Director Michael Rembis, a white man with short, dark hair wearing a dark sweater and scarf against a gray portrait background, smiling at the camera.

Michael A. Rembis

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); Disabling Domesticity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016); and Disability: A Reference Handbook (ABC-CLIO, 2019). 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, Writing Mad Lives - in the Age of the Asylum. Rembis is the lead editor and author on the New York City Department of Education Hidden Voices Project, Perspectives of Americans with Disabilities.

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, the Organization of American Historians Committee on Disability and Disability History, 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.

You can find a list of Dr. Rembis' publications, including PDFs of chapters and articles, on his Academia website.

Reviews of Selected Publications:

Disability Histories

Honorable Mention, Best Book Award, Disability History Association, 2016.

"This book will be instantly recognized for what it is: a much-needed sampling of the best scholarship in a field that has grown tremendously over the past decade. It is a gem." --Lauri Umansky, coeditor of The New Disability History: American Perspectives

"This volume is a must read for both medical and disability historians. Unlike previous anthologies, Disability Histories takes seriously both the commonalities and differences between the two fields, and urges readers to see each as necessary to the other." --Social History of Medicine

"Disability Histories fills a much-needed vacuum in disability studies… Fascinating and compelling." --The Journal of American History

"A formidable collection of essays. The contributions show that disability is a construct central to society. They invite us to carry out further research in disability history using some of the new methods and sources proposed in order to approach historically more experiences of disabled communities outside North America and Western Europe, such as, for example, the experiences of people contracting poliomyelitis and their sequelae in cultural backgrounds as different as those of Asia and Africa."--H-Net Reviews

"A great resource for disability scholars and activists and a very good scholarly contribution. This is an important book." --Steve Noll, author of Feeble-Minded in Our Midst: Institutions for the Mentally Retarded in the South, 1900–1940

"Invites readers from the public and academia to investigate the wider claim that disability is a construct central to society and scholarship as a whole. This collection will be welcomed by many." --Robert M. Buchanan, author of Illusions of Equality: Deaf Americans in School and Factory, 1850–1950

Defining Deviance

"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

Disabling Domesticity

“This superb collection of essaysbrings readers to the threshold of multiple sites of disability oppression and resistance and promises to destabilize our taken for granted relations to family, home, and community while nurturing new possibilities of belonging.  Throughout Disabling Domesticity, readers will experience a pedagogy of relationality where we are invited to reconsider what sort of lives with disability we have created together.” - Tanya Titchkosky, Professor of Social Justice Education, OISE of the University of Toronto, Canada, and the author of “The Question of Access: Disability, Space, Meaning and Reading and Writing Disability Differently: The Texured Life of Embodiment and Disability, Self and Society”

“This important book shifts disability studies in a needed direction: it examines the understudied and often maligned “private” domestic spaces and interactions.  Most significant, Disabling Domesticity shows why the disability rights movement needs to re-think the primacy of “independence” and to recognize and value interdependence.  Filled with illuminating and intimate accounts and critical analysis.” - Leslie J. Reagan, Professor of History, Medicine, Law, Gender, and Women's Studies University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, USA, and the author of “Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in America”

“This book accomplishes all that an anthology should and more, bringing together diverse voices and perspectives to offer fresh insights with each chapter. The fascinating range of topics and fields, each delivering compelling arguments, together form a unique and important pathway to reformulating our ideas of family, home, and domesticity in light of disability studies. The kitchen table, the American dream home, and motherhood are among the icons that emerge with new meaning and potential as we see the power of disability theory to deconstruct and re-imagine our social world.” - Allison C. Carey, Professor of Sociology and Disability Studies at Shippensburg University, USA, and the author of “On the Margins of Citizenship: Intellectual Disability and Civil Rights in 20th Century America”

“From the design of thresholds to the shape of kinship, the essays in this volume bring critical disability studies to bodies, ideas, and spaces marked ‘private.’ ‘The home’ has never been a comfortable place for bodyminds disabled by narrowly normative standards and narrowly built doors – and the binary public/private has put us in our place for far too long. These essays energetically analyze the workings of that logic, and work to envision futures built along different lines.” - Christina Crosby, Professor of English and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Wesleyan University, USA, and the author of “A Body, Undone: Living on After Great Pain”