Douglas Baynton

color headshot of Douglas Baynton
University of Iowa

Doug Baynton is Professor Emeritus of History. His primary interest is the history of disability in the United States. His research and teaching explore how the cultural meanings of disabilities have changed over time, with particular interest in how the concept of disability can shed light on our understanding of such topics as nativism, eugenics, racial stereotyping, gender roles, and ideas of progress and decline, civilization, and nature.

Dr. Baynton’s first book, Forbidden Signs: American Culture and the Campaign against Sign Language (1996), is a cultural history of debates over American Sign Language and the meaning of deafness in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His second, Through Deaf Eyes: A Photographic History (2007), the companion volume to a PBS documentary film, explores and reinterprets American history from the perspective of the Deaf community. Doug’s latest book, Defectives in the Land: Disability and Immigration in the Age of Eugenics (2016), is a history of the concept of “defective persons” in the making of American immigration policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Dr. Baynton serves on the Editorial Board of Sign Language Studies, Disability Studies Quarterly, and Deaf Studies Digital Journal. He has served as a consultant and on-air commentator for an award-winning PBS documentary, Through Deaf Eyes, and for a National Public Radio broadcast, “Beyond Affliction: The Disability History Project.” He is currently an advisor for a PBS documentary film biography in development, Becoming Helen Keller, and for the online Disability History Museum.

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