EU Project: CGDS Deputy Director Interviews Karen Hagrup

On Wednesday, April 29th, 2020. Dr. Lynn Rose, Deputy Director at CGDS, spoke with Dr. Karen Hagrup, a pioneer of disability studies.

This podcast was created by the Center for Gender and Development Studies with funding from the European Union. On Wednesday, April 29th, 2020. Dr. Lynn Rose, Deputy Director at CGDS, spoke with Dr. Karen Hagrup, a pioneer of disability studies. Disability studies is now part of the academic landscape, but was unheard of in the 1970s, and in the 1980s it was very new and barely known. Even in the 1990s, very few academics had heard of it. Disability studies posits that disability is a characteristic like any other — brown hair or blue eyes—and that, at the same time, disability has been culturally constructed in such a way as to position people with disabilities as a minority. Dr. Hagrup was born in Norway, and emigrated to the United States in 1970. She earned her terminal degree in education in 1983, and taught at Truman State University, in the United States, until 1996. She has founded two independent living centers, published in disability studies, served as an advocate of disability rights and women’s rights, and raised two daughters. She currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her partner of 17 years.

Dr. Hagrup began by speaking of her early childhood in Norway, including her memories of  encouragement and discouragement around her disability. She went on to talk about how her life has shifted to perceive disability as a positive and empowering feature, and then about how she came to think of disability as a category of historical inquiry. She named some role models in her life—people who shaped her outlook on disability rights—and discussed being discriminated against in the workplace because of her disability, and her response to that, especially in terms of the interplay between disability and gender. The podcast ended with a question about the documentary video “Max and the Magic Pill,” in which Max is asked this question: if he could swallow a pill to remove his disability, would he? Dr. Hagrup responded to that question: if she had her life to live over again, would she choose to live it without a disability?