Article

How Do You Understand “Learning Difficulties”? Towards a Social Theory of Impairment

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... Psychology has naturally favoured constructions of the self as individual, independent, autonomous and separate and separable from the social context (Patel 2003). Reflecting the privileging of a modernist worldview where individualism is the dominant motif (Gergen 1990) and intellectual disability is defined as a 'naturalised impairment' (Goodley and Rapley 2001), past studies exploring the identities of people with an intellectual disability have tended to focus on a narrow stream of inquiry; the awareness of the label intellectual disability, and the denial of this label. ...
... Constructing and presenting a positive identity or an identity that is not stigmatised is particularly difficult for people with an intellectual disability because their behaviour is often pathologised and interpreted as being characteristic of their diagnosis or syndrome (Goodley and Rapley 2001). To illustrate this process, we refer to an example from this study. ...
... The functionality of people with an intellectual disability, however, often has to be presented as extraordinary in order to demonstrate the othering and dehumanisation of people with this label. The assumption that people with an intellectual disability are incompetent is so deeply entrenched because intellectual disability tends to be viewed as a naturalised impairment or biology, rather than a social construction (Goodley and Rapley 2001). However, at any given historical moment, the content and centrality of 'abilities of the mind' (Jenkins 1998) can change so much that it is possible for one person to be considered intellectually disabled in one context, but not necessarily the other (Goodey 2011). ...
Article
Intellectual disability is commonly conceptualised as stigmatised identity with which one has to live. However, within the literature the notion of a damaged identity is contested. The aim of this research was to explore the social construction of intellectual disability, with an emphasis on the identities and social roles of people with an intellectual disability. Informed by a contextualist perspective, this research was conducted within a participatory framework. The co-researchers involved in this research were 18 members of an advocacy agency. Photovoice and conversational interviewing were used to collect data and causal layered analysis was used to deconstruct the data. Analysis of the interactions that emerged across the causal layers revealed a complex dynamic of worldviews which served to construct people with an intellectual disability as incompetent, inherently different and not quite human. For genuine, transformative change to occur, developing an awareness and understanding of social processes, such as dehumanisation, is crucial.
... Whether the self-presentations of the participants in such studies are trustworthy is a matter about who has the power to define the situation (Barron 2002). Intellectual disability is defined in medical manuals and by people in powerful positions (Gillman, Heyman, and Swain 2000;Goodley and Rapley 2001). In addition, folk tales and anecdotes contain assumptions about intellectually disabled people, including, for instance, 'eternal children' or people who are strange or weird (Gustavsson 1999;Sundet 1997;Saetersdal 1998). ...
... One problem about intellectual disability is that it is often seen as 'naturalized impairment' or biology instead of as a social construct (Goodley 2001). Goodley and Rapley (2001) argue that understanding intellectual disability as biology implies that the way intellectually disabled people behave or interact is interpreted as caused by their impairments. While biology can be understood as more or less unchangeable, intellectual disability understood as a socially produced phenomenon will imply that changes are possible both with regards to common understandings, to responses from other people and society in general (Goodley and Rapley 2001). ...
... Goodley and Rapley (2001) argue that understanding intellectual disability as biology implies that the way intellectually disabled people behave or interact is interpreted as caused by their impairments. While biology can be understood as more or less unchangeable, intellectual disability understood as a socially produced phenomenon will imply that changes are possible both with regards to common understandings, to responses from other people and society in general (Goodley and Rapley 2001). In this article, intellectual disability is seen as a social construct, and as an identity which is negotiable in social relations. ...
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Article
The aim of this article is to demonstrate how some young individuals who are labelled as having intellectual disabilities present themselves and how they understand and relate to the fact that they are included in the category of intellectual disability. The article draws on findings from a study based on participant observation and semi-structured interviews with seven young adults about their self-understanding and daily life experiences. During the data gathering period, which lasted for two years, the participants were followed in their daily activities, at home, at work, and in their leisure time. The study shows that the participants were well aware of their impairments. However, they resisted the notion that intellectual disability should be central to defining who they are.
... Since a changed understanding of disability through the social model was fought for initially by those with physical impairments, it has been argued that work which draws on it has focused to a great degree on the experiences of those with physical and sensory impairments. Its ability adequately to capture the experiences of people with all impairments, including those living with learning difficulties has been questioned (Chappell, 1998;Goodley & Rapley, 2001;Goodley, 2001). There have been some concerns about how well a model that was originally developed in relation to people living with physical impairment, reflects the experience of persons with learning difficulties. ...
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Thesis
Many studies in the minority world have emphasized the potentially positive influences of supported as opposed to sheltered employment on the inclusion of persons with disabilities, including learning difficulties, into the mainstream economy and community. In 2007, Malaysia, as one of the developing countries which possesses a growing population of persons with learning difficulties, started to promote this form of employment hoping for similar outcomes. However, in the majority world where a country is designing policy for the first time and is at the relatively early stages of implementation, there has been little research to explore supported employment practices for persons with learning difficulties and offer empirical findings from real employment experiences. Thus, this thesis aims to fill this gap through providing some substantial evidence and new insights. The social theory of disability and the debates around it have been particularly influential in the past three decades. These have helped to shape the approach of this research into understanding the experiences of persons with learning difficulties in the labour market in Malaysia. The study also covers the general understanding of disability from an Islamic perspective. Theoretical approaches to career and career development are also discussed before specifically focusing on the barriers faced in accessing a working life and developing a career in paid jobs as well as achieving greater social integration. The empirical contribution of the thesis is through a study of supported employment initiated in Malaysia to enable persons with learning difficulties to work in the mainstream retail sector, and sets that experience in the context of relevant policy and practice. It aims to produce key insights into the ‘lived realities’ of employees with learning difficulties taking part in the scheme. It foregrounds their perceptions but also explores the viewpoints of government officials, managers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) coordinators involved in the development of policy and practice relating to the scheme. The research participants were drawn from the 82 employees with learning difficulties engaged in the supported employment scheme in a retail company, together with seven managers involved with the scheme, eight government officials and three NGOs coordinators. One finding of the study is that, in general, supported employment is likely to help to reduce the stigma associated with having a disability. However, while most persons with learning difficulties believe themselves to have the ability to work in supported employment, others, including those who are providing support for their entry to the workforce, still have doubts. Notwithstanding enjoying many aspects of their working lives in supported employment, some employees face difficulties in developing interpersonal relationships in the workplace and achieving much better control of their own lives than is often assumed to result from having a job. The findings also suggest that stability in the political, economic and social environment facilitate the development of better policy in this complex area. Commitment from the company is vitally important to guarantee the success of the scheme. The existence of international policy frameworks are also helpful and cross-country collaboration has been tremendously beneficial, in particular that between Malaysian institutions and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Further development of policy and practice is required, especially in enriching the understanding of disability issues among most government officials, managers and NGOs coordinators, taking greater account of the research evidence that points to the limited awareness of and specific knowledge about disability issues, particularly for persons with learning difficulties and their employability. The voices and views of persons with learning difficulties should also be better acknowledged in setting priorities for disability-related reform. Finally, in order to sustain and develop supported employment more effectively, there is a fundamental need to upgrade the education and training system for this group as well as to intensify collaboration between government departments. Keywords: supported employment, disability, persons with learning difficulties, Malaysia
... We have chosen to consider political participation for persons with an intellectual disability as a part of being on the way to the implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights for Persons with Disabilities. Whereas intellectual disability as a phenomenon is increasingly described as a social construction more than a biological fact (Finkelstein, 2009;Goodley & Rapley, 2001), we have the moral duty to take the question of political participation seriously. Although we cannot deny the strong binary thoughts in Belgium about citizenship and the associated political participation, more and more people with an intellectual disability question this division and accompanying exclusion, and consequently the representation of the ideal citizen. ...
... A Rapleyian perspective can help us to address these questions. I will now turn to a piece by Goodley and Rapley (2002) which draws on a wider Rapleyian perspective (see Goodley & Rapley, 2001;Rapley & Antaki, 1996;Rapley & Ridgway, 1998;Rapley, 2004) to explore how the assumption of incompetence is reproduced through the talk of researchers and people with the label of intellectual disabilities. In tune with Potter and Wetherell (1987), Rapley's approach treats language not as a medium for 'telementation' -the transmission of thoughts between minds -but rather as the site where social objects such as 'thoughts', 'minds' and 'intellectual (dis)abilities' are produced in talk in the conduct of social action. ...
... Do najczêoeciej proponowanych wspó³czeoenie terminów na-le¿¹: trudnooeci w uczeniu siê (ang. learning difficulties, u¿ywany w Wielkiej Brytanii, budz¹cy pozytywne skojarzenia, bo zak³ada, ¿e osoba tak okreoelona chce siê uczyae i byae nauczona), (Goodley, Rapley 2001;Goodley i in. 2003;McClimens 2003), niepe³nosprawnooeae rozwojowa (ang. ...
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Research
The new directions and trends in the pedagogics of people with intellectual disability – some changes within the terminology
... Master Narrative: Striated Self-advocacy Culture All-encompassing, foundational theories central to modernism (Lyotard, 1979) characterize popular and professional thinking on 'disability' as an ideological and constructed category (Danforth, 1997;Perry & Whiteside, 2000;Hughes, 2002). In a modernist frame of reference (Hughes, 1999), people with the label of 'intellectual disabilities' are objectified, classified and devalued as 'other' in terms of a grand narrative of deviance, tragedy and lack (Goodley & Rapley, 2001). Over the past century, people with the label of 'intellectual disabilities' were judged to be 'abnormal' and deviant from the abstract standard of 'normal man' (May & Simpson, 2003;McClimens, 2003). ...
Article
People with the label of "intellectual disabilities"1 are often objectified and devalued by master narratives of deviance, tragedy and lack. In this paper, we draw on poststructuralist and feminist resources (e.g. Deleuze & Guattari 1987 and Braidotti 1994, 2002, 2006a) to argue that a disabling society is uncivilized in ways that block the becomings of citizenship. We draw upon our work with self-advocacy groups in England and Belgium where self-advocates open up different life worlds. We shed light on their politics of resistance and resilience, and map how they, as politicized citizen subjects, move in a web of oppressive disability discourses. However, we suggest, as nomads, they set foot on the landmarks of their lives in a never-ending search for smooth spaces in which something different might happen.
... For people with intellectual disabilities, it is the contention of many theorists that the social model is an inadequate paradigm to guide research and practice (McClimens, 2003;Goodley, 2001;Goodley & Rapley, 2001;Rapley, 2004). More thought to the actual limitations of intellectual impairment is necessary to alleviate the social barriers faced by people with an intellectual disability. ...
... Do najczêoeciej proponowanych wspó³czeoenie terminów na-le¿¹: trudnooeci w uczeniu siê (ang. learning difficulties, u¿ywany w Wielkiej Brytanii, budz¹cy pozytywne skojarzenia, bo zak³ada, ¿e osoba tak okreoelona chce siê uczyae i byae nauczona), (Goodley, Rapley 2001;Goodley i in. 2003;McClimens 2003), niepe³nosprawnooeae rozwojowa (ang. ...
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Article
The article analyzes new trends and directions in the development of education of persons with intellectual disabilities. it describes some changes in the area of theory and practice, focusing on terminology connected with this part of special education. The knowledge about changes can have a large impact on researchers as well as practitioners dealing with persons with intellectual disabilities
... It most certainly contradicts the personal experience of many people with mild intellectual disabilities who, as represented in the self-advocacy movement, emphasize their shared humanity with fellow citizens (e.g. Goodley and Rapley 2001, 2002, Taylor 1996. ...
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Article
This article offers an introductory analysis of the philosophical and empirical considerations having to do with the significance of psychopathy, intellectual disability and ADHD regarding one's moral responsibility. Moral responsibility comes in degrees and is ultimately determined on social grounds. Whether a certain diagnosis and its under-pinning neuro-cognitive impairment affects one's cognitive, emotional and moral conduct, depends also on social and relational factors.
... Furthermore, the unified, coherent narrative of challenge often relies upon an individualistic ideal of independence: of mothers embodying the fighter as solitary entities. Following Reindall (1999) and Goodley and Rapley (2001), forms of disability activism that simply situate independence as the necessary opposite of dependency, risk recreating false notions of autonomy. Narratives of challenge, then, often ignore the interdependent and relational qualities of storytelling, living, being and becoming. ...
Article
This paper draws on the narratives of parents of disabled babies in order to conceptualise notions of enabling care. This analysis emerges from the Sheffield site of an ESRC research project Parents, Professionals and Disabled Babies: Identifying Enabling Care, which brings together the Universities of Sheffield and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The linear heroic narrative is a dominant theme within Western culture. It is competitive and individualistic and tends to be future-orientated in that actions conducted in the present are evaluated according to later outcomes. This linear narrative places much store on modernist interventions such as medicine, and tends to uphold professional boundaries and hierarchies. In the lifeworlds of parents, usually mothers, of disabled babies, this narrative can reinforce disempowering interpretations of disability and impairment. On the basis of 25 in-depth interviews, accompanying stories and ethnographic data, this paper suggests that parents are developing counter-narratives which, at times, resist linear life models and free parents to enjoy their children as they are. If life is perceived as an open book rather than as a concluding chapter, parents are able to develop stories that are neither linear nor heroic but present and becoming.
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Article
This study reconsidered educational materials by analyzing educators’ opinions regarding handmade manipulative materials (HMMs) for children with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities in Japan. Instead of concurring with the view that educational materials are static and inert products, the author adopted an agential realist perspective and considered them as agencies working and becoming with teachers and children. The author interviewed two retired teachers who had spent more than 30 years in HMM production and analyzed the obtained data using a diffractive methodology. Findings showed that making and remaking HMMs allowed teachers and children to engage with actualizing concepts without language and demonstrated the open-ended nature of learning for teachers and children with HMMs.
Chapter
In this chapter, Alison Davies charts the historical development of ADHD as a category and considers how changing and competing scientific, psychological and socio-environmental explanations have contributed to its controversial legacy. By adopting a historical framework, Davies shows that understandings of ADHD as a disorder have been imbued with a moral discourse that continues to inform current discourse. She identifies some of the key issues and debates that have emerged from this historical background and considers how the identities of individuals affected by ADHD are morally positioned within alternative explanations of ADHD that are biological, psychological or social. Davies returns to the themes of the book and the debates arising from the historical perspective in this chapter, indicating how the key concepts of discursive psychology, interpretative repertoires and subject positions, can be applied to analyse the historicised discourse of ADHD.
Chapter
This chapter begins from the standpoint that voices of personal experience are important for our understanding of mental health issues. Mary Horton-Salway examines a range of qualitative research on children, adolescents and adults with ADHD. The theme of gendering is central to this chapter because it has important consequences for children and adults in recognition and diagnosis of ADHD and this shapes how they experience and interpret their lives, how others see them and how they see themselves. Horton-Salway examines the idea of narrative as a situated context for troubles-telling, positive talk and the transformation of selves. The chapter examines forms of resistance to pathologised versions of lives and spoiled identities and how accounts of personal experience are produced in response to the micro-politics of social interaction, the context of troubles-telling and the wider context of ADHD discourse.
Chapter
Like many SF novels, Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon relies on a technological “advancement” in order to shed light on the challenges of the present. In Flowers, that technology comes in the form of an experimental neurological operation that, if successful, will make the novel’s intellectually disabled narrator-protagonist, Charlie Gordon, highly intelligent. In a typical first-person Bildungsroman, a unified narrative voice recounts the experiences of the protagonist’s life at a point in time that occurs after, or at the end of, the sequence of events that the novel describes. The technological device that drives Flowers complicates this convention in several significant ways. The novel is composed of short journal entries, or “progress reports,” that Charlie has been asked to write in order to record the results of the operation. Charlie indeed grows in intelligence and self-awareness, and the journal entries thus provide a nearly real-time account of Charlie’s development during this period. Ordinarily, the compressed time span of Charlie’s involvement with the experiment would provide limited scope for an overview of his life; however, the dramatic changes caused by the experiment produce a radically condensed version of his life, from the metaphorical “child” that opens the narration to the self-aware “adult” that he gradually becomes. As a result, it is difficult to locate Charlie’s true voice, as he perceives his experiences through varying levels of disability and capability.
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The term 'quality of life' is used almost excessively as an aim of health policies. Sensitive aspects, which are related to its multidimensional and subjective character, are minimized. The problem of consensus when defining the concept is due to the fact that the term is vague, difficult to capture in an operational definition which is absolutely necessary in scientific research. The agreement regarding the multidimensional nature of quality of life is reflected mostly in three fields: physiological, psychological and social. A fourth field, the spiritual one, has been evaluated in a few research papers. The study aims to emphasize certain ethical questions connected to the definition and methodology of research on the concept of quality of life in relation to health, ethical obligations of the researchers in the field regarding the use of results, power relationship between researcher and patient, use of respondents' experiences in understanding the concept, etc.
Book
Many people who work in education start out with enthusiastic ideals about education as a positive force that can spur change in the life of the learner and in society at large, yet find themselves frustrated with a bureaucratic system that often alienates and excludes many of its students. This is particularly true for students identified as having "special educational needs" (SEN) or disability, a label often used to justify the ways in which students are failed by a system that focuses on narrow definitions of knowledge, seeks to normalise and control behaviour, and values economic productivity over other forms of human activity. Radical Inclusive Education explores how current educational practices, such as standardised tests and league tables, exclude and fail many disabled students, and naturalise educational inequalities around gender, class, ethnicity and ability. Informed by the social model of disability, the book argues that educational theories and practices that are geared towards social justice and inclusion need to recognise and value the diversity of human embodiments, needs and capacities, and foster pedagogical practices that support relations of interdependency. The book draws on work in disability studies, critical psychology and critical pedagogy, and also real life examples from interviews with activists in the disabled people's movement, and from research in a school, to offer examples of what radical inclusive education � that is sensitive to the needs of all students � might look like in practice. As such, it will be of great interest to practitioners and students in the field of education, particularly for those interested in SEN and disability, sociology of education, critical pedagogy, informal education and social movement learning.
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There is growing international resistance to the oppressiveness of psychiatry. While previous studies have critiqued psychiatry, Psychiatry Disrupted goes beyond theorizing what is wrong with it to theorizing how we might stop it. Introducing readers to the arguments and rationale for opposing psychiatry, the book combines perspectives from anti-psychiatry and critical psychiatry activism, mad activism, antiracist, critical, and radical disability studies, as well as feminist, Marxist, and anarchist thought. The editors and contributors are activists and academics - adult education and social work professors, psychologists, prominent leaders in the psychiatric survivor movement, and artists - from across Canada, England, and the United States. From chapters discussing feminist opposition to the medicalization of human experience, to the links between psychiatry and neo-liberalism, to internal tensions within the various movements and different identities from which people organize, the collection theorizes psychiatry while contributing to a range of scholarship and presenting a comprehensive overview of resistance to psychiatry in the academy and in the community.
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Employment for people with learning difficulties is considered key to their social inclusion. This contradicts the perceived un-employability of people with learning difficulties that has been part of their social identities throughout their history hitherto. The national rate of employment for people with learning difficulties remains extremely low and has barely changed in the 20 years between 1990 and 2010. This paper investigates links between learning disabilities and employment, drawing on interview-based research. It analyses the quality of experience of the minority in employment to consider whether employment can serve the inclusive purpose expected of it.
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Accessible SummaryMany people with learning disabilities want to work.The Sustainable Hub of Innovative Employment for people with Complex needs (SHIEC) project is about supporting people with complex needs to find work.This study interviewed staff members who are part of SHIEC.Staff said it can be difficult to help people with complex needs to find work and this often made them worried.Staff also said that when people with complex needs found work, it was very rewarding.Staff said being part of SHIEC helped them do this. SummaryWhilst the value of supported employment for people with learning disabilities is well substantiated, the experiences of supporting individuals into work are less well documented. The Sustainable Hub of Innovative Employment for people with Complex needs aims to support people with learning disabilities and complex needs to find paid employment. Sixteen semi-structured interviews administered to staff members of Sustainable Hub of Innovative Employment for people with Complex needs revealed seven core themes concerning their experiences of helping people with complex needs into work. This included the practical and emotional reality of facilitating supported employment and a reflection on those factors that influenced success. This article discusses how findings relate more broadly to work in this area, and the vital roles frontline staff play in making employment happen for people with learning disabilities.
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Disability should be a concern for those interested in analysing and subverting the cultural politics of education. In this paper we address this concern through connecting critical analyses of ‘developmental disabilities’ (formerly ‘mental retardation’), disability studies and poststructuralism. We target normative constructions of ‘developmental disabilities’ – and we propose alternative dynamic possibilities – through reference to narratives from our political and personal work with people with the label of ‘developmental disabilities’. Our aim is to unveil the ways in which we might understand the cultural formations of ‘impairment’ – as they relate to ‘developmental disabilities’ – in order to propel scholars, activists and practitioners towards a cultural politics of inclusion. First, we summarise some key debates from disability studies that have engaged with ‘impairment’: social model, relational and psychosocial models. We suggest that these debates benefit from a more grounded engagement with poststructuralist ideas. Second, we bring in the work of the poststructuralist thinkers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari and the poststructuralist feminist Rosi Braidotti to tackle the social, historical, cultural and political conditions of ‘developmental disabilities’ through experimentation with rhizomes and nomads. In conclusion, we appeal for the development of a cultural politics of ‘impairment’ and ‘developmental disabilities’ that draws upon a vocabulary applicable to the post-modern subject of the contemporary world: as uncertain, productive and moveable.
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In this article the aim is to challenge essentialist ontological assumptions surrounding the impairment category of ‘learning difficulties’ as it was previously conceptualized in social theory and practice. I ground my knowledge production in self‐advocates connected to the self‐advocacy movement in Flanders (Belgium) and in critical feminist disability studies. Drawing upon the post‐structuralist feminist Rosi Braidotti, who introduced nomadology as a new figuration of layered, embedded and embodied subjectivity, I bring the illustrative nomadic subjectivity of the president of the self‐advocacy network to the public eye. In order to allow disability scholars and activists re‐inscribe new scenarios in our contemporary discourse and shared culture, I appeal for an interpretation of the impaired body and mind as a socio‐political field.
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A range of case studies, drawing upon ethnomethodological and conversation analytic scholarship, reveals how persons categorized as “intellectually disabled” are actually defined through their interaction with care staff and other professionals. Intellectual disability is usually thought of as a form of internal, individual affliction, differing little from diabetes, paralysis or chronic illness. This study's application of discursive psychology to intellectual disability demonstrates that what is usually understood as being an individual problem is actually an interactional or social product.
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Our post-modernist story is composed as a narrative analysis of the lived experiences of Belle and Louise--two women with 'learning difficulties'--and our ethnographic field notes while doing narrative inquiry. The narratives mirror a shared construction of meaning and broaden our understanding--throwing light on the dark side of an institution. The narrative analysis points out a clear illustration of power dynamics and discourses in their lives, and shows how the women boast of resilience and offer (hidden) resistance. This paper particularly illuminates the individual, personal and even private celebration of activism and self-empowerment of Belle and Louise. Their vivid stories take us on an enthralling journey, getting to know their world through their eyes.
Article
In this article, the authors trace the possible political potential of their post-modernist, feminist approach to life story research with people with the label of “learning difficulties.” As a self-advocate with an ally, they define tagging along with each other as discovery science. The authors reflect on how they openly and critically write themselves into their life (story) as subjects in dialogue, which makes the driving force to negotiate openness, expose hegemonic power arrangements and inherent silences, highlight secrets of oppression and resistance, and revalue knowledge that risks being disqualified in current social sciences. To be able to do so, and to recognize activism, the authors reveal their choice to creatively apply a variety of research methodologies. Finally, they attempt to rethink and refine conceptualizations that pervade current theoretical developments in disability studies.
Article
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Article
Full-text of this article is not available in this e-prints service. This article was originally published [following peer-review] in International Journal of Inclusive Education, published by and copyright Routledge. Socially just pedagogies call for sensitivity to politics and culture. In this paper I will uncover some key challenges in relation to working pedagogically with disabled people through the exploration of a critical disability studies perspective. First, I will unpack some of the assumptions that underpin educational understandings of 'disability' and 'impairment', suggesting that we need to engage more willingly with politicized and socially constructed ideas in relation to these phenomena. Second, I will raise questions about the current aims of pedagogy in relation to the market and the autonomous learner. In light of the market—and the subject it produces—I will argue that 'disability and 'impairment' demand critical researchers to think more creatively about setting the conditions for experimenting with socially just pedagogies. Third, with this experimentation in mind, I will draw upon the work of Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari to think of socially just pedagogies in terms of rhizomes (n - 1); productive models of desire and planes of immanence. These concepts construct pedagogies as 'becoming' rather than 'being'—opening up resistant spaces and potential territories of social justice—all of them uncertain.
Article
In this paper we draw upon a research project whose authors examined the self-advocacy of people with the label of "learning difficulties." We examined self-advocacy in action within groups and explored understandings of self-advocacy accounted for in personal narratives. We identified the background of our study, reflected on the use of ethnographic and narrative methods, and pinpointed three findings that highlight the significance of self-advocacy in the lives of people with the label of "learning difficulties": (a) the distributed and multilocated nature of self-advocacy, (b) self-advocacy's dialogue with the relational nature of "learning difficulties," and (c) support for the self-advocacy movement. We conclude that a variety of theoretical, policy, and practical implications surface through an engagement with the self-advocacy movement.
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Article
Research has shown that people often do not claim labels associated with mental retardation or learning difficulties. We discussed the interpretation that this rejection is an example of a denial process, the purpose of which is to protect self-esteem. Alternative explanations for this lack of identification were offered, based on an understanding of the socially constructed nature of diagnostic labels and on the distinction between diagnostic labels and social categories. Some of the problems in using the label as a descriptive or explanatory resource are illustrated using quotes from a study in which people who have been labeled discussed the label.
Article
A sample of speech acts in everyday discourse referring to persons or events having to do with the term mental retardation was analyzed in order to investigate the belief that language use both constructs and reflects cultural norms that define the social roles of persons reduced to object status through categorical membership. Speech acts gathered suggest four emergent themes: the discourse of category membership, the dichotomy of normal and abnormal, issues of place and space, and fear. These themes were explicated from a social constructionist perspective, displaying the way speech acts construct mental retardation and subvert individuals with the label into demeaned and ridiculed objects of cultural fear.