(Dis)labeled: A critique of the ‘disability’ discourse
LE3 .A278 2015
Bachelor of Arts
How do social preconceptions develop, particularly when they are concerned with ‘disability?’ Democratic, industrial societies that most often embody tenets of Western capitalism play a dominant role in shaping global ideologies; consequently, the ways in which these societies construct meaning about ‘disability’ communities directly inform broader international opinions. The research presented in this thesis explores the culturally constructed stigma ascribed to the concept of intellectual ‘disability,’ considering in particular how an imbalance between power and knowledge can sway social relationships. Ultimately, those who hold power in the social world have far more resources that can be employed to control the dissemination of knowledge, which can obscure the perception of ‘disability’ as an identity category. This thesis asks: Why has stigma towards ‘disability’ communities emerged in dominant social and political thought, and how are these preconceptions reproduced? This question is answered in three stages: firstly, through a sociohistorical investigation of how cognitive deviations from the established norm have been managed by societies in the past; secondly, through a theoretical exploration of the systems of organization aggravating social inequalities; and lastly, through the evaluation of a sociolinguistic framework that both overtly and covertly reproduces an assumption of absolute difference between ability and disability. Ultimately, the research will demonstrate how social, cultural, and political barriers are far more disabling to individuals with intellectual exceptions than their biological realities.
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