The issue of medicalizing the deaf has been the primary source of conflict between the d/Deaf community who regard medical treatments as an infringement to their culture and medical practitioners who impose their paternalistic authority through various modes of treatment for deafness. Cochlear implants for example, have long been opposed by the deaf community as the latest technological approach in a long procession of “treatments” and “cures” aimed towards normalizing the deaf through integration into society.
The source of these tensions, however, go beyond modern technological “cures” and is embodied in the historical role and conflict between medicine and social efforts to cultivate the isolated deaf for social integration. That’s exactly what this site attempts to do: bridge historical understanding of deafness and the medicalization of the deaf by exploring the history of 19th century aural surgery, a specialized branch of medicine and surgery offering care for ear diseases.
The title of this website derives from the otologist Joseph Toynbee (1815-1866), who infamously declared (according to some historians) that he planned to “rescue aural surgery from the hands of quacks.” On the blog, you can read more about my research, other topics relating to the history of medicine, the history of science, scientific material culture and instrumentation, as well as general academic and graduate issues.
Be sure to also “Like” the From the Hands of Quacks page over on Facebook for a daily dose of all things related to hearing and deafness!