Friday, 3 August 2012

Bits From Books 8.0: 'Contours of Ableism' by Fiona Kumari Campbell (1)

( I'm currently reading 'Contours of Ableism - The Production of Disability and Abledness' written by Fiona Kumari Campbell. I downloaded the ebook from here, a site with a brilliantly large collection. After reading a book once, I generally don't feel like reading it again unless absolutely necessary. So I thought it would be nice to keep a record of some the interesting/important excerpts for future reference, and hence these type of posts. )

//Ableism refers to: A network of beliefs, processes and practices that produces a particular kind of self and body (the corporeal standard) that is projected as the perfect, species-typical and therefore essential and fully human. Disability then is cast as a diminished state of being human.  (Campbell, 2001, p. 44)//

//Whether it be the ‘species typical body’ (in science), the ‘normative citizen’ (in political theory), the ‘reasonable man’ (in law), all these signifiers point to a fabrication that reaches into the very soul that sweeps us into life and as such is the outcome and instrument of a political constitution: a hostage of the body. The creation of such regimes of ontological separation appears disassociated from power. Bodies in this way become elements that may be moved, used, transformed, demarcated, improved and articulated with others.//
//Women talk about being proud of who they are – proud because they are women; aborigines talk about being proud because they are aborigines; gay men and lesbians about being proud because of their sexuality. But throughout the disability movement we are much more likely to hear people with disabilities talking about pride in themselves despite their disability. (Parsons, 1999, p.14)//

//Viewing the disabled body as simply matter out of place that needs to be dispensed with or at least cleaned up is erroneous. The disabled body has a place, a place in liminality to secure the performative enactment of the normal. Detienne’s summation points to what we may call the double bind of ableism when performed within Western neo-liberal polities. The double bind folds in on itself – for whilst claiming ‘inclusion’, ableism simultaneously always restates and enshrines itself. On the one hand, discourses of equality promote ‘inclusion’ by way of promoting positive attitudes (sometimes legislated in mission statements, marketing campaigns, equal opportunity protections) and yet on the other hand, ableist discourses proclaim quite emphatically that disability is inherently negative, ontologically intolerable and in the end, a dispensable remnant. This casting results in an ontological foreclosure wherein positive signification of disability becomes unspeakable.//
//Everyone is virtually disabled, both in the sense that able-bodied norms are ‘intrinsically impossible to embody’ fully and in the sense that able-bodied status is always temporary, disability being the one identity category that all people will embody if they live long enough. What we might call a critical disability position, however, would differ from such a virtually disabled positions [to engagements that have] resisted the demands of compulsory able-bodiedness  (McRuer, 2002, pp. 95–96)
The conundrum, disability, is not a mere fear of the unknown, or an apprehensiveness towards that which is foreign or strange. Rather, disability and disabled bodies are effectively positioned in the nether regions of ‘unthought’. For the ongoing stability of ableism, a diffuse network of thought depends upon the capacity of that network to ‘shut away’, to exteriorise, and unthink disability and its resemblance to the essential (ableist) human self. This unthought has been given much consideration through the systematisation and classification of knowledges about pathology, aberration and deviance.//

//When looking at relations of disability and ableism we can expand on this idea of symbiosis, an ‘unavoidable duality’ by putting forward another metaphor, that of the mirror. Here I argue that people deemed disabled take on the performative act of mirroring in the lives of normative subjects:

. . .
To be a Mirror is different from being a Face that looks back . . .
with a range of expression and responsiveness that are responses of a Subject-in-Its-Own-Right. To be positioned as a Mirror is to be Put Out of Countenance, to Lose Face.  (Narayan, 1997, p. 141)

In this respect, we can speak in ontological terms of the history of disability as a history of that which is unthought, to be put out of countenance; this figuring should not be confused with erasure that occurs due to mere absence or exclusion. On the contrary, disability is always present (despite its seeming absence) in the ableist talk of normalcy, normalisation and humanness
. Disability’s truth-claims are dependent upon discourses of ableism for their very legitimisation.//

//Internalized oppression is not the cause of our mistreatment; it is the result of our mistreatment. It would not exist without the real external oppression that forms the social climate in which we exist. Once oppression has been internalized, little force is needed to keep us submissive. We harbour inside ourselves the pain and the memories, the fears and the confusions, the negative self-images and the low expectations, turning them into weapons with which to re-injure ourselves, every day of our lives.  (Marks, 1999, p. 25) is important to pause and think about the nature of harm that disabled people experience and the very concept of harm
. For instance, is it the impairment itself that causes the harm? If so, we should focus on reducing or indeed eliminating the impairment, which is a common perspective. Such a view interprets disability as harmful in and of itself. In contrast, there is a view among some disabled people that whilst impairments at times cause inconvenience, tiredness and even pain, the primary source of harm is external to the person, situated in the realm of belief.//

//From the moment a child is born, he/she emerges into a world where he/she receives messages that to be disabled is to be less than, a world where disability may be tolerated
but in the final instance, is inherently negative. We are all, regardless of our status, shaped and formed by the politics of ableism... One assumption underpinning my argument is that ableism is essentially harmful and, instead of providing solace to disabled people, it actually involves practices and attitudes that induce other forms of impairment and injury.

The way you see me, it’s not me, not the real me. You see the shambling, the stumbling, the lunge, and you don’t see me. Except for the feet, I’m almost you. But most of all, I’d like a chance to show you the way I see myself, the way I know I am. It’s not that bad once you get used to it. Please, just a day, no, not that – a minute, a second, a second – that’s all I need, a second – you would all love me.  (Bell, 2000, p. 285)//

//Delgado and Stefancic (2000) declared,

Because racism is an ingrained feature of our landscape, it looks ordinary and natural to persons in the culture. Formal equal opportunity – rules and laws that insists in treating blacks and whites (for example) alike – can thus remedy only the more extreme and  shocking forms of injustice. . . .
It can do little about the business-asusual forms of racism that people of color confront everyday and that account for much misery, alienation, and despair.
Applying similar reasoning to the state of disablement, the ‘business-asusual’ forms of ableism are so absorbed into the function of Western societies that ableism as a site of social theorisation (even within critical disability studies) represents the last frontier of inquiry. Disability studies is still preoccupied with debating the distinctions between ‘impairment’ and ‘disability’. Although there is recognition that the term disability can be both culturally and economically constructed, the state of impairment remains under theorised. .. Cultural practices of shaping bodies can affect the aetiology of ‘typical’ human functioning. The ranking of bodies occurs through dividing and partitioning according to clear-cut descriptors of ‘race’ ‘gender’, ‘caste’ and ‘disability’ (Mitchell & Snyder, 2003). Gordon and Rosenblum (2001) suggested that similar approaches to disability, as have been applied to race, might lead to new and productive sites of engagement. They argued that there are likenesses and distinctions in the ways disabled people and other stigmatised groups are named, enumerated, dis-enumerated, partitioned and denied attributes valued in the culture.//

//Hahn (1986) testified that there was a close link between the attitude of paternalism, the subordination of disabled people and the ‘interests’ of ableism:

Paternalism enables the dominant elements of a society to express profound and sincere sympathy for the members of a minority group while, at the same time, keeping them in a position of social and economic subordination. It has allowed the non-disabled to act as the protectors, guides, leaders, role models, and intermediates for disabled individuals who, like children, are often assumed to be helpless, dependent, asexual, economically unproductive, physically limited, emotional immature, and acceptable only when they are unobtrusive.//
//..ableism as a conceptual tool, goes beyond procedures, structure, institutions and values of civil society, situates itself clearly within the histories
of knowledge and is embedded deeply and subliminally within culture. Many people are familiar with the concepts of sexism and racism, to denote negative differentiation on the basis of sex or racial origin; but ableism is generally perceived as a strange and unfamiliar concept and it is important to refute a rigid understanding of ableism from the outset. The intention is not to propose ableism as another explanatory ‘grand narrative’, a universalised and systematised conception of disability oppression but rather highlight a convergence of networks of association that produce exclusionary categories and ontologies (i.e. ways of being human).//

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