Claiming Disability

Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity

Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 203
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  • Book Info
    Claiming Disability
    Book Description:

    From public transportation and education to adequate access to buildings, the social impact of disability has been felt everywhere since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. And a remarkable groundswell of activism and critical literature has followed in this wake. Claiming Disability is the first comprehensive examination of Disability Studies as a field of inquiry. Disability Studies is not simply about the variations that exist in human behavior, appearance, functioning, sensory acuity, and cognitive processing but the meaning we make of those variations. With vivid imagery and numerous examples, Simi Linton explores the divisions society creates - the normal versus the pathological, the competent citizen versus the ward of the state. Map and manifesto, Claiming Disability overturns medicalized versions of disability and establishes disabled people and their allies as the rightful claimants to this territory.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6504-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Michael Bérubé

    In the years and decades to come, inside academe and outside, “claiming disability” is sure to become one of the most politically sensitive endeavors a body can undertake. That’s partly because the U.S. population will be gradually aging, and with age comes a certain vulnerability to the fleshy frailties of body and mind; but it’s also becausedisabilitywill have so multifarious and indeterminate a meaning in U.S. culture, regardless of how old our average citizen may be. For “disability” is the most labile and pliable of categories: it names thousands of human conditions and varieties of impairment, from the...

    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-7)

    It was, at one time, seamless. There were no disjunctures between the dominant cultural narrative of disability and the academic narrative. They supported and defended each other. But in the past twenty years, as the flaws in the civic response to disability have been exposed, as changing social structures and legislative victories reassemble that narrative, the academic tale slips further behind. It neither reflects the change that has occurred nor offers the space or the means to think in more progressive ways about disability.

    Enter disability studies: a location and a means to think critically about disability, a juncture that...

  6. (pp. 8-33)

    The present examination of disability has no need for the medical language of symptoms and diagnostic categories. Disability studies looks to different kinds of signifiers and the identification of different kinds of syndromes for its material. The elements of interest here are the linguistic conventions that structure the meanings assigned to disability and the patterns of response to disability that emanate from, or are attendant upon, those meanings.

    The medical meaning-making was negotiated among interested parties who packaged their version of disability in ways that increased the ideas’ potency and marketability. The disability community has attempted to wrest control of...

    (pp. 34-70)

    It is in the formal and informal, the explicit and the tacit, the overt and the covert that society works to divide up the human community and oppress some of its members. The above example of public rules and private thoughts (revealed in the safety of anonymity) may not seem to have much force. Federal law prohibits such discrimination, and public expression of these sentiments would be scorned in many circles and the speakers branded as unsympathetic or uncharitable, not to mention unsophisticated. But the underlying ethos has not dissolved with shifting practices; it remains a virulent force with new...

    (pp. 71-116)

    The gates of the institutions and sheltered dwellings that have housed disabled people over the centuries have been opened. The critical gaze of our newly minted citizens, unaccounted for all these years, is now trained on the dominant narratives. Through their eyes, we see the replication and justification of social practices in our intellectual traditions. This chapter provides a disability reading of those traditions, as well as a discussion of the obstacles to meaningful inquiry.

    Butler and Walters (1991) note that decisions about curriculum transformation are based, in part, on the answer to the question “Are these ignored, distorted, subordinated...

    (pp. 117-131)

    As with many of the new interdisciplinary fields, creating the category “disability studies” didn’t create the scholarship. Instead, the name organizes and circumscribes a knowledge base that explains the social and political nature of the ascribed category, disability. The formal establishment of the field provided a structure for research and theory across the disciplines focused on disability as a social phenomenon, a perspective largely ignored or misrepresented in the curriculum.

    The social, political, and cultural analyses undertaken by disability studies form a prism through which one can gain a broader understanding of society and human experience, and the significance of...

    (pp. 132-156)

    The border between what is considered disability studies and what is not is fixed at different points by different authors and researchers. Although it is unlikely that anyone would suggest that there be an absolute boundary, efforts to circumscribe the domain and to anticipate the consequences of limitless permeability across the borders are worthwhile. In this chapter, I am concerned with providing a coherent rationale for marking a border, setting off disability studies as a socio-political-cultural examination of disability from the interventionist approaches that characterize the dominant traditions in the study of disability.

    The field of disability studies arose, in...

    (pp. 157-183)

    Every year increasing numbers of students, both disabled and nondisabled, are entering college from primary and secondary schools where mainstreamed classrooms are common. Future incoming students will have been part of inclusive classrooms, where not only a few high-performing physically disabled children but a spectrum of students with significant cognitive, emotional, and physical and sensory disabilities will all be part of the central, core culture of the school.

    Of course, there’s not going to be an instant transformation, but I do think that disabled and nondisabled students will be used to one another, and used to working together in ways...

  12. 8 EPILOGUE
    (pp. 184-186)

    Covenants of the type Socrates described depend on both parties’ agreeing to conform to social expectations, and depend on those witnessing the pact to suspend critical judgment. Socrates understood that sometimes the truth is kept secret in order not to upset the social order. The order rests on a simplified and reassuring version of the world. If giants cannot be counted on to be strong, and pygmies to be vulnerable and weak, we have to entertain the possibility of greater complexity and contradiction in all manner of other ideas as well. Indeed, what is compelling for me about Plato’s tale,...

    (pp. 187-200)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 201-203)
    (pp. 204-204)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-205)