Douglas Baynton




(319) 335-2300


322 Schaeffer Hall

About Douglas Baynton

Doug Baynton has a joint appointment in the Department of History and the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Doug's primary interest is the history of disability in the United States. His research and teaching explore how the cultural meanings of disabilities have changed over time, with particular interest in how the concept of disability can shed light on our understanding of such topics as nativism, eugenics, racial stereotyping, gender roles, and ideas of progress and decline, civilization and nature.

Doug’s first book, Forbidden Signs: American Culture and the Campaign against Sign Language (1996), is a cultural history of debates over American Sign Language and the meaning of deafness in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His second, Through Deaf Eyes: A Photographic History (2007), the companion volume to a PBS documentary film, explores and reinterprets American history from the perspective of the Deaf community. He is the author of numerous articles on the history of disability and is currently writing a book on the concept of "defective persons" in the making of American immigration policy since the nineteenth century.

Doug serves on the Editorial Board of Sign Language Studies and Disability Studies Quarterly. He has served as a consultant and on-air commentator for an award-winning PBS documentary, "Through Deaf Eyes" and for a National Public Radio broadcast, "Beyond Affliction: The Disability History Project." He is currently an advisor for a PBS documentary film biography in development,"Becoming Helen Keller," and for the online Disability History Museum (

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