Leah Samples

Ph.D. Candidate, History and Sociology of Science Department, University of Pennsylvania

2021 to 2022
Dissertation Fellow

Visual Citizenry: The State, Technology, and Blindness in New Deal America and Beyond

"Visual Citizenry" examines the management and construction of blindness in early-to-mid twentieth-century America from the New Deal to the end of World War II, focusing on the many imbrications between technical knowledge systems and federal policy toward the blind. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the constitution of blindness in America, this dissertation puts into conversation pivotal legislative moments for the blind like the passing of the Social Security Act of 1935, specifically Title X: Grants to States for Aid to the Blind, and the Barden LaFollette Act (Vocational Rehabilitation Amendments) with critical stakeholders like policymakers, social researchers, illumination engineers, ophthalmologists, and statisticians. This project expands the study of how expert knowledge became a tool for the management and production of disability, blindness in this case, for an array of professionals and even those with faulty sight themselves. Samples' argues that we can use these historically situated scientific networks to draw the links between technical knowledge forms, legal infrastructures, and disability. For this project, Samples has received grants from the Linda Hall Library, theĀ American Historical Association, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, and the University of Alabama.