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Contesting ableist narratives in Egyptology: a theoretical recalibration of 'disability' in ancient Egypt

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posted on 2022-10-06, 04:41 authored by Hannah VogelHannah Vogel

Bodily differences, congenital or acquired impairments, ‘disabilities’, genetic conditions and diseases have been a constant phenomenon in human existence, across cultures and throughout time. Yet, ‘disability’ has been largely understudied and undertheorised within the research agendas of some ancient societies, particularly ancient Egypt. Despite the reality of physical variation, much Egyptological research to-date has neglected theoretical engagement in considering the histories and lived experiences of people with potentially disabling conditions, resulting in a predominance of ableist narratives. This observation stands in contrast to other historical disciplines across broader ancient world contexts which have successfully engaged with Disability Studies (DS), Critical Disability Studies (CDS) and embodiment theories. As a means to begin to address this imbalance, this Master of Research employs a historiographical approach to explore the origins and development of Egyptological narratives pertaining to ‘disability’. Further to this, it proposes a way forward via robust theoretical engagement with DS, CDS, embodiment theory and interdisciplinary collaboration. Such an approach is required in order to recalibrate the prevailing ableist tone and direction of some Egyptological research regarding ‘disability’ and people with bodily differences, as well as encourage future research to be more temporally, culturally and socially nuanced and contextualised. 


Table of Contents

1 Introduction -- 2 Methodology -- 3 Egyptological studies of bodily differences and ‘disability’ -- 4 Non-Egyptological studies of bodily differences and ‘disabilities’ in the ancient world -- 5 Discussion -- 6 Conclusions and opportunities for further study -- 7 Bibliography


A thesis presented for the degree of Master of Research in Faculty of Arts

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Department of History and Archaeology, 2020

Department, Centre or School

Department of History and Archaeology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ronika Power

Additional Supervisor 1

Alexandra Woods


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




106 pages

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