Refrigerator Mothers and Sick Little Boys: Bruno Bettelheim, Eugenics and the De-Pathologization of Jewish Identity

griffin jaye epstein

Abstract


Child psychologist and Nazi concentration camp survivor Bruno Bettelheim’s influential theories of autism reveal a startling connection between Jewish identity, the medicalization of disability, colonial eugenics and race-making practices over the 20th century in North America. Using Bettelheim’s life and work as a case-study, this paper explores Ashkenazi Jewish immigrant complicity in a whitened colonial landscape through the lens of Disability Studies. It asks the question: can we be more accountable to our disabled identities – and to those disabled people who have come before us – if we learn how our families, our identities, our very selves have been complicit in medicalization and violence? 

Keywords: madness, race, whiteness, Jewish identity, eugenics, psychiatry


Keywords


madness; race; whiteness; Jewish identity; eugenics; psychiatry

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v34i3.3312

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Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

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ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)