Disability Politics and Theory

dpt cover

Disability Politics and Theory Cover: Orange and red dots positioned together to form the close up of a human eye.

I will add to this more soon, but basically it is a combination of years of research on, organizing around and thinking about disability.

Soon, there will be a plain language guide to make it even more accessible, although it is written in a pretty accessible way. And, because there are copy editors at Fernwood, even my spelling is good.

To pick up a copy go to your independent book store or pick it up online

Here’s the official blurb:
An accessible introduction to disability studies, Disability Politics and Theory provides a concise survey of disability history, exploring the concept of disability as it has been conceived from the late 19th century to the present. Further, A.J. Withers examines when, how and why new categories of disability are created and describes how capitalism benefits from and enforces disabled people’s oppression. Critiquing the model that currently dominates the discipline, the social model of disability, this book offers an alternative: the radical disability model. This model builds on the social model but draws from more recent schools of radical thought, particularly feminism and critical race theory, to emphasize the role of intersecting oppressions in the marginalization of disabled people and the importance of addressing disability both independently and in conjunction with other oppressions. Intertwining theoretical and historical analysis with personal experience this book is a poignant portrayal of disabled people in Canada and the U.S. — and a radical call for social and economic justice.

Building Models and Constructing Disability • Constructing Difference, Controlling Deviance: The Eugenic Model • Diagnosing People as Problems: The Medical Model • For Us, Not With Us: The Charity Model • Revolutionizing the Way We See Ourselves: The Rights and Social Models • Looking Back But Moving Forward: The Radical Disability Model • References • Index
About the Author

A.J. WITHERS has been involved in radical organizing, specifically within the radical disability, anti- globalization and anti-poverty movements for 15 years, and has been employed as an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).

Eugenic Model

From Disability Politics and Theory:

[Eugenics] continues to have a tremendous influence on views of disability today. Lennard J. Davis writes:

Eugenics saw the possible improvement of the race as being accomplished by diminishing problematic peoples and their problematic behaviors — these peoples were clearly delineated under the rubric of feeble-mindedness and degeneration as women, people of colour, homosexuals, the working class and so on. All these were considered to be categories of disability, although we do not think of them as connected in this way today. (2002: 14)

Originally, the concept of disability applied to any number of people who were considered to have genetically and socially undesirable traits. This definition of disability, upheld in the late 1800s and early 1900s, demonstrated how its categorization was used to further marginalize and control large groups of people and enforce social norms.  p. 4

In-text links used in this post:

Disability Politics and Theory

Lennard J. DavisBending Over Backwards

Radical Model

This approach to disability looks at disability entirely as a social construct and does not separate impairment from disability like the social model.

Radical disability activists acknowledge that we do not control the definition of disability – that it is defined by those with power to their benefit.

Women, queer people, trans people, racialized people, poor people and other marginalized people were all considered disabled at one point in history, largely under the umbrella of feeble-minded and/or degenerate.

Radical disability activists are very critical of certain groups’ attempts to get more privilege by defining themselves as other than disabled. Members of the Deaf and psychiatrized communities have attempted to distance themselves from other disabled people by saying essentially “there is nothing wrong with us. We are a linguistic minority or we think and experience the world differently but we are not disabled. There is nothing wrong with us.”

The radical disability model says there is nothing wrong with any of us.

We argue that disability is simply defined as those who are externally identified as disabled and those who self-identify as disabled.

To us, disability is not a point of individual or social tragedy but a natural and necessary part of human diversity. The tragedy of disability is not our minds and bodies but oppression, exclusion and marginalization.

We do not need to be cured. We do not need charity. We need respect, equality and access.

In-text links in this post:

social model