More from The Disability Studies Reader

31 01 2008

Here are my notes from today’s meeting in raw format. I think posting sooner in raw form is better than waiting. We’re also looking to read selections from Elaine Scarry’s Body in Pain for our next meeting. I’ll post the excerpts we’ll be focusing on in the next day or two. Meanwhile, discuss amongst yourselves…

“Toward a Feminist Theory of Disability”
by Susan Wendell

“Feminist Theory, the Body, and the Disabled Figure”
by Rosemarie Garland Thomson

“Abortion and Disability: Who Should and Should Not Inhabit the World?”
by Ruth Hubbard

Mental Illness vs. Mental Disability (Wendell)
~illness has a temporary connotation, also seems treatable
~illness tied more to the body
~doesn’t every disability have a mental component?

Relativism of what people feel: social construction of disability, cultural context

Hubbard, abortion
~what to make of her repeated insistence of Hubbard’s that she is pro-choice, how does that interact with pre-natal testing
~role of disabled fetuses and people in the culture wars, most disability activists tend to be liberal, so they couch their cause in those terms, so how to mesh with loaded issue like abortion
~lately, liberal wealthy births of children with down syndrome is almost nil due to pre-natal testing, they do exist in conservative religious groups and among the poor
~The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards addresses issues of Down Syndrome
~abortion as a matter of choosing whether or not you want to have a baby versus the kind of baby
~care, interdependence, etc.
~approaching disability studies from identity politics viewpoint (with an eye to other minority discourses). We all have bodies…
~eugenics necessarily bring in race and class to the discussion, which might account for reluctance of full integration of disability studies into identity politics

Wendell, Thomson, social construction
~is disability like gender in its construction? Wendell defines it negatively—it shuts down possibilities. She seems to think that positive constructions would do away with disability per se and focus only on the body.
~Forty years ago someone couldn’t go to university because of his/her disability—not his/her mind, but his/her “disease.” Compare with race, class, gender.
~Thomson points to emphasis on the particularity of the individual body. Goes through the Butler argument of the dissolution of gender by dissolving category of woman, but the ADA is so recent that this is not feasible: strategic constructionsim and strategic essentialism: “validates experience and consciousness, imagines community, authorizes history, and facilitates self-naming” (283). (A post-structuralist way to create meaning and imbue terms with power.)
~Crossover issues btw. feminism and disability studies: caretaking and independence, sexuality and motherhood, cosmetic surgery (extreme femininity as disabling) vs. disability [one moves a woman towards an ideal norm, the other away]