Constructing normalcy

Regarding the stereotype of the ‘normal’ American, Goffman (1963) wrote:

“in an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America : a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual Prostestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight and height and a recent record in sports. Every American male tends to look out upon the world from this perspective… Any male who fails to qualify in any of these ways is likely to view himself – during moments at least – as un-worthy, incomplete and inferior” (1963, p 153) Continue reading “Constructing normalcy”

The Social Construction of Disability, by Debra Shogan

People do not ‘have’ diseases, which are really descriptive mechanisms created by contemporary medicine. People have stories, and the stories are narratives of their lives, their relationships, and the way they experience an illness.” Arthur Kleinman, The Illness Narratives

This is another article that echoes some of the same ideas that Davis put forward, in particular of how Galton took Quetelet’s idea of the normal man and adapted it so that average came to represent mediocrity, and the upper quartile of the distribution curve represented progress and perfection, thus eliminating abnormality. In fact, the appropriation of the law of error to explain stability in social statistics has never been called into question: Continue reading “The Social Construction of Disability, by Debra Shogan”

Martha’s Vineyard

I was intrigued by the phenomenon of Martha’s Vineyard and decided to explore it in more depth. In Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language, an article that was published a few years before the release of her seminal book of the same name, Nora Groce wrote about the history of deafness and sign language among the island’s population and provides some firsthand testimony from the elder members of the community who could still recall sign language being an integral part of community life (it has now fallen into disuse). Continue reading “Martha’s Vineyard”

The Thrice Shy: Cultural Accommodation to Blindness and Other Disasters in a Mexican Community, by John Langston Gwaltney

John Langston Gwaltney provides another account of how a condition that in other societies would have been disabling was accepted and accommodated for within a particular community. Continue reading “The Thrice Shy: Cultural Accommodation to Blindness and Other Disasters in a Mexican Community, by John Langston Gwaltney”

Researching the disabled identity: contextualising the identity transformations which accompany the onset of impairment

Following on from the statistic that Siebers revealed in his essay, that only 15% of disabled persons are born with their disability, I located this article by Rose Galvin, which looks at some of the transformations that take place in people who develop their disabilities later in life. Continue reading “Researching the disabled identity: contextualising the identity transformations which accompany the onset of impairment”

Disability discrimination: The ADA & backlash; DDA

“…the ultimate definition of disability is determined by government policy… disability is finally whatever public officials say it is” (Harlan Hahn 1985, unpaged)

Colin Barnes (1991, pp 11-27) traces the roots of discrimination against disabled people from early references in the Old Testament and ancient Greece and Rome, through religious and superstitious persecution in the Middle Ages up to segregation and the economic demands following industrialisation. Continue reading “Disability discrimination: The ADA & backlash; DDA”

Interdependency, precariousness and the myth of autonomy

I think that Butler’s notions of precariousness, precarity and the socially constructed body are valid in disability discourse, although Butler does not actually broach disability head on and disability scholars do not tend to use her ideas in their disability theory work. Continue reading “Interdependency, precariousness and the myth of autonomy”

Stigma and social attitudes

When the dominant culture defines some groups as different, as the Other, the members of these groups are imprisoned in their bodies. Dominant discourse defines them in terms of bodily characteristics and constructs those bodies as ugly, dirty, defiled, impure, contaminated or sick” (Iris Young, quoted in Sibley 1995, p 18)

It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness.” (Freud 1962, p 61) Continue reading “Stigma and social attitudes”