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

Authors

  • griffin jaye epstein OISE / University of Toronto

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v34i3.3312

Keywords:

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

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

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Published

2014-06-04

Issue

Section

Humanities, Arts, and Media