I was just speaking to Guðrún, a volunteer here at the museum, about disability. She was telling me about the surgery she had on her hand, and laughing about an American she knows that had a similar surgery and is now on state disability because they cannot work. She said her hand feels fine. I was telling her about my brother, who injured his back at work, had back surgery, and is now on what is called "partial disability." He can work, of course, but not at his full capacity.

It is really a fascinating subject, the way different governments and different societies deal with disability, or even more generally the history of medicine and healing practices, how indeed the ill are categorized. Here at the museum we have a section on the Oseberg burial, which contained the remains of a woman who was badly disabled, judging by the deformities in her bones. But she was considered royalty in the Viking Age. The academic discussions of this tend to get too mixed in with identity politics and minority rights, which is too bad, because I think there is something more to it. Something more about the body and how we think of it in relationship to the our society, ourselves, and our place in the world.


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