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Keywords for Disability Studies

Keywords for Disability Studies

Rachel Adams
Benjamin Reiss
David Serlin
Series: Keywords
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Keywords for Disability Studies
    Book Description:

    Keywords for Disability Studiesaims to broaden and define the conceptual framework of disability studies for readers and practitioners in the field and beyond. The volume engages some of the most pressing debates of our time, such as prenatal testing, euthanasia, accessibility in public transportation and the workplace, post-traumatic stress, and questions about the beginning and end of life.

    Each of the 60 essays inKeywords for Disability Studiesfocuses on a distinct critical concept, including "ethics," "medicalization," "performance," "reproduction," "identity," and "stigma," among others. Although the essays recognize that "disability" is often used as an umbrella term, the contributors to the volume avoid treating individual disabilities as keywords, and instead interrogate concepts that encompass different components of the social and bodily experience of disability. The essays approach disability as an embodied condition, a mutable historical phenomenon, and a social, political, and cultural identity.

    An invaluable resource for students and scholars alike,Keywords for Disability Studiesbrings the debates that have often remained internal to disability studies into a wider field of critical discourse, providing opportunities for fresh theoretical considerations of the field's core presuppositions through a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

    Visit for online essays, teaching resources, and more.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-1214-1
    Subjects: Law, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)
    Rachel Adams, Benjamin Reiss and David Serlin

    In 2005, Gallaudet University—the premier research and teaching institution for Deaf and hearingimpaired students in the world—began designing a new building, the James Lee Sorenson Sign Language and Communication Center. Instead of simply commissioning an architectural firm to do its work, administrators invited faculty and graduate students in the social sciences and humanities to help design the building, which was eventually completed in 2008. To this end, Dirksen Bauman, a Gallaudet faculty member who studies linguistics and critical theory, held a graduate seminar in 2006 entitled “Deaf Space.”

    Bauman worked with students to think about the political and...

  4. 1 Disability
    (pp. 5-11)
    Rachel Adams, Benjamin Reiss and David Serlin

    In the 2009 documentary filmMonica and David, Monica, a woman with Down syndrome, is asked to define the word “handicap.” She responds, “When someone is in a wheelchair,” adding that the term may also apply to people who cannot hear or walk. “It’s a sickness,” she concludes. When presented with the same question, her husband, David (who also has Down syndrome), says he does not have a handicap. Asked if he has Down syndrome, he answers, “Sometimes.” In this brief exchange, Monica and David exemplify the challenges of defining disability as a coherent condition or category of identity. Yet...

  5. 2 Ability
    (pp. 12-14)
    Fiona Kumari Campbell

    Disability studies scholars recognize that the term “ability” shapes our understanding of what it means to have a livable life. Although it is often treated as the antithesis of “disability,” ability has been used as a conceptual sledgehammer to determine and shape social status and caste on both an individual and a collective level. In effect, “ability” employs a judgment that establishes standards of body and mind that are actionable in the present or in projected futures.

    Today ability and disability are conjoined as a simple binary. In the past, the relationship was more fluid. Aristotle viewed “monstrous” bodies as...

  6. (pp. 14-17)
    Bess Williamson

    The noun form of the word “access”—meaning “the power, opportunity, permission, or right to come near or into contact with someone or something”—first appears in published texts in English as early as the 1300s. It has been used to characterize the relationship between the disabled body and the physical environment since the middle to late twentieth century. More specifically, it refers to efforts—most prominent in the United States—to reform architecture and technology to address diverse human abilities.

    In its most literal form, “access” describes the ability to enter into, move about within, and operate the facilities...

  7. 4 Accident
    (pp. 17-18)
    Jill C. Anderson

    “What happened to you?” The question from strangers to people with visible impairments suggests a popular fixation onaccidentas a cause of disability. It is as though the most important thing to know about disability is its genesis (Linton 2005 )—perhaps due to anxiety about whether or not “it could happen to me.” This narrow meaning of accident as unforeseen bodily trauma (as compared with illness, congenital trait, or aging) highlights one axis of diversity that both enriches and complicates disability studies.

    In a broader and more abstract sense, disability is often relegated to the category ofaccident:...

  8. 5 Accommodation
    (pp. 18-21)
    Elizabeth F. Emens

    “Accommodation” bears a more positive and powerful meaning in disability discourse than its roots in race and religion contexts would predict. In the history of U.S. racial politics, “accommodation” is a dirty word. Accounts of the early civil rights era used accommodation to refer to a brand of gradualism and compromise associated with Booker T. Washington—a position famously critiqued as “conciliation” by W. E. B. DuBois (1994; Myrdal 1944). But while racial accommodation evokes blacks accommodating the white majority, in the disability context accommodation means changing society in response to disability. The term has thus shifted radically in both...

  9. 6 Activism
    (pp. 21-25)
    Denise M. Nepveux

    Activism is a practice of, or orientation toward, taking action, often implying the context of a social or political movement. Although activism emphasizes collective action, an individual and his or her actions may be considered “activist” depending on their relationship to larger struggles. Disability activism refers to “collective political action by and for people with disabilities” (Barnes and Mercer 2010, 176), which contributes to “the continuing struggle of disabled people to gain a voice and to shape our destinies” (Longmore 2003, 231). The word “advocacy” is sometimes used interchangeably with activism, since a person may advocate on behalf of others....

  10. 7 Aesthetics
    (pp. 26-30)
    Michael Davidson

    Whether addressing ideas of beauty in nature or works of art, aesthetic judgments implicate disability insofar as they presume a normative standard of perception and an ideal of bodily perfection as the object of affective response. Although theories of taste and beauty have been in existence since Plato and Aristotle, the term “aesthetics” emerges centrally in the eighteenth century as a discourse about perception and feeling. For Immanuel Kant, for instance, an aesthetic judgment is distinct from one involving deductive reasoning or conceptual information concerning the object. He distinguishes between teleological and aesthetic judgments, the former of which concern objects,...

  11. 8 Affect
    (pp. 30-32)
    Lisa Cartwright

    “Affect,” a term understood by some to be synonymous with “feelings” and “emotion,” is associated with a set of theories that are useful for understanding somatic experiences that generate meaning outside the limits of signification and critical interpretation. The turn to theories of affect among writers including Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Adam Frank (1995b) and Brian Massumi (1995) was provoked by a sense that cultural theory had not adequately come to terms with forms of embodied feeling experienced outside the registers of speech, signification, communication, and meaning. A major catalyst of the “affective turn” (Clough 2007) was the publication, in...

  12. 9 Aging
    (pp. 33-34)
    Kathleen Woodward

    The biological process of growing older, human aging is almost always accompanied by limitations in physical capacities and, in many cases, diminution of mental acuity. In addition, aging is, like disability, both a biological and a cultural phenomenon that is inflected decisively by the social, legal, medical, statistical, and experiential meanings given to it. For example, old age may be defined by a society in chronological terms (in the United States, ages sixty-two and sixty-five mark eligibility for Social Security) and individually in psychological terms (someone may be seventy-five years old and “feel” fifty). In the United States and many...

  13. 10 Blindness
    (pp. 34-37)
    D. A. Caeton

    Blindness is a condition of the flesh as well as a signifying operation. William R. Paulson maintains that blindness “means very different things, and moreover it is very different things, at different times, different places, and in different kinds of writing” (1987, 4). Such a critical stance can lead the field of disability studies to analyze disability in a manner that reckons with both the ways that bodies are made accessible through language and the ways that bodies exceed language. The state of visual impairment long ago assumed a metaphoric plasticity, making literal blindness serve as a figurative marker for...

  14. 11 Citizenship
    (pp. 37-39)
    Allison Carey

    Although the disability rights movement (DRM) and the field of disability studies (DS) have emerged and blossomed together, the two have developed along slightly different trajectories. While the DRM has demanded the establishment of laws and policies that treat people with disabilities as equal and valued citizens, DS has created the intellectual and creative groundwork to reimagine disability not as a biological defect but as a valued form of human variation that exists within and is deeply affected by its social context. Because the DRM uses rights as its organizing framework, it is not surprising that citizenship and rights are...

  15. 12 Cognition
    (pp. 40-42)
    Ralph James Savarese

    To understand the relationship between cognition and disability, let us appeal to the concept of “situated cognition” in cognitive neuroscience. The field of disability studies attends, after all, to the situatedness, or social construction, of disability. The two branches of situated cognition—embodiedandembedded—can help to illuminate how a different kind of body and a different kind of environment generate a different kind of thought.Embodied cognitionrepairs the traditional mind-body divide, whereasembedded cognitionreveals the extent to which we all depend on our physical and social environments to think. The former thus blurs the line between...

  16. 13 Communication
    (pp. 43-45)
    Carol Padden

    The word “communication” first appeared in 1422 , according to theOxford English Dictionary, and was used to refer to “interpersonal contact, social interaction, association.” By the sixteenth century, the word had acquired another sense: “the transmission or exchange of information, knowledge or ideas.” The plural form, “communications,” was introduced in 1907, to refer to transmission by way of machine or technology. Even in this technological sense, however, the notion of communication implies a transmission of information from one biological entity to a similar one. In recent years, technologies and techniques of communication associated with disability are transforming all of...

  17. 14 Crip
    (pp. 46-48)
    Victoria Ann Lewis

    “Crip” is the shortened, informal form of the word “cripple.” One finds it in slang usage by the early twentieth century, often in the underworld language associated with begging—such as “he was a phony crip.” The word also occurs as a nickname based on a defining physical characteristic, such as the novelist Owen Wister’s 1893 reference to a lame character shot in the leg as Crip Jones (“Crip” 1994, 522). During the 1920s, “ crip” became a slang synonym for “easy,” both in sports and in collegiate registers: a “baseball crip” was an easy pitch, while a “crip course”...

  18. 15 Deafness
    (pp. 48-51)
    Douglas C. Baynton

    Deafness is not what it used to be. Nor has it ever been just one thing, but many. Typically it refers to those who cannot understand speech through hearing alone, with or without amplification. Colloquially, it may also refer to any hearing impairment, as when a person is described as “a little deaf.” Professionals in education and communication sciences distinguish prelingual from postlingual deafness, in recognition of their different implications for speech and language learning. Within the deaf community, in contrast, the term “deaf,” as well as its signed equivalent, usually refers to people who identify culturally as deaf, and...

  19. 16 Deformity
    (pp. 52-54)
    Helen Deutsch

    Before modern conceptions of “disability” and the scientific “norms” that defined it, “deformity” demarcated and degraded physical difference. Defined by theOxford English Dictionaryas “the quality or condition of being marred or disfigured in appearance; disfigurement, unsightliness, ugliness,” deformity has roots in both the embodied realm of the aesthetic and the figurative realm of the moral. “Deformity” reigned supreme in the eighteenth century, that great age of satire, caricature, and sanctioned laughter at cripples (Dickie 2011; Lund 2005). This was also the age of classification, in which differences of sex and race were invented and delineated. In an age...

  20. 17 Dependency
    (pp. 54-58)
    Eva Feder Kittay

    When the failed 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney called 47 percent of the U.S. population “dependent,” the remark was widely perceived as an insult significant enough to negatively influence the outcome of his presidential bid. Yet if we step back, we well might ask why humans, who belong to a thoroughly social species, so despise dependence. Dependence on others allows for needed care, knowledge, culture, technology, and political, social, and economic goods—the sine qua non of human life in any era. A reliance on government services counts as a primary advantage of a modern, relatively wellordered state. We might...

  21. 18 Design
    (pp. 59-60)
    Christina Cogdell

    Disability is an ever-present human condition, an integral part of the continuum of every individual’s life. Because everyone will be disabled at some point, disability is not a condition of a minority market (Davis 1995, 2002). Yet designing for disability is often regarded as a specialty area among architects or product designers, who often have to work within legal constraints, such as the building accessibility guidelines set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in order to accommodate the needs of disabled individuals. Prior to the ADA, the work of very few architects and designers considered sensory impairments or...

  22. 19 Diversity
    (pp. 61-64)
    Lennard J. Davis

    What is diversity? Its message is beguilingly simple and effective. Humans come in a variety of formats—with differing genders, skin tones, hair color and types, eye shapes, and sizes in the realm of physical differences, and diverse languages, religions, nationalities, and lifestyles in the realm of social differences. While diversity acknowledges the unique identity of such peoples, it also stresses that despite differences, we are all the same—that is, we are all humans with equal rights and privileges. No one group is better or superior to another.

    Disability would seem naturally to fall under the rubric of diversity....

  23. 20 Education
    (pp. 64-67)
    Margaret Price

    Scholars of disability studies (DS) who engage the topic of education tend to struggle with its chimerical nature: sometimes “schools” are abusive prisons, sometimes pathways toward greater social justice, and it is not always easy to tell the difference. While contemporary theories of DS education tend to point toward hopeful developments such as inclusivity and participatory design, scholars are also aware that certain features of asylums of the nineteenth century lingered in classrooms of the twentieth and even twenty-first centuries. This history and the wide variety of current educational theories lead DS scholars to conclude that “normality is a shifting...

  24. 21 Embodiment
    (pp. 67-70)
    Abby Wilkerson

    One of the earliest goals of disability studies was to expose the various methods by which some bodies are marked as different and deviant while others are marked as normal. Disability studies scholarship focused on medicalization, rehabilitation, segregation, institutionalization, sterilization, and genocide demonstrated how such practices were instrumental to ideas of normalization and deviance. More recently, however, disability scholarship and disability culture more broadly have turned away from forces of institutionalization or medicalization to explore the relationship between disability and the concept of “embodiment.” Embodiment is a way of thinking about bodily experience that is not engaged solely with recovering...

  25. 22 Ethics
    (pp. 70-74)
    Rebecca Garden

    Ethics is a field of philosophical inquiry that investigates questions of just or right actions and what sort of life is considered good. Ethics addresses individual experiences of goodness in life and individual moral actions, as well as the morality of the collective: questions of social responsibility and justice. Ethical analyses traditionally take place in relation to principles, norms, and standards. In order to establish ethical principles to guide individual behavior, it is necessary to make generalizations about what is good or what is right and what constitutes harm.

    As a field of study, however, ethics is made even more...

  26. 23 Eugenics
    (pp. 74-79)
    Rosemarie Garland-Thomson

    “Eugenics” is the modern scientific term that emerged in the late nineteenth-century and early twentiethcentury West to name the contemporary rationales and actions with which modern nation-states shaped the membership of their citizenry. The word “eugenics” itself was coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, a prominent English anthropologist and statistician. Derived from the Greek to describe the pursuit of the “well born,” eugenics was promoted as the new science of improving the human race through selective breeding. Galton’s theories about creating a better future with a better population captivated American scientists in the industrial age. Yet the ideology and...

  27. 24 Euthanasia
    (pp. 79-81)
    Harold Braswell

    Althougheuthanasiais Greek for “good death,” the term’s meaning has varied throughout its history. In Western societies, prior to the nineteenth century, euthanasia was a death blessed by God; such a death could be hoped for but was beyond human control. The rise of medical authority in the late nineteenth century led to a redefinition of euthanasia as a medically induced death in response to incurable pain, illness, and/or disability. Euthanasia advocates began to argue forvoluntaryeuthanasia for those who desired to die, as well asinvoluntaryeuthanasia for those who, though not suicidal, were judged to be...

  28. 25 Family
    (pp. 81-84)
    Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp

    The word “family” is highly charged in disability studies. On the one hand, families are seen as the site of nurturance, narrative, and theory building for those with disabilities (Bérubé 1996; Davis 2000a; Grinker 2007; Kittay 1999). On the other, families are recognized as potential sites of repression, rejection, and infantilization. Whether seen positively or negatively, the term “family” is often taken for granted as a preordained, self-sufficient unit in discussions of family life influenced by disability. In the American context, the ideal of family generally involves parentchild relations in a classic heterosexual, nuclear, ablebodied household despite the coexistence of...

  29. 26 Fat
    (pp. 84-85)
    Kathleen LeBesco

    Fatness shares with more traditionally recognized forms of disability what Rosemarie Garland-Thomson calls “the attribution of corporeal deviance—not so much a property of bodies as a product of cultural rules about what bodies should be or do” (1997, 6). Conceptually, however, fatness and disability are tense bedfellows: many people with more traditionally recognized forms of disability resist being lumped together with those fat people who they feel could (but don’t) control their condition, and most fat people don’t recognize themselves as disabled, preferring to maintain a safe distance from perceived illness and stigma.

    There are, nonetheless, many points of...

  30. 27 Freak
    (pp. 85-88)
    Leonard Cassuto

    “Freak” labels disability as spectacle. The freak stands as an archetypal “other,” a disabled figure on theatrical display before an able-bodied audience that uses the display to define its own sense of belonging.

    “Freak” is a prismatic term that refracts the history of disability, including its most sordid past. To track the display of freaks and the history of freak shows over time is to witness some of the most deplorable treatment of people with disabilities—but the close study of freak display also offers a site from which to educe prurient historical attitudes toward disability that might otherwise remain...

  31. 28 Gender
    (pp. 89-91)
    Kim Q. Hall

    Gender and disability, along with race, class, nationality, and sexuality, are constitutive features of the ways in which our fully integrated selves—what Margaret Price (2011) calls “bodyminds”—are lived and known. Gender has emerged as a key site of disability critique in four general areas: (1) sex, impairment, and the “realness” of the body; (2) the medicalization of gender; (3) the mutually reinforcing structures of gender and disability oppression; and (4) the reconfiguration of gender through disability experience. Thus, if disability theorists hope to understand and critique norms of bodily appearance and bodymind functioning, as well as offer meaningful...

  32. 29 Genetics
    (pp. 92-94)
    David Wasserman

    Genetics has received a great deal of attention from disability studies, but largely confined to one issue: the practice of routinely aborting fetuses found to have a genetic or chromosomal “abnormality.” Opposition to this practice has been based on several related themes that are central to disability scholarship. First, an actual or potential person should not be judged by a single characteristic, however salient. Second, a person’s biological endowment does not determine how well (or not) his or her life will develop and what criteria are used to make such judgments. Third, social and physical environments play a pervasive role...

  33. 30 History
    (pp. 95-98)
    Susan Burch and Kim E. Nielsen

    Historians grapple with and learn from disability via two distinct but overlapping methods of analyzing change over time. First, they examine the daily and structural lives of those considered disabled and others who interact with them; second, they analyze changing historical conceptualizations of disability, able-bodiedness, and able-mindedness. Many disability historians also explore disability and ableism’s relation to other frameworks of power—such as race, class, sexuality, age, gender, and family. Central to disability history is the analytical and archival task of unpacking the largely Western and contemporary crossimpairment category we now call disability.

    Historical scholarship differs from other disciplines because...

  34. 31 Human
    (pp. 98-102)
    D.Christopher Gabbard

    The term “human” occupies a central place in disability studies because people living with physical, sensory, intellectual, or psychosocial impairments have so often been deemed to be not fully human or even animals with human faces. However, people with disabilities are hardly alone in this, for members of various groups and populations have been (and, indeed, continue to be) marginalized as the Other at different historical moments. In addition to those who have been labeled deaf, dumb, blind, idiot, mad, and leprous, a list of groups whose humanity has been discounted or denied includes slaves, women, colonized populations, and people...

  35. 32 Identity
    (pp. 103-105)
    Julia Miele Rodas

    Identity is the idea of the self understood within and against the social context, a means by which the individual is categorized and located as part of, or set apart from, recognized social, political, and cultural groups. As “the means by which the person comes to join a particular social body” (Siebers 2008b, 15), identity is a symbolic performance, an activity that names and aligns the self, by which the individual is composed as socially significant. It cannot exist, therefore, except in social relief—against a backdrop by which the self is made visible to both self and other. Disability...

  36. 33 Illness
    (pp. 105-107)
    G. Thomas Couser

    Though not particularly difficult to define in everyday usage, “illness” is a highly vexed term in the context of disability studies. “Illness” needs to be distinguished first from “disease,” its close counterpart. In academic discourse, “disease” typically refers to a pathological entity in the abstract—disembodied, as it were, rather than as experienced by any particular person. Polio is a disease, as is cancer. In contrast, “illness” refers to a particular person’s experience of a disease: its various effects on the person’s existence and identity. Thus, progressive clinical practice attends to illness rather than to disease. This approach was pioneered...

  37. 34 Impairment
    (pp. 107-108)
    Michael Ralph

    “Impairment” is often used as a synonym for “disability,” as when a person is described as “hearing impaired.” In this context, “impairment” is a euphemism, deemed more appropriate than terms like “handicapped” or “deformed,” which are now largely defunct. Yet the status of “impairment” as a substitute for different conceptions of debility is complicated by the fact that, both within disability studies and in medical conceptions of the body, “impairment” is frequently distinguished from “disability.”

    Within the British “social model” of disability, “impairment” signifies physical or biological lack (a missing arm, the experience of blindness), while “disability” refers to the...

  38. 35 Institutions
    (pp. 109-112)
    Licia Carlson

    The field of disability studies (DS) is both critical and productive: disability theorists critique definitions and practices that devalue disability, and they are also committed to the development of a positive disability culture, identity, and politics. These two facets of DS can be seen in the complex relationship between disability and institutions. Critical work in the field has been devoted to examining the centuries-long practice of institutionalizing people with disabilities and exposing the dehumanizing consequences of segregation and marginalization. Yet DS has also produced alternative histories, or counter-stories, that reveal forms of resistance to these institutions and trace the development...

  39. 36 Invisibility
    (pp. 113-114)
    Susannah B. Mintz

    “Invisibility” refers to the absence of disability from the conversations and activities that establish the way a society functions, encompassing social relationships, intellectual and artistic work, and politics. While recent high-profile celebrity cases like Christopher Reeve and Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius have brought injury and impairment into popular awareness, the problem of people with disabilities as an oppressed social group remains largely undiscussed. Douglas Baynton writes that “disability is everywhere in history, once you begin looking for it, but conspicuously absent in the histories we write” (2001, 52). A similar point has been made about disabled figures in literature, art,...

  40. 37 Madness
    (pp. 114-119)
    Sander L. Gilman

    To attempt to capture the relationship between “madness” and “disability” is to define one ambiguous and constantly shifting term by another. Madness has for centuries had legal and medical meanings, which today are more tangled and subject to political and ideological pressures than ever in light of the framing of madness as a type of disability. For now madness has to figure itself not only in relation to ideas about competency, moral ability, curability, and so forth but also in relation to questions of access, stigma, and advocacy. In recent centuries, the term suggests the medical, social, and cultural categories...

  41. 38 Medicalization
    (pp. 120-121)
    Sayantani DasGupta

    The term “medicalization” came into popular and academic use in the 1970s and can perhaps be first traced to medical sociologist Ivan Illich’s bookLimits to Medicine: Medical Nemeses (1975). Illich used the term in his discussion of “iatrogenesis,” the ways that medicine itself may make social and biological conditions worse as a result of medical intervention. In his bookThe Medicalization of Society, Peter Conrad defines medicalization as “a process by which nonmedical problems become defined and treated as medical problems, usually in terms of illness and disorders” (2007, 4).

    The medicalization of disability, then, refers to how individuals...

  42. 39 Minority
    (pp. 122-124)
    Jeffrey A. Brune

    During the twentieth century, the term “minority” took on new meaning in the contexts of social science scholarship and civil rights campaigns. For disability activists and scholars, defining disabled people as a minority group similar to African Americans, women, and others has been a means to claim civil rights protections, define a more cohesive and empowered group identity, counter the medical model of disability, and advance the scholarship and academic legitimacy of disability studies.

    In the early twentieth century, American social scientists developed new definitions of “minority,” borrowing from and expanding upon European uses of the term that referred to...

  43. 40 Modernity
    (pp. 124-126)
    Janet Lyon

    Beginning in the sixteenth century, the same forces that gave shape to what we now term “modernity” also produced the concept of “disability.” These included burgeoning bureaucratic systems for the management of expanding global trade, the presence of increasingly concentrated, heterogeneous populations, the emergence of nation-states in the global north-west, a shift from religious and extrinsic forms of authority to the open-ended pursuit of knowledge through autonomous reason, and the continuous parsing of populations. The asylums and general hospitals that opened in the seventeenth century in order to sequester impoverished invalids and defectives generally mixed together disabled populations rather randomly...

  44. 41 Narrative
    (pp. 126-130)
    David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder

    In many ways “narrative” has slipped away from its common association with strictly literary modes of communication. In popular media usage, for instance, the term has become increasingly synonymous with false forms of storytelling such as “spin” and the largely unsubstantiated claims of commodity marketing. Because narrative involves the production of stories that shape our lives and help determine possibilities for creating ways of living together, the understanding of narrative plays a crucial role in how we imagine social worlds. In the field of disability studies DS), scholars have developed a variety of models for understanding how narrative operates in...

  45. 42 Normal
    (pp. 130-132)
    Tanya Titchkosky

    Thinking critically about disability requires exploring the normative order of the social and physical environment that—as Canguilhem suggests—straightens out the lives of disabled people, T-squaring and otherwise measuring some people’s minds, bodies, senses, emotions, and comportments against the rule of normed expectations. Both in everyday life and in the human sciences, “normal” often appears as if it is a static state of affairs, and when people are said to have an unwanted condition, they may be deemed to have an abnormality. Disability studies, in contrast, has shown not only that norms change radically over time and from place...

  46. 43 Pain
    (pp. 133-134)
    Martha Stoddard Holmes

    Pain’s associations with disability as it is experienced, imagined, and beheld are multiple and longstanding. People with disabilities have habitually been imagined as “suffering from” impairment and “afflicted by” disability, the diction suggesting both physical and psychic pain. The nuances and complex consequences of this conceptualization of disability are dynamic throughout various time periods. Pain has its etymological roots in words from Indo-European, ancient Greek, and classical Latin signifiying penality (such as Latinpoena), punishment, and revenge (i.e., ancient Greek ποινή or blood money). In the fourth century, words for pain acquired the meanings of suffering and affliction, in effect...

  47. 44 Passing
    (pp. 135-137)
    Ellen Samuels

    In historical and colloquial usage, “passing” was originally understood as a form of imposture in which members of a marginalized group presented themselves as members of a dominant group. African Americans passing for white, for example, or Jews passing for gentiles, were attempting to achieve the appearance of equality or to neutralize the stigma of those racialized and religious identities. Passing, as a cultural practice, has also signified in the arenas of gender and sexuality, with men passing as women, women passing as men, transgender people passing as their chosen gender, and gay or lesbian people passing as heterosexual. Comparatively...

  48. 45 Performance
    (pp. 137-139)
    Petra Kuppers

    You get up in the morning and go about your routine. The neighbor across the street stands at the window and watches you reaching down from your wheelchair with your grabbing tool to pick up the paper.

    Your social worker comes for her annual visit, and you crip up: your limp is more pronounced as you open the door for her, you are not even thinking about it, but you somehow seem to modulate how you reach across the table when you sit down to review your service hours.

    You need your psych meds, and the insurance company will not...

  49. 46 Prosthetics
    (pp. 140-143)
    Katherine Ott

    Prosthetics fall within the broad category of assistive devices that people use to support what they want to do. Assistive devices, in general, enhance such capacities as mobility and agility, sensory apprehension, communication, and cognitive action. But the field of prosthetics, in particular, refers to those artificial body parts, devices, and materials that are integrated into the body’s daily routines. Because “prosthetics,” as a term, encompasses the way people select hardware, undergo procedures, and understand the results, there is no one immutable definition for it.

    Prosthetics runs the range of detachable, wearable, implanted, or integrated body parts and may be...

  50. 47 Queer
    (pp. 143-145)
    Tim Dean

    Historically, the term “queer” was a stigmatizing label that often included disabled people in its purview. A century ago, for instance, someone with a missing limb or a cognitive impairment might be called “queer.” In recent decades, sexual minorities have reclaimed “queer” as a badge of pride and a mark of resistance to regimes of the normal, mirroring the embrace of terms like “crip” and the capaciousness of the term “disability” itself. These are all political, highly contested terms that refuse essentializing meanings. In the late 1980 s and early 1990s, the activist group Queer Nation’s chant “We’re here, we’re...

  51. (pp. 145-148)
    Nirmala Erevelles

    Race and disability, two significant categories of difference that shape the social, have often been conceptualized as analogous to each other. Disability has often been described as being “like race” and race as being “like disability” in attempts to shift the experience of disability from the debilitating conceptual space of individual pathology to a broader social recognition of disabled people as members of a political minority. Thus, for example, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson (1997) describes disability as a “form of ethnicity” (6), while Lennard Davis (1995) maps similarities between the disabled body and “the body marked as differently pigmented” (80). Foregrounding this...

  52. 49 Rehabilitation
    (pp. 148-151)
    Gary L. Albrecht

    “Rehabilitation” refers to a process, or a set of related processes, that enables persons with disabilities to interact with their environments and maintain optimal physical, sensory, intellectual, psychological, and social function levels. In common usage, rehabilitation provides persons with disabilities the tools they need to attain independence and self-determination (World Health Organization and the World Bank 2011, 96). While the intent of this definition is straightforward, rehabilitation is a contested concept because major actors in the rehabilitation field employ different perspectives, values, and explanatory models in addressing disability and how to respond to it (Shakespeare 2006 a). For some, disability...

  53. 50 Representation
    (pp. 151-155)
    Michael Bérubé

    The word “representation” has a double valence for disability studies, which consists of an intensification of its double valence in the English language more generally. “Representation” speaks to both political and aesthetic concerns; it suggests an image that stands in for and points toward a thing (in theOxford English Dictionary, “an image, likeness, or reproduction in some manner of a thing; a material image or figure; a reproduction in some material or tangible form; in later use, a drawing or painting”), or a mechanism by which one person or group of people is empowered to stand in for and...

  54. 51 Reproduction
    (pp. 155-157)
    Adrienne Asch

    The field of disability studies already contributes to the understanding of reproduction and disability and can further enrich thinking on this topic. Whether scholars and policy makers focus on children who will be born with disabilities, or on the less commonly discussed area of people with disabilities becoming genetic or rearing parents, the basic questions raised by reproduction concern quality-of-life issues for the child and family, and the effects on the larger society. When a child is born with a disability, concerns focus on the impact of the disability upon the child her-or himself, the impact of living with such...

  55. 52 Rights
    (pp. 158-160)
    Maya Sabatello

    The concept of rights is central to disability studies: it reflects the clearest recognition of persons with disabilities as subjects under the law who are empowered to demand, on an equal basis with others, what they are entitled to as an integral part of the human race. This understanding marks a stark shift—and a crucial development—from the historical conceptualization of persons with disabilities as objects who lack reason and ability to make decisions, and hence who cannot be bearers of rights.

    Rights are the fundamental normative principles of freedom or entitlement stipulating what one is allowed to perform...

  56. 53 Senses
    (pp. 161-163)
    Kathryn Linn Geurts

    The “senses” often are treated by science, medicine, and humanistic scholarship as a phenomenon affecting distinct individual bodies, but much contemporary scholarship has revolutionized how we think about the senses. For the past few decades, at approximately the same time that disability studies has developed as an academic discipline and professional field, the “anthropology of the senses” has grown in importance and has contributed to the emergence of the interdisciplinary field known as sensory studies (Bull et al. 2006). New work in sensory anthropology challenges not only the five senses model but also the notion that the experience of sensing...

  57. 54 Sex
    (pp. 164-166)
    Margrit Shildrick

    There can be few practices in everyday life that arouse such strong responses—both positive and negative—as sex. For all its joyous and pleasurable connotations, sex always has the capacity to make people feel uncomfortable, even ashamed. Nowhere is this more evident than in the conjunction of disability and sexuality. Even in the twenty-first century, there is still a widespread public perception that people with disabilities are either asexual or, the complete opposite, sexually out of control and requiring management. Either pole leads to damaging consequences not just for disabled people themselves but, arguably, for “normal” nondisabled society at...

  58. 55 Sexuality
    (pp. 167-170)
    Robert McRuer

    The history of the keyword “sexuality” is inextricably interwoven with the history of a range of other disability keywords, including “freakish,” “innocent,” and—most important—“normal” and “abnormal.” As philosopher Michel Foucault has demonstrated, for the past few centuries, we have inhabited a culture of “normalization” that categorizes individuals and populations, marking certain bodies (for instance, those understood as disabled, ill, or lacking)andcertain desires (for instance, those understood as perverse, queer, or mad) as “abnormal.” Systems of surveillance, control, intervention, incarceration, correction, or “cure”—what Foucault (2003) would describe as “technologies of normalization” administered by authorities assumed to...

  59. 56 Space
    (pp. 170-172)
    Rob Imrie

    A fundamental part of people’s existence is their emplacement in space and their relationships with objects that are geographically located at different points or places. Space is one of the major axioms of being and of life itself. It is where we are located, the places where we live and move around, and the multiple relationships that take shape among them. Space is characterized by the primacy of what Paterson and Hughes (1999, 607) describe as “non-impaired carnality,” or the projection of the body-normal as the embodiment of those without impairment. Wherever one goes, one is reminded of the absolutism...

  60. 57 Stigma
    (pp. 173-176)
    Heather Love

    Stigma is part of the complex of factors that transform impairment into disability. The term refers to the disapproval and disadvantage that attach to people who are seen as different; its repercussions can be farreaching. Stigma affects employment, social recognition, educational opportunities, friendship and sex, housing, and freedom from violence.Stigmain Greek means to prick or to puncture, and the word originally referred to a sharp instrument used to brand or cut slaves or criminals. The fact that stigma is still closely associated with visible forms of difference—leprosy, needle tracks, missing limbs, and obesity, for instance—recalls this...

  61. 58 Technology
    (pp. 176-179)
    Mara Mills

    The definition of technology has been the subject of considerable philosophical debate. Technology was a relatively denigrated topic in Western philosophy until the early modern period, as a result of the unfavorable distinctions—dating to ancient Greece—betweentechne(craft knowledge) andepistémé(theory or science“Technology” most commonly refers to manufactured things: artifacts, handiwork, devices, and machinery (Kline 1985, 215 ). The term “biotechnology,” coined in the twentieth century, refers to the manufacture or gainful modification of organisms, tissues, and life processes. Examples of biotechnology range from plant breeding to genetic engineering. Some scholars broaden the category of technology to...

  62. 59 Trauma
    (pp. 180-182)
    James Berger

    One might assume that disability studies and trauma studies would be intimately intertwined, since both examine physical and psychological impairments. Disability studies and some directions in trauma studies are deeply concerned with the social contexts and consequences of impairments. Owing to methodological and ideological differences, however, there has been little contact between the two fields until very recently.

    Approaches to trauma can be divided broadly into two categories: the medical-clinical and the cultural-historical. Medical-clinical definitions are concerned typically with an individual’s response to some overwhelming stress or injury—an accident, for instance, or an event of war, or a physical...

  63. 60 Visuality
    (pp. 182-184)
    Georgina Kleege

    It was Thomas Carlyle who coined the noun “visuality” as well as the verb “visualize” in 1841, to refer to qualities related to making mental images of abstract ideas, such as heroism. In recent decades, visuality has become a keyword in the field of visual culture studies and has taken on additional nuances of meaning. Hal Foster’s edited volumeVision and Visuality(1998) put forward the notion that “vision” should refer to the biological functions of the eye and the human visual system, while “visuality” should refer to cultural practices and values related to vision. This suggests a parallel with...

  64. 61 Vulnerability
    (pp. 185-186)
    Ani B. Satz

    All living beings are vulnerable throughout their life span to the effects of biology and environment, such as disease, natural disaster, and war. Vulnerability is thus a shared and constant state among living beings (Fineman 2008, 2010 ) that cuts across social, geographic, and species boundaries (Satz 2009). The all-encompassing nature of vulnerability, however, is often overlooked. Vulnerability frequently is discussed in social science, public health, and other disciplines in terms of particular characteristics of individuals that render them members of “vulnerable populations.” Women, children, racial minorities, prisoners, elderly persons, and individuals with disabilities all have been viewed as members...

  65. 62 Work
    (pp. 187-190)
    Sarah F. Rose

    “Nor has any man who is crippled a right to be idle,” thundered social worker George Mangold at an industrial accident conference in 1922 (67). While he inaccurately characterized most cripples as idle, Mangold nevertheless captured the long-standing role of work and productivity in defining “disability.” In many cultures, disability has been characterized as the inability to do productive labor, a charge that has limited the citizenship and social standing of people with disabilities. Sailors on slave ships tossed disabled captives overboard; after the Civil War, impoverished Americans with visible impairments found themselves barred from begging in public and, in...

  66. Works Cited
    (pp. 191-214)
  67. About the Contributors
    (pp. 215-224)