I argue that Ann Petry in her novel The Street (1946) portrays chronic illness, disfigurement, and disability as embodied effects of racism resulting from labor exploitation, crowded and unsafe housing conditions, and lack of access to nourishing food and respectful, thorough, and effective health care. Further, Petry conveys that Western medicine (as practiced in the United States) reproduces and maintains white supremacy through mechanisms including how treatment resources are allocated, how medical institutions collaborate with law enforcement officials and institutions, and how medical professionals and spaces authorize the objectification of Black bodies. Some of the conditions Petry portrays as disabling are not recognized by Western medicine or measured in health disparities research; other conditions, Petry shows, are misrecognized by those discourses. Thus, Petry’s novel challenges the medical model of disability while also urging a more expansive understanding of what should be recognized as an embodied effect of racism.


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