History.
“The Unintended Consequences of OTC Hearing Aids." Wired.“Olay's new lid was made for disabled people. Too bad you can't find it in stores," with Liz Jackson. Fast Company.
“Beyond Functional: Unraveling the Long Line of Disability Fashion," with Liz Jackson. Bitch Media.
“Let's Use Bold, Beautiful Hearing Aids to Celebrate Deafness." Aeon+Psyche.
“Why Won't Nike Use the Word Disabled to Promote its New Go FlyEase Shoe?" with Liz Jackson. Slate: Future Tense.
HIST268: Disability in American Experience
HIST 337: Healthy Bodies: Citizenship, Medicine and Social Activism
HIST467/667: Disability Histories
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