Philosophy, The Apparatus of Disability, and the #EugenicsSyllabus Project

In the fifth chapter of Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability, I argue that bioethics is a strategy of modern eugenics. In earlier articles—such as “Reproductive Freedom, Self-Regulation, and the Government of Impairment In Utero” and “Biopower, Styles of Reasoning, and What’s Still Missing From the Stem Cell Debates”—I pointed out ways in which the sub-field of bioethics promotes the introduction and expansion of eugenic practices and technologies such as genetic testing, diagnosis, and counselling.

In the fifth chapter of the book, I also argued that the eugenic impetus that lies at the core of bioethics contributes to the continued exclusion of disabled philosophers from adequate employment in philosophy. The inextricable and mutually constitutive and supportive relation between the conception of disability that circulates in philosophy (and hence bioethics) and the underrepresentation of disabled philosophers in the profession of philosophy constitutes the scaffolding of my book and my thinking about philosophy’s relationship with disabled philosophers more generally.

My argument is that the constitutive exclusion, which is the crux of philosophy’s relation to disabled philosophers and disabled people in general, is a mechanism of the apparatus of disability.

Because a great deal of my work on disability has centered around philosophical strategies that advance eugenics, I was very happy to contribute to the crowdsourcing form of #EugenicsSyllabus, a collaboration of disability theorists Aimi Hamraie and Jay Dolmage. #EugenicsSyllabus is a project designed to make teaching about eugenics more accessible across the curriculum, including through both historical and contemporary perspectives. The project aims to draw connections between the assumptions and values that underlie eugenic practices and current cultural, social, and political responses to COVID-19.

The crowdsourcing form of #EugenicsSyllabus states: “Please help us assemble resources for #EugenicsSyllabus. We are interested in any scholarly, journalistic, artistic, archival, or other resources that can help teach students (at any level) about the influence of eugenic thinking on responses to COVID-19. Self-authored works encouraged!”

As I noted, I suggested that my book and some of my other publications be included on the #EugenicsSyllabus, as well as BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY posts that I’ve written about COVID-19 and the nursing home-industrial complex. You can contribute your own suggestions to the syllabus by completing the #EugenicsSyllabus crowdsourcing form here.

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