The international growth and influence of bioethics has led some to identify it as a decisive shift in the location and exercise of 'biopower'. This book provides an in-depth study of how philosophers, lawyers and other 'outsiders' came to play a major role in discussing and helping to regulate issues that used to be left to doctors and scientists. It discusses how club regulation stemmed not only from the professionalising tactics of doctors and scientists, but was compounded by the 'hands-off' approach of politicians and professionals in fields such as law, philosophy and theology. The book outlines how theologians such as Ian Ramsey argued that 'transdisciplinary groups' were needed to meet the challenges posed by secular and increasingly pluralistic societies. It also examines their links with influential figures in the early history of American bioethics. The book centres on the work of the academic lawyer Ian Kennedy, who was the most high-profile advocate of the approach he explicitly termed 'bioethics'. It shows how Mary Warnock echoed governmental calls for external oversight. Many clinicians and researchers supported her calls for a 'monitoring body' to scrutinise in vitro fertilisation and embryo research. The growth of bioethics in British universities occurred in the 1980s and 1990s with the emergence of dedicated centres for bioethics. The book details how some senior doctors and bioethicists led calls for a politically-funded national bioethics committee during the 1980s. It details how recent debates on assisted dying highlight the authority and influence of British bioethicists.
You know a subject has achieved maturity when a book series is dedicated to it. In the case of disability, while it has co-existed with human beings for centuries the study of disability’s history is still quite young.
In setting up this series, we chose to encourage multi-methodologic history rather than a purely traditional historical approach, as researchers in disability history come from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds. Equally ‘disability’ history is a diverse topic which benefits from a variety of approaches in order to appreciate its multi-dimensional characteristics.
A test for the team of authors and editors who bring you this series is typical of most series, but disability also brings other consequential challenges. At this time disability is highly contested as a social category in both developing and developed contexts. Inclusion, philosophy, money, education, visibility, sexuality, identity and exclusion are but a handful of the social categories in play. With this degree of politicisation, language is necessarily a cardinal focus.
In an effort to support the plurality of historical voices, the editors have elected to give fair rein to language. Language is historically contingent, and can appear offensive to our contemporary sensitivities. The authors and editors believe that the use of terminology that accurately reflects the historical period of any book in the series will assist readers in their understanding of the history of disability in time and place.
Finally, disability offers the cultural, social and intellectual historian a new ‘take’ on the world we know. We see disability history as one of a few nascent fields with the potential to reposition our understanding of the flow of cultures, society, institutions, ideas and lived experience. Conceptualisations of ‘society’ since the early modern period have heavily stressed principles of autonomy, rationality and the subjectivity of the individual agent. Consequently we are frequently oblivious to the historical contingency of the present with respect to those elements. Disability disturbs those foundational features of ‘the modern.’ Studying disability history helps us resituate our policies, our beliefs and our experiences.
Walton O. Schalick, III