Michael Rembis is the Director of the Center for Disability Studies and an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). Rembis has authored or edited many books, articles, and book chapters, including: Defining Deviance: Sex, Science, and Delinquent Girls, 1890-1960 (University of Illinois Press, 2011/2013); Disability Histories co-edited with Susan Burch (University of Illinois Press, 2014); The Oxford Handbook of Disability History co-edited with Catherine Kudlick and Kim Nielsen (Oxford University Press, 2018); and Disabling Domesticity(Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). In 2012, Rembis and co-editor Kim Nielsen launched the Disability Histories book series with University of Illinois Press. His research interests include the history of institutionalization, mad people's history, and the history of eugenics. He is currently working on a book entitled, 'A Secret Worth Knowing': Living Mad Lives in the Shadow of the Asylum.
Since completing a PhD in history, Rembis has worked with colleagues throughout the world to expand and solidify the fields of disability history and disability studies. He is a co-founder of the Disability Studies Initiative at the University of Arizona, where he helped to create undergraduate curricula in Disability Studies. He was a visiting scholar at the University of Notre Dame, where he participated in their Disability Studies Forum. In Buffalo, Rembis was fortunate to benefit from a close collaboration with David Gerber (Distinguished Professor of History [retired 2012/2014]). They worked together to expand the UB Center for Disability Studies (founded 2009) by creating a formal master's (MA) degree concentration in Disability Studies (2011) and a graduate certificate in Disability Studies (2014), as well as the Center's oral history project. Rembis has served on the American Historical Association's Committee on Disability and the Board of Directors of the Society for Disability Studies (2011-2014). He was elected Vice President of the Society for Disability Studies in 2013 and President in 2014. The Organization of American Historians honored Rembis by naming him a Distinguished Lecturer in 2014. In 2015, Rembis was named to the Fulbright Roster of Specialists.
"Defining Deviance is at its best when Rembis turns to the lives of the young women caught up in Geneva. He combines a clear eye for archival material with a palpable empathy for the girls whose lives were altered, and sometimes destroyed, by the self-righteous treatment they received at the hands of reformers."-Journal of the History of Sexuality
"[Defining Deviance] is a small book about an important topic. Rembis provides a window into the quotidian workings of an institution designed for the social control of females labeled as deviant or defective. His examination of the interplay among patients, their families, and [the Illinois State Training School at] Geneva is both nuanced and thorough. . . .Rembis has produced a valuable work that bridges the gaps among scholars who study disability history, intellectual history, and public policy history."-American Historical Review
"Defining Deviance is a welcome addition to Disability Studies literature. Rembis's... gripping first-hand narratives coupled with compelling statistics. . . . robust research, careful methodology, and keen analyses make this book a worthwhile read. Most importantly, Rembis remains rooted in the historical accounts of the girls from [the Illinois State Training School at] Geneva throughout the book. He avoids facile theorizing, favoring instead the complexity of lived experience. In the end, this disquieting disability history calls for its readers to challenge the unchecked scientific dogmas of their own time."-Disability & Society
"An excellent history of the involuntary commitment of delinquent girls. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice
"[Defining Deviance] brings to life new material on the policing of adolescent female sexuality and provides a new perspective on the rise of the therapeutic state."--Social Service Review
"Rembis rightly and bravely uses the example of female delinquency to make sharp historical and contemporary analyses of eugenics and disability. The smart, analytical, and broad historical context Rembis provides will elicit marvelous student discussions of questions of gender, power, deviance, and historical change."--Kim E. Nielsen, author of Beyond the Miracle Worker: The Remarkable Life of Anne Sullivan Macy and Her Extraordinary Friendship With Helen Keller