Join us for a virtual launch celebration for Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History by Jaipreet Virdi! This event will be produced in collaboration with the By the Book series from The University of Chicago Press. For this event, Jaipreet will be in conversation with Dr. Bess Williamson. This event will be hosted on Zoom. Closed Captioning will be provided.
At the age of four, Jaipreet Virdi’s world went silent. A severe case of meningitis left her alive but deaf, suddenly treated differently by everyone. Her deafness downplayed by society and doctors, she struggled to “pass” as hearing for most of her life. Countless cures, treatments, and technologies led to dead ends. Never quite deaf enough for the Deaf community or quite hearing enough for the “normal” majority, Virdi was stuck in aural limbo for years. It wasn’t until her thirties, exasperated by problems with new digital hearing aids, that she began to actively assert her deafness and reexamine society’s—and her own—perception of life as a deaf person in America.
Through lyrical history and personal memoir, Hearing Happiness raises pivotal questions about deafness in American society and the endless quest for a cure. Taking us from the 1860s up to the present, Virdi combs archives and museums in order to understand the long history of curious cures: ear trumpets, violet ray apparatuses, vibrating massagers, electrotherapy machines, airplane diving, bloodletting, skull hammering, and many more. Hundreds of procedures and products have promised grand miracles but always failed to deliver a universal cure—a harmful legacy that is still present in contemporary biomedicine.
Weaving Virdi’s own experiences together with her exploration into the fascinating history of deafness cures, Hearing Happiness is a powerful story that America needs to hear.
Jaipreet Virdi is assistant professor of history at the University of Delaware. This is her first book. Find her on Twitter at @jaivirdi or visit her website www.jaivirdi.com.
Dr. Bess Williamson is Associate Professor of Design History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and author of Accessible America: A History of Disability and Design (2019).