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Department of History Staff

Audra Jennings
Audra Jennings
- Department Head; Professor
Research Interests

My research focuses on modern United States political and social history as well as disability, gender, and medical history. My past work has examined how state policies were informed and shaped by disability and how social movements challenged those exclusions. My book Out of the Horrors of War: Disability Politics in World War II America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016) analyzes the ways in which the U.S. state at mid-century defined citizenship around notions of ablebodiedness by examining the American Federation of the Physically Handicapped, a national, cross-disability social movement organization that emerged during the war. I am currently writing a book, Insecurity: Disability, the Great Depression, and the New Deal State, that examines how thinking about citizens’ bodies, abled or disabled, shaped New Dealers’ efforts to relieve the suffering wrought by the Great Depression and effect long-term economic security. Perceptions of disability informed how reformers and policymakers imagined that the nation might undertake the business of saving capitalism and implementing the promises of security and economic citizenship. Insecurity explores ideas about disability, both as a metaphor about and a physical condition of bodies, policy responses to disability, and the actual experiences of disabled Americans who increasingly became the objects of policy meant to correct, contain, understand, and erase a central element of their identity. The project has been funded by the National Science Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, the Harry S. Truman Library Institute, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum Institute, and Western Kentucky University’s Office of Research and Creative Activity, Potter College of Arts and Letters, and University College. I have written articles and essays that focus on how concern for health and safety inspired and shaped the U.S. labor movement, examine the dynamics of gender and disability, and analyze the medicalized politics of veterans’ health and disabled veterans’ activism in mid-century America. My article "‘An Emblem of Distinction': The Politics of Disability Entitlement, 1940-1950," which appeared in The Politics of Veterans Policy: Federal Policies and Veterans in the Modern US, ed. Stephen R. Ortiz (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012), received the Disability History Association Outstanding Article Award and the James Madison Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government.

Teaching Interests

My teaching interests center on modern United States social and political history, historical methods, and medical and disability history.

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 Last Modified 8/8/18