The canary in the gemeinschaft? Disability, film, and the Jewish question

Faye Ginsburg

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    In the nineteenth century, canaries were taken into British mines to detect the potential risk to humans of methane gas, which is odorless but lethal. The sensitivity of this small, delicate bird to an invisible but deadly substance meant that if it died, a risk was present that humans would not have been able to detect. My title plays with the phrase "the canary in the mineshaft" that evolved from this poignant interspecies situation; in this chapter, I explore how scientific and documentary images of disability have served as visible evidence (the "canaries," if you will) of a kind of risk lurking in the Jewish community over the course of the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. The toxic element, in this case, is the stigmatization of the Jewish/disabled body within a particular Gemeinschaft (community), a development in which biomedical discourses are deeply implicated.1 This process is an example of how "Otherness" becomes associated with the risk of danger or marginality, as discussed by cultural studies scholar Deborah Lupton in her book on the ways in which risk is understood in modernity.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationFilm and Risk
    PublisherWayne State University Press
    Number of pages28
    ISBN (Print)9780814334638
    StatePublished - 2012

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Arts and Humanities


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