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The series begins on January 25th with Prof. Click here to RSVP. Sagit Mor teaches law at the University of Haifa, Israel. The second lecture will feature Prof. Jackson School of International Studies. Cole Fellow in Jewish Studies. Loewenstein, I Presume? Mooreville, who received her Ph.

Project MUSE - Disability Studies Today: A Conversation with Michael Bérubé

March 8, pm in HUB Hannah Pressman writes about modern Jewish culture, religion, and identity. A lifelong lover of languages and literatures, she earned her Ph. She is currently at work on a memoir about her Sephardic family history, connected to explorations of contemporary American Jewish identity. How do societies treat people with impairment? What implications do impairment and disability have for social identity and social interaction? How are disabled people represented in the media and culture? It is obvious that these academic issues have major political implications.

Since the early s, disabled people in Britain and across the globe have been mobilising to challenge social exclusion. When I started my PhD research in , there was only a handful of sociology texts which explicitly addressed these questions. Nor had disability featured in more than one lecture of my undergraduate degree.

Disability was a problem for social policy and a research domain for medical sociology, but not a central concern of mainstream sociology. After reading Stigma and Asylums, and research studies by Blaxter, Locker, Topliss, Walker and a few others, I was left searching through the journals and trying to construct a sociology of disability by analogy with gender, race and other forms of social division.

Academic courses, provided first by the Open University and subsequently by the University of Leeds, offered routes into theory and research for disabled people who often lacked tradi- tional qualifications.

The journal Disability and Society formerly Disability, Handicap and Society , under the editorship of Len Barton, offered its pages to activists as well as to academics, and grew to become the international flagship of the new field of disability studies. Fifteen years on, disability titles fill the catalogues of the major social science imprints, while nearly scholars gathered in Lancaster in for the first annual UK Disability Studies conference.

The seven books reviewed in this article give the opportunity to assess intellectual progress, and high- light the stubborn problems and remaining lacunae for the next generation of researchers. Starting points Neither the undergraduate not the postgraduate seeking introductions to disability studies can now complain about lack of choice.


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To textbooks by Colin Barnes et al. The lack of space, however, leads to some sweep- ing generalisations and a lack of nuance. Other sections seem telescoped, and occasionally inaccurate. For example, the authors claim wrongly that it is illegal for the beneficiaries of charities to be members of management committees or boards, and that charities cannot be involved in political campaigning. Such details aside, this textbook will be very useful for first-year undergraduates. Controversial Issues in a Disabling Society includes the work of nine different academics and activists, and contains short sections on language, models, genetics, independent living, inclusion, professionalism, charity and global- isation.

The range of issues covered means that discussion is sometimes superficial, but it is always lively and varied. Overall, the authors are com- mitted to the disability rights ideology, and question whether traditional approaches — medical treatments, rehabilitation, therapies, care, charities — are appropriate or beneficial for disabled people. Yet, they are often not afraid to challenge the dominant consensus of disability studies. There is a sympathetic discussion of a voluntary organisation working with people with aphasia, balancing the traditional disability rights rejection of charity.

Evidence from a variety of research projects undertaken by the authors is cited regularly, and the voices of disabled people are woven through every chapter. It is not always clear how representative these opinions are, but they have the undoubted merit of bringing the text alive and grounding it in the everyday experience of disability.

Discussion questions and debate activities are offered in each chapter. All this means that the text would be particularly useful for beginners in disability studies, and particularly for professional courses where it is necessary to challenge attitudes and stimulate thinking, rather than engage in systematic sociological exploration. The first edition of Disabling Barriers — Enabling Environments was produced for the Open University course on the The Disabling Society in , and became one of the most widely-used readers in disability studies.

The same format — short, pithy entries, predominantly authored by disabled people, both activists and academics — has been retained, although the majority of chapters are newly commissioned. All but two of the 45 chapters are from a UK perspective. The new edition also retains the same structure as the old one. In their introduction, the editors make two claims. First, that the 10 years since the first edition have seen little progress for disabled people, as the dominant picture remains one of discrimination, prejudice, injustice and poverty.

This suggestion that nothing has changed remains only an assertion, and one which is undermined by some of the examples offered in subsequent chapters. Second, the claim that any radical change in prospects for a better quality of life can only come from disabled people taking the initiative for themselves.

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I would perhaps be less purist: given the chequered record of some disabled-led initiatives, and the major contributions which many non-disabled professionals and allies make to the lives of disabled people, the best way forward might not be separatist isolation, but for disabled and non-disabled people and organisations to work together in collaboration. The collection opens with chapters by two of the founding fathers of UK disability studies, Mike Oliver and Vic Finkelstein, who reiterate the political benefits and intellectual coherence of the social model of disability which they have done so much to promote.

These perspectives set the tone for the volume, which includes no balanced debate about the social model. On the plus side, most non-health related areas of the disability experience are covered, and some of the chapters are excellent. The two middle sections of the book — Controlling life styles and In charge of support and help — give accessible summaries of important fields — for example, leisure, employment, housing, community care and independent living — which will be very useful to the beginner.

Several of the chapters draw on research projects, and include the voices of disabled people. However, the quality of entries is uneven, and the book would have benefited from much tighter editing: some of the chapters would set a poor example to undergraduate readers. Overall, I found it a disappointing read. Fresh perspectives Disability: a Lifecourse Approach is an accessible and well written survey of the literature on different stages of the lifecourse, and is better suited as a sociological introduction to disability.

By looking at how impairment and disability impact across the lifecycle — chapters cover the antenatal period, childhood, youth, adult, old age and death — Mark Priestley manages to draw out continuities and parallels, and connect disability studies to wider social science debates on youth, adulthood and ageing, as well as bioethics contro- versies. Helpful summaries and questions for discussion make it a useful student text, although the breadth of research covered will make the volume valuable to a much wider audience looking for an overview of these issues.

Impressive though the volume is, some opportunities for making connections and breaking new theoretical ground were perhaps missed.

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By focusing almost exclusively on disabled people them- selves, Priestley neglects the impact of disability on non-disabled people, and misses the chance to offer a disability rights-based re-reading of some of these debates. I also looked in vain for a theorization of disability across the individual life span: having distinct chapters on children, youth, adults etc, obscured the fact that most individuals do not experience impairment at every stage of life. There was discussion of how people become impaired in adult- hood or old age; it is however also true that some children with impairment grow up to be non-disabled adults.

Equally, many children with impairment have shortened life spans. This raises questions about the transition to adulthood: what are the reasonable aspirations of a man with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, who may die at the age of 25 without having left home or attended college or broken away from parental support and control? To greater extent than the first four books, Disability Studies Today offers original insights via essays from a range of British and North American authors which deepen understandings and question core assumptions of disability studies.

Bill Hughes con- tributes an overdue analysis of the relationship between disability studies and the sociology of the body. While mainstream sociology has neglected or medicalised disability, Hughes suggests that disability studies has in turn marginalised impairment. He challenges dualistic thinking and explores the ways in which impairment is social, and disability embodied.

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Anne Borsay challenges the lack of historical depth within disability theory, and provides an analysis of the surveillance activities which charities and medicine deployed to police disabled people between the late Victorian period and the beginning of World War II. Phil Lee continues the critical theme by analysing the rhetoric of the disability movement and of New Labour.


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He suggests that some over-simplistic applications of the social model can promote an underdeveloped and fundamentalist politics which inhibits the development of realistic strategies. I particularly appreciated the inclusion of these critical voices within a mainstream disability studies collection. Another welcome feature is the international emphasis, with several chapters exploring the impact of globalisation. Original analysis Finally, three books which offer analysis based on original research and will be of interest to the disability specialist.

All his work is distinguished by clarity of thought and depth of scholarship. One of the most powerful essays, Why I burned my book, outlines the obstacles which disabled people face in academia. Longmore relates his years of struggle to overcome discrimination, financial barriers and the byzantine US social security regulations, in order to succeed as a disabled academic. At about the same time as I was starting my own postgraduate career, Paul publicly burned his own book, The Invention of George Washington, outside the federal building in downtown Los Angeles to highlight the fact that he was unable to earn a living without the government disability support which enabled him to survive as a disabled person.

Most disabled people no longer face the same stark choice between dependency on welfare, and total withdrawal of welfare if they try to survive in the job market. But many disabled people find that their schooling leaves them unable to get the qualifications they need to attend university, or that barriers to participation in higher education prevent them reaching their intellectual potential, or that discrimination from employers makes it impossible for them to use their degrees in subsequent employment. Her personal, reflexive style of writing is engaging, and the book casts valuable light on the experience of a person with impairment doing research with non-disabled people.

Tregaskis engages with several traditions: mainstream social research methodology; disability studies, particularly the psycho-emotional approach pioneered by Carol Thomas; and Social Role Valorisation.

Most UK disability studies authors have either ignored or rejected SRV, despite the importance and influence of ideas about normalisation, particularly in the learning difficulties field. The balanced critique here is very useful. In my opinion, however, she slips into the common disability rights error of seeing oppression in every negative response.

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For example, when non- disabled people park in disabled parking bays p. Tregaskis herself recog- nises this, in recounting the anecdote of a woman with learning difficulties whom the leisure centre staff appeared to be excluding and patronising p. But for Tregaskis, staff actions on this occasion revealed their underlying assumption that disabled people are eternal children in need of surveillance. Of all the books under review, this was the most valuable to me, because almost all the chapters were based on original empirical research.

At first sight it is a rather disparate collection, however dominant themes and inter-connections emerge as the papers are read together. A particularly strong aspect of the book is the focus on how people with different impairments identify, and how these identities are shaped in inter- action with other people, and with the dominant structures and values of society.