Philosophy Research Seminar - Measuring Disability and Numbering Normalcy in the Inter-War Years - Coreen McGuire (Bristol)

13 December 2018, 2.00 PM - 13 December 2018, 3.30 PM

Coreen McGuire (Bristol)

Cotham House, G2

Abstract:
Measuring the body seems paradigmatic of objective scientific practice. However, decisions about the types of measurements we prioritise and the types of bodies we choose to measure as standard are heavily weighted with historical biases and discrimination. I argue that healthcare measurements are given artificial authority if they are particularly amenable to calculability and easy measurement. This, I contend, can lead to biased data sets that have conflicted with individual perception of health, especially in cases of invisible but experiential disability. In this talk I will explore the technological construction of disability and philosophical issues related to it, by examining the development of audiometry and spirometry during the inter-war years in Britain. Utilising a range of scholarly approaches from disability history, history and philosophy of medicine, and science and technology studies, this talk aims to show the significant interconnections between measurement and disability and demonstrate that the naturalist position on disability is undermined by consideration of how statistical normality is technologically constructed.

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