Dr. Jaipreet Virdi
Born in Kuwait to Sikh parents, Virdi lost her hearing at age four to bacterial meningitis.
By age six, her working-class family immigrated to Toronto, Ontario where she would later attend a school for deaf and hard-of-hearing children. A product of “mainstreamed” education, Dr. Virdi learned to lip-read and rely on her hearing aids. She attended public high schools, then received her Bachelors’ degree in the philosophy of science from York University. After graduation, she worked in marketing and fashion merchandising before deciding to return to school for graduate study. She received first her masters, then her doctorate, from the University of Toronto, focusing on the history of medicine and technology. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Delaware.
An award-winning historian, Dr. Virdi’s research focuses on the ways medicine and technology impact the lived experiences of disabled people. Her first book, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History merges history and memoir to raise important questions about deafness in American society and the endless quest for a cure. The book received the 2021 Hughes Prize from the British Society for the History of Science and the 2022 Welch Medial from the American Association for the History of Medicine.
Dr. Virdi has written numerous public history essays on topics relating to disability, including: medicalization, the design and transformation of hearing aids, the impact of over-the-counter hearing aids and the FDA, disability and fashion, disability design, eugenics and disability politics, and on endometriosis. She is currently completing her second book, The Problems of Deafness, exploring how ear specialists influenced educational, progressive, and eugenicist programs to address deafness. In addition, Dr. Virdi is writing An Invisible Epidemic, a study of endometriosis based on her own experiences with the disease within the context of gender bias in medicine.
A seasoned public speaker, Dr. Virdi has delivered keynotes on histories of medical inequities, social injustice, disability rights, and contemporary issues of technological accessibility as well as her personal experiences of deafness and growing up as a deaf Sikh.
The Edge of Silence: Shaping the Deaf Citizen in Mid-Century America
My braids don’t hide my ears: Growing up as a Deaf Sikh
Protest & Pride: A (Short) History of Disability Activism
Eugenical Standards: Measuring the Science of Disability
Deaf Futurity: Designing the Hearing Aid
PAINCAGE: A Legacy of Endometriosis Activism
Science Friday interview: https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/history-deafness-cures/
Interview on Public Books: https://www.publicbooks.org/public-thinker-jaipreet-virdi-on-disability-history-deaf-futures/
Recorded lecture on Gendering Deafness: https://capture.udel.edu/media/Virdi_Gendering+Deafness_Captioned/1_do4tbs9j/188041673