GUIDE DOG PARTNERSHIPS, MASCULINITY AND THE POLITICS OF (INTER)DEPENDENCE IN DEPRESSION-ERA AMERICA*

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Abstract

This article explores an intersection between the history of disability and the history of animals through a critical examination of disability, gender, cross-species relationships and conceptions of normalcy and (inter)dependence. Using the guide dog movement in Depression-era America as a case study, the article investigates the specific cultural and structural conditions of possibility that shaped perceptions of the efficacy of using dogs as guides. In Depression-era America, guide dog advocates, including owners, emphasized how these dogs enabled their human partners to meet the social mandates of integration and an array of normative codes. In a culture ideologically opposed to human-to-human dependence, and preoccupied with the liberating power of self-help, guide dog owners found success and meaning through a relationship based on mutual dependence: a kind of independence through mutual dependence and mutual care. While the advocates of guide dog partnerships did not necessarily upset the dictates of American individualism or challenge wider ableist beliefs about disability, they reconceptualised what it meant to be an American but also being dependent meant for all.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalHistorical Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Dec 2019