Unspeakable: Films and Lectures on Disability History, Identity, and Rights


“Unspeakable: Disability History, Identity, and Rights” is a Winter 2011 series of lectures and films at the University of Washington in Odegaard Library, Room 220. “Unspeakable” is presented in conjunction with the traveling version of the Willard suitcase exhibit, “The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic,” which has been brought to the University of Washington by Live Inclusive. The exhibit focuses on the lives of several women and men who were committed to the Willard Psychiatric Center in upstate New York, starting in 1918. Willard operated for more than 125 years as a state mental hospital, finally closing in 1995. It was then, and quite by accident, that nearly 400 suitcases were discovered in the attic of an abandoned building. The goal of the exhibit is to bring the stories of the suitcase owners and a patient-centered view of the history of psychiatry to a wide audience. It will be hosted on the second floor of Odegaard Library from January 17 to March 18, 2011. The supporting programming for the exhibit includes the “Unspeakable” series of film screenings (Tuesdays 5:30p.m. from January 25 to February 22, refreshments provided) and lectures by visiting and local scholars in disability studies, as well as weekly panel presentations (Thursdays 6:00p.m.) on personal stories and policy issues. All of these events will provide forums for conversations about perspectives on past and present disability issues.

All events are free and open to the public

Location: University of Washington Odegaard Library, Room 220 (Google map) (Campus map)

Download: Unspeakable Flyer_8.5×11 (pdf), Live Inclusive Poster (pdf 5Mb). Link: Live Inclusive events brochure

Lecture series overview:

“Unspeakable” features lectures by invited scholarly experts who work on topics in disability studies that complement the subject matter of the Willard Suitcases Exhibit. Each presentation will be followed by ample time for audience discussion. Geoffrey Reaume of York University will talk about his research and activism around the history of mental institutions and patient labor in Canada. Philip Ferguson of the School of Educational Studies at Chapman University will discuss his research on historical examples of family-professional interactions in institutions for people with intellectual disabilities. Jeffrey Brune, a UW History graduate who now teaches at Gallaudet University, will speak about the significance of John Howard Griffin’s intersecting racial, sexual and disability identities in his book Black Like Me. Licia Carlson will speak about work she has done on philosophy, gender, and intellectual disability. Several of these scholars will also lead discussions after the Tuesday night film screenings.

UW co-sponsors of “Unspeakable”:

Disability Studies Program; Norris & Dorothy Haring Center for Applied Research & Training in Education; Program on Values in Society; Department of History; Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity; Law, Societies, & Justice Program; Department of Political Science; Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies; Comparative History of Ideas Program; Women Studies Department; Bothell Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences; Canadian Studies Center of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies; DO-IT; Disability Advocacy Student Alliance; ASUW Student Disability Commission; ASUW Women’s Action Commission; ASUW Gay Bisexual Lesbian Transgender Commission.


4 Responses to “Unspeakable: Films and Lectures on Disability History, Identity, and Rights”

  1. I just bought this book and I am excieted to visit this exhibit. Thanks for trying to bring awarness to the rights of us who suffer mental illness. I suffer bipolar disorder. I gave my 2 children up for adoption because I did not believe I could get better. I have been hospitalize twice for my illness. I now work fulltime and am attending a community college to pursue a chemical dependency degree.

    I never thought my life colud be so wonderful and full of living. Ther needs to be more done for the rights of women with mental illness to not lose their children to any state agnecy because of thier illness. I would call it the unspeakable crime.
    Deborah Colvin

  2. This is a very disturbing exhibit and a great tragedy.

    I’m very sorry that there were not other viewpoints requested for information sharing. The total one-sided presentations that depict our residential habilitation centers of today as similar to the institutions of old is extremely irresponsible on the part of advocates for our citizens with disabilities. This includes both self-advocates and agencies. One needs to realize that within the community there is a continuum of abilities.

    The self-advocates that spoke are very articulate. In fact, some of them receive services at an RHC then turn around and go make a presentation about the need to close them.

    The Arc is not an advocate for those unable to advocate for themselves. Our citizens with the highest needs lives are being threatened by the “advocacy” work of some of these agencies. This is the tragedy of today.

    When these institutions were started, yes, there were many, many people who were placed in them against their wishes and who didn’t need to be there. That was a tragedy and many were hurt by those actions. We need to learn from that and not just react by saying that no one needs the services.

    In order to have real discussions and educate, there needs to be different views addressed. I hope that in the future, organizers of events such as this will be able to address the issues through a wider lens.

  3. You honestly have a point there, I have never analyzed it like it like that
    before. You make it sound so provocative. I am going to have to explore this more!

  4. Hey there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new project
    in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable
    information to work on. You have done a extraordinary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: