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Lives Unworthy of Life? Disability Pride Versus Eugenics

Event Date & Time: 29th January, 2020 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Location: Birkbeck, University of London, Room B05, Torrington Square main entrance, WC1E 7HX
Speakers: Professor Tom Shakespeare, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Tags: Charles Davenport, David Mitchell, Eugenics Sterilisation Laws, Karl Pearson, Norbert Elias The Civilising Process, The Law for the Prevention of Genetically Impaired Progeny - 1933, The Marriage and Health Law –1935
Theme: Antisemitism, Disability, Equality, Eugenics, Genocide, Holocaust, Human Rights, Immigrants, Literature, Medicine, National Socialism/ Nazism, Race / Racism
Region / Country: Germany, UK, USA
Historical Period: 20th century


Professor Tom Shakespeare will discuss the international eugenics movement before and after 1900, and the euthanasia it resulted in during the Nazi regime. Norbert Elias authored The Civilising Process in 1939. By 1941, his own mother was murdered in the Holocaust. How can we combat hate crime and antisocial attacks on disabled people today? What does society require in order to maintain civilisation?

Tom Shakespeare is Professor of Disability Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His books include Genetic Politics: From Eugenics to Genome, and he is a co-author of the World Report on Disability (WHO 2011). In 2019, he co-authored a report on bioethics for the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability.

This event is one of a series in ‘From Small Beginnings…’, a cross-institutional and interdisciplinary programme of presentations and workshops exploring the history and continuing influences of the development of eugenics. For more information visit or email the Programme Curator, Benedict Ipgrave at

Lives Unworthy of Life? Disability Pride Versus Eugenics

Statement – 1

The founding principle of the Pears Institute is that the study of antisemitism is vital to understanding racialization, racism and religious intolerance.

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