Dr. Jaipreet Virdi is a historian whose research focuses on the ways medicine and technology impact the lived experiences of disabled people. Her first book, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History raises pivotal questions about deafness in American society and the endless quest for a cure. It will be published by the University of Chicago Press and available in May 2020. She has published articles on diagnostic technologies, audiometry, hearing aids, and the medicalization of deafness and has published essays in The Atlantic and the New Internationalist.
As an educator, Virdi has taught at Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, and Brock University. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Department of History at the University of Delaware where she teaches courses on disability histories, the history of medicine, and health activism.
Born in Kuwait to Sikh parents, Virdi lost her hearing at age four to bacterial meningitis. By age six, her working-class family immigrated to Toronto, Ontario where she would later attend a school for deaf and hard-of-hearing children. A product of “mainstreamed” education, Virdi learned to lip-read and rely on her hearing aids. She attended public high schools then received her Bachelors’ degree in the philosophy of science from York University. After graduation, she took time off to work in marketing and fashion retail, before deciding to return to school. She received first her masters, then her doctorate, from the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto, focusing on the history of medicine and technology. Her PhD dissertation is titled “From the Hands of Quacks:” Aural Surgery, Deafness, and the Making of a Specialty in Nineteenth-Century London.
Prolific on Twitter, Virdi uses her platform to raise awareness of medical inequities, social injustice, and disability rights. Occasionally she also shares unique images and stories in the history of medicine, expanding her teaching to a more public and accessible area. She lives in Newark, Delaware with her spouse Geoff Bil, a historian of science, and her hearing service dog, Lizzie.
“Deafness, Quackery, and More!” Podcast interview by Caroline Leiffers, April 2019.
“Healing Spas and Ugly Clubs: How Victorians Taught Us to Treat People with Disabilities.” Interview by Lisa Hix, July 21 2015.
“Elle Geeks: Mind Game.” Profile by Sonam Savlani, Vatsala Chhibber, and Anuradha Anupkumar, August 2014.