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Grant number: FEL-257639-18

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Beth Linker
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA 19104-6205)

Slouch: The Hidden History of America's Poor Posture Epidemic

Research and writing of a book on the rise and fall of the American poor posture epidemic in the 20th century and its impact on science, medicine, government, and industry.

Slouch charts the rise and fall of the American poor posture epidemic in the 20th century. By taking seriously the existence of non-contagious disease outbreaks, my project has much to tell us about the changing nature and meaning of epidemics in the last 100 years. Slouch demonstrates the ways in which, in a century of increasing “germ panic,” more conventional notions of hygiene, social contagion, and bodily stigmata became reformulated within a biomedical framework. With this book, I bring the history of epidemics—often focused solely on communicable and deadly diseases—into conversation with critical disability and race studies, chronicity, medical colonialism, commercialism, and domestic therapeutics. In the end, I argue that the anti-slouching campaign normalized and paved the way for many other non-contagious epidemics (e.g. obesity, ADHD, depression); it also encouraged a redefinition of citizenship that relied on biometrics and the quantified self.

Project fields:
Cultural History; History of Science; U.S. History


Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2019 – 12/31/2019