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Jaipreet Virdi in her office

Office Hours

A visit to the office of UD history professor, Jaepreet Virdi

Jaipreet Virdi was just 4 years old when a bout of meningitis left her almost totally deaf and struggling to adjust to her new reality and to society’s perceptions.

Over the years, her experience fueled a personal and a professional passion to examine how hearing loss has been viewed throughout history, both medically and in popular culture.

Now an assistant professor of history at UD with a doctorate in the history of science, technology and medicine, Virdi has developed a scholarly specialization in disability studies. “Technology is still my favorite topic,” she says. “I ask: How do you personalize technology? From eyeglasses to hearing aids to your iPhone? The answer is that people tinker with the technology they wear on their bodies to make it theirs.”

Her students like to tinker, too. They drop by her office with academic questions and often hang out for a while, testing out the audiometer, examining the prosthetic leg and—everyone’s favorite—assembling the “Visible Woman” clear plastic model with removable body parts and organs.

Looking over these collections may be entertaining, but all the items serve a serious purpose as Virdi pursues her many research, writing, teaching and public outreach activities.

Her first book, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History, will be published in May by the University of Chicago Press, and she’s already at work on two other books, one about what it means to be deaf and the other a biography of an early scholar of disability. She also is continuing her work on “Objects of Disability,” an online resource database of historical artifacts used or made by Canadians with disabilities.

Virdi’s work has been recognized by the Forum for History of Human Science, which presented her its 2019 Early Career Award.

Take a look at some of the items in Virdi's office.

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