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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Sad News: Paul K. Longmore is Dead

Many in the disability rights community will have already have heard that Paul K. Longmore died. According to Longmore's Facebook page a friend posted that he died August 9, 2010. I am very upset by Longmore's death. Avid readers of this blog and my work will know I was heavily influenced by my former professor at Columbia University, Robert F. Murphy, author of the Body Silent. I deeply admired Murphy's scholarship. I don't get to write this statement too often though I wish I could. Longmore was another man whose scholarship and activism I admired. He was a scholar's scholar. Every citation I followed up on Longmore had referenced was correct. More than correct, the reference was well chosen and the quote perfectly apt. He was the first person in disability scholarship I read that seemed able to combine rigorous scholarship and activism--a requirement in my estimation for people in the field. Longmore also studied and wrote about disability history and I always learned something from his writings. It did not matter to me if the work he published appeared in Ragged Edge or Reviews in American History. I was always assured I would earn something new and original.

I sincerely hope Longmore's death will receive some public attention beyond the world of disability studies and activism. He was an important scholar and activist. I never met Longmore in person. However, when I was stuck on a complex and controversial issue I was writing about I would send him an email asking for help. Longmore always replied in detail and with obvious concern. He was in my estimation a giving scholar, willing to help others. We scholars tend to live in isolation but that I suspect was not Longmore's way. He was out there as my son likes to say about people who fail to conform. Last night as I fell asleep I took out one of Longmore's books and read various passages. The book I chose was my favorite--Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability (2003). I came across one passage I have read, reread, and highlighted with multiple stars and exclamation points. Hence it seems somehow fitting to end this entry with Longmore's own words:

"I have long believed that disability experiences can supply tools for a profound analysis of modern cultures in general and American culture in particular. The very features of disability that have caused those cultures to devaluate people with disabilities so fiercely can provide disabled people a degree of cultural--and moral-independence, clarifying distance of outsidership. From the perceptual advantage of that position, disabled intellectuals could formulate a distinctive critical inspection of contemporary societies, disabled people could fashion a distinctive set of values rooted in disability experience that could serve as an alternative to dominant values".


Astrid van Woerkom said...

This is very sad news indeed. My thoughts are with the family friends, and Longmore's former students and colleagues, who will sadly miss him.

David said...
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Barbara said...

Thank you for the beautifully chosen quote that so eloquently reflects the full scope and impact Paul's work has had -- and will continue to have -- on American culture. His passing is an enormous loss to us all.

william Peace said...

Barbara, He was such a wonderful writer I sure had a plethora of choices. I surely hope SFSU and the SDS will do something to commemorate his work. Sadly, I have yet to see mainstream newspapers even mention his death (NPR did a good job).

FridaWrites said...

I was impressed with NPR but agree that his work (and others') should be known to the mainstream. While I was not fortunate enough to know or meet him personally, I am greatly indebted to his and other luminaries' work for all of us with disabilities.

Nessie Siler said...

I know this post is over a year old, William, but I just found it today. I want you to know Paul Longmore is still teaching. His books were a major resource for me in my Disability Studies concentration work at Goddard College in VT.
His example as an activist and scholar helped me tremendously to understand that the discrimination I had suspected existed in American culture towards people with disabilities was in fact real, and one that must be fought tooth and nail.
(He was also the only scholar I had seen who exposed the SSI and SSDI systems as the trap that keeps many who have disabilities dependent and pushed away from society at large.) As one who has lived within the "system" for years because of Cerebral palsy, it was refreshing to see another PWD affirm that it's our societal response to disability that's broken, not people with disabilities.