SOAN 370

Disability, Identity, and Power

Disability studies offers perhaps the most trenchant critique of ?the hegemony of the normal? ? that is, the reification and privileging of certain numerical indices (for example, IQ score; body mass index; weight and height; complete blood count; range of motion; brainwave frequencies; and other such measurements which are then regarded as ?better? or ?worse? than comparable numbers). While certainly accepting the importance of such measurements in designing treatments and strategies to improve the quality of life for people living in pain, disability studies seeks to balance this ?experience-distant? emphasis on ?the quantified life? with ?experience-near? insights. Thus disability studies seeks out, reflects on, and tries to incorporate and prioritize the meta-biological realities of the lived experiences of people with disabilities (defined here as lifelong or chronic biological and/or psychological impairments), especially in policy-making endeavors inspired by ideals of social justice. Hence this course focuses on issues of power, disparity, and diversity of experience and identities, particularly as these affect and are affected by the minds and bodies of individuals who ?have? (or are socially close to people who ?have?) conditions that mark them as ?not normal?. Unlike studies done from the perspective of the healing professions, where non-normalcy is regarded as a condition to be helped or remedied, this course, following the perspective of disability studies, is less concerned with identifying and ?fixing? deviation from some statistically defined ideal range, and more directly focused on socially grounded, ever-dynamic identity construction and its relation to emancipatory social change, especially when these processes involve confrontations between individuals with disabilities and the various social institutions (e.g. education, health care, legal and economic systems) they (or their caregivers) must deal with throughout their lives.