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Disability historian Jeff Brune receives Syracuse University fellowship

April 7, 2011
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Dr. Jeff Brune, an assistant professor in the Department of History, has been awarded a one-year residential research fellowship at Syracuse University’s Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies. The research fellowship does not require any teaching, though Dr. Brune will be presenting some of his work in public lectures.

The Center on Human Policy was established at Syracuse University in the 1970s, allowing it to advocate on behalf of legal and social reforms to benefit people with disabilities. The center has also attracted some of the best scholars in the field of disability studies. Today, Syracuse has established a reputation for leadership in disability scholarship and activism, making its disability studies program one of the best in the United States.

The fellowship will also allow Brune to focus on researching and writing his book, Disability Stigma and the Modern American State. The book will examine how government disability programs since the late nineteenth century have elevated fears of people faking or exaggerating disabilities, affected the treatment of people with disabilities, and increased the stigma of having a disability. Brune argues that this trend, ironically, has only worsened since disability policy has shifted toward civil rights in the past four decades.

Brune started working on the project last year and expects the research and writing to take four more years.  “The process [of historical research] is slow because it is an empirical discipline, which means that we must cull through a lot of evidence,” Brune said. “This project is particularly challenging because my time frame covers more than 100 years, which is now uncommon for U.S. historians to do-in part because it is hard to deal with so much evidence in only one book.”

Brune recently signed a contract with Cambridge University Press and hopes to publish his book by 2016. He credits a Priority Grant at Gallaudet with spurring his research and helping him to obtain both the fellowship and book contract.  “It has been extremely helpful,” Brune said. He hopes to resume the grant when he returns in 2012.

During the fellowship, Brune looks forward to focusing on research and writing, and seeing how the arrangement might strengthen ties between Syracuse and Gallaudet.

–Tanya Sturgis, student writer, Office of Public and Media Relations                                                         

7 April 2011

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