Professor of Sociology and Politics of Rehabilitation, Disability Studies
Director of iDiS – International research unit Disability Studies
Member of the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation at the Faculty of Human Sciences, University of Cologne, Germany
Professor Waldschmidt studied social sciences in Bremen, Germany, and Edinburgh, Scotland (1978-84). She has worked as a social worker for a non-governmental charity organisation (1985-88), at the German Parliament as a scientific consultant in the field of genetic and reproductive technologies for the Green Party (1988-91), and as a research fellow at the University of Siegen (1992-95). In 1995 she received her Ph.D. (Dr. rer. pol.) from Bremen University, funded by the private foundation Hans-Böckler-Stiftung. Her thesis “The Subject in Human Genetics: Expert Discourses on the Agendas and Concepts for Human Genetic Counseling 1945-1990” was published as a book in 1996. She undertook post- doctoral research at the Universities of Siegen and Dortmund (1996-2000), where her research projects about self-determination as a paradigm in disability policy, and disability and the process of flexible normalization were funded by the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the German Research Foundation. Her second book “Self-Determination as a Construction: Subjective Theories of Women and Men with Disabilities” was published in 1999 (Second, revised edition in 2012).
In 2000-02 she served as a Professor of Social Sciences at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences Nuremberg. In 2002 she was appointed to a professorship of Sociology of Disability at the University of Cologne. In 2004 Professor Waldschmidt established iDiS, the International research unit Disability Studies. In December 2008 the Faculty of Human Sciences at the University of Cologne renamed her position and the new chair of “Sociology and Politics of Rehabilitation, Disability Studies” makes it the first of its kind in Disability Studies in German-speaking countries.
In May, 2008 Professor Waldschmidt was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Biomedicine & Society, King’s College, London (UK). From October to December of 2008 she was guest professor at the Department of Special Education, University of Stockholm (Sweden), and during the summer term of 2010 she was visiting research professor at the Centre for Disability Studies, University of Leeds (UK). In the summer term 2011 Professor Waldschmidt was visiting professor at the University of Vienna (Austria).
Professor Waldschmidt is a founding member of the “Center for Diversity Studies”, and a member of the interdisciplinary “Center for Gender Studies”, both at the University of Cologne. She is also founding member of the working group “Disability Studies in Germany” and an early member of the Academic Network of European Disability experts (ANED). She is also member of the German Sociological Association, and the Society for Disability Studies. She is an elected member of several scientific and advisory boards, and a reviewer for national and international journals. In 2007 she established the scientific book series “Disability Studies”, together with Professor Thomas Macho, Professor Werner Schneider, and Heike Zirden, in cooperation with the publisher Transcript. From 2018 until 2023 she is member of the Scientific Committee of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), Vienna. She is also the editor of the first German-language Handbook of Disability Studies, published by Springer in 2022.
Her research focuses on sociological aspects of human genetics and reproductive technologies; bio-politics and autonomy; normality, deviance, and disability; political participation, self-help organisations, and disability movements; health and social policy; disability policy in Europe and internationally; the sociology of knowledge; sociology of the body; gender studies, diversity studies; discourse analysis and qualitative empirical research. Professor Waldschmidt has written three books, one as co-author and two as sole author; she has (co-) edited five anthologies and a theme issue of a journal, and made over 200 contributions to books and journals. At international level she has given lectures in Amsterdam (NL), Basel (Switzerland), Bergen (Norway), Brno (Czech Republic), Chicago (USA), Fribourg (Switzerland), Iowa City (USA), Lancaster (UK), Leeds (UK), Leuven (Belgium), Linköping (Sweden), London (UK), Manchester (UK), Nynäshamn (Sweden ), Örebro (Sweden), Paris (France), Prague (Czech Republic), Stockholm (Sweden), Vienna (Austria) and other places.
Current research projects focus on “Dispositifs of Dis/ability in Transformation”, life course experiences of disabled persons, political participation and disability rights movements, national disability policies in European countries (Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, United Kingdom, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland), at the supranational level (European Union), and in the age of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The research projects are funded by private foundations or public money.