Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Mental Retardation in the United States / Edition 1

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Berkeley, CA 1995 Trade paperback Revised ed. Very Good. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 356 p. Medicine and Society.

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Berkeley & Los Angeles, CA & London 1995 Trade Paperback 1st Paperback Printing Like New Academic, Scholarly, Research. 8vo-over 7?"-9?" tall. 356 pp. Clean, fresh copy with ... very light shelf wear, crisp pages and clean text. Read more Show Less

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Half-wits, dunces, dullards, and idiots: though often teased and tormented, the feebleminded were once a part of the community, cared for and protected by family and community members. But in the decade of the 1840s, a group of American physicians and reformers began to view mental retardation as a social problem requiring public intervention. For the next century and a half, social science and medical professionals constructed meanings of mental retardation, at the same time incarcerating hundreds of thousands of Americans in institutions and "special" schools. James W. Trent uses public documents, private letters, investigative reports, and rare photographs to explore our changing perceptions of "feeble minds." From local family matter to state and social problem, constructions of mental retardation represent a history of ideas, techniques, and tools. Trent contends that the economic vulnerability of mentally retarded people and their families, more than the claims made for their intellectual or social limitations, has determined their institutional treatment. He finds that the focus on technical and usually psychomedical interpretations of mental retardation has led to a general ignorance of the maldistribution of resources, status, and power so evident in the lives of the retarded. Superintendents, social welfare agents, IQ testers, and sterlizers have utilized these psychological and medical paradigms to insure their own social privilege and professional legitimacy. Rather than simply moving "from care to control," state schools have made care an effective and integral part of control. In analyzing the current policy of deinstitutionalization, Trent concludes it has been more successful in dispersing disabled citizens than in integrating them into American communities. Inventing the Feeble Mind powerfully shatters conventional understandings of mental retardation. It is essential reading for social workers, psychologists, historians, sociologists, educator
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520203570
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 12/19/1995
  • Series: Medicine and Society Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

James W. Trent, Jr. is Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Work at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Introduction 1
1 Idiots in America 7
2 Edward Seguin and the Irony of Physiological Education 40
3 The Burden of the Feebleminded 60
4 Living and Working in the Institution, 1890-1920 96
5 The Menace of the Feebleminded 131
6 Sterilization, Parole, and Routinization 184
7 The Remaking of Mental Retardation: Of War, Angels, Parents, and Politicians 225
Epilogue: On Suffering Fools Gladly 269
Notes 279
References 303
Index 347
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2001

    Excellent History of Mental Retardation

    James Trent has written a thorough history of the construction of mental retardation in the United States. The book is a must read for educators, historians, and social scientists interested in disability studies.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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