[category, uc davis events]
Ryan Lee Cartwright (American Studies and faculty in PFS) will be presenting his project on “None too stout”: Disability, Masculinity, and Anxiety at a 1960s West Virginia Welfare Office"
Monday Mar 7, Noon, Wright 220
Please RSVP using this Pizza link: http://goo.gl/forms/hhxF63QsEU
When the War on Poverty was launched in 1964, its architects were well aware that disability and poverty were intertwined. When President Lyndon B. Johnson took two “poverty tours” to drum up support for the program, his administration deliberately sought disabled white men with families to serve as “noble” exemplars of those for whom the programs were intended. In practice, however, many of the government programs that emerged from Johnson’s poverty legislation, such as the Job Corps, explicitly excluded people with physical and mental disabilities (as well as “homosexuals” and sometimes women). Navigating the programs and one’s eligibility was quite a complicated affair, particularly for people experiencing deep and sustained poverty, with little education or access to transportation. This paper examines the entanglement of disability, masculinity, and anxiety by analyzing the bureaucratic archive of the Action for Appalachian Youth (AAY). AAY was a local organization founded in Charleston, West Virginia that served as a demonstration program for the federal War on Poverty. Within this archive, I focus on a particular interaction between a social worker and one of her clients as they visited the local welfare office and attempted to sign up for assistance. Thus, I look not only at the alarming contradiction between the place of disability in the rhetoric of the War on Poverty versus its actual policies, but also at the deep personal despair caused by the seemingly mundane experience of applying for assistance programs, be they “welfare,” food stamps, or work training programs. In doing so, I read the West Virginia welfare office as a “kairotic space” (Margaret Price, 2011) that often unnerved poor, rural men as they were forced to render their complex lives into the simple “yes or no” boxes – disabled or not, married or not, employed or not – of the government’s aid forms.