Blind Activism in the Cold War

This week’s podcast is a recording of a live interview I did with Maria Cristina Galmarini for the Keynote session at the Aging, Disability and Health in Socialist Europe and Beyond Workshop held in late March at the University of Pittsburgh.

Disability activism developed in the second half of the twentieth century in a world divided by the Cold War. While the history of how Western activists learned to speak in the language of civil rights is well documented and publicly celebrated, the legacies of activists from the socialist countries have been largely erased after the collapse of the communist governments in 1989-1991. This interview with Maria Cristina Galmarini gives a more complete history of the international disability movement by focusing on blind activists from the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic, their philosophies and practices, and how the socialist side shaped global disability advocacy during the Cold War.


Maria Cristina Galmarini is Associate Professor of History and Global Studies at William & Mary College where she researches the history of disability under socialism. She’s the author of The Right to Be Helped. Deviance, Entitlement, and the Soviet Moral Order. She is currently finishing a book titled Ambassadors of Social Progress. A History of International Blind Activism During the Cold War.


Morrissey, “Yes, I am Blind.”