Abstract

"No person who is diseased, maimed, or deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object shall expose himself to public view." My research on this municipal ordinance (often called the "ugly law"), a nineteenth-century statute adopted in many U.S. cities, showed me the extent to which U.S. immigration law has been ugly law writ large. The body politic of American democratic citizenry binds itself together through an internal logic that, even as it attempts to manage the incorporation of disabled subjects, drives disability down or assumes it away. But it has never done so decisively, and never without contradiction. Native American history gives us an especially valuable frame for thinking through questions of American citizenship and the ways in which it intertwines with disability, since it reveals so clearly the dizzying array of contestations and confusions about who "has" citizenship and what responsibilities the state has to those who do not. This essay centers on a Yavapai man who lived in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century in a vortex of conflict about citizenship: Carlos Montezuma, physician and a prominent Native American intellectual, cofounder of the National Society of American Indians, and radical critic of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I explore some of the ways in which Montezuma developed not only (shifting) theories of citizenship but also theories of disability based on what he called "the standpoint of actual circumstance," ideas that speak to our understandings of the body of the citizen today.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 417-442
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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