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Lecture 10

CHYS 1F90 Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Michel Foucault, Chopsticks, Reading Disability

Child and Youth Studies
Course Code
Rebecca Raby

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March 19 and 21, 2013
Week 10 Ability/Disability
* Brief overview of midterm assignment short answer questions
I/ Defining disability
II/ Our current context
III/ Advocacy and agency
Main points
Disability can be understood as a social concept
Definitions and categorizations of disability reflect context and power
Definitions and categorizations of disability have social consequences
in the lives of young people
Disability is reframed by some advocates as a source of strength and
I/ Defining Disability
A) A cultural categorization
Through culture we:
- determine what differences between people are important
- categorize certain ways of being as better or worse
-which way of life is better? What skills are more important than
- determine what to do with these differences
-do we accept them or do we “fix” them?
B) Definition contrasted with normality
Recall normalization:
-Michel Foucault
- how a particular version of things takes on the status as
being standard, true, or ‘normal.’
-norms are produced within a society/culture
-normalization is the process of making things “normal”
But what is importantly normal is linked to context and culture
Eg chopsticks – accident causes man to lose his hand; has tool he uses
to clasp on/pinch things without his hand; disability doesn’t affect him
until he goes to China and is faced with chopsticks that he can’t used
Eg reading – people with reading disability; in an illiterate society the
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disability would be irrelevant
Categories of normal also linked to power
-“normal” is determined by certain people of power in society
Eg acceptable dress – in school; faculty had most conflict over hats
Eg Lisa Delpit, “Hello Grandfather” – questions reading/literacy;
literacy can promote alienation because it is a solitary pursuit; some
things are better learned through interaction than by reading a book
C) Effects of categorizing disability
1) Categories as self-fulfilling
-you can identify yourself simply as someone with a learning disability
instead of a normal person with typical struggles
2) Categories providing support and political action
- Support – when a disability is identified such as certain
- Political mobilization – parents of children with autism fighting for
more support/ coverage for their children’s programs
3) Categories providing challenge
-Treated as tragedy – people can’t see past this one aspect of them;
treated with pity
-Not seeing the full person – people with disabilities cannot be seen as
sexual beings because all people see is someone with a disability
-Stigmatized – the stigma of mental illness, going to special education
D) Individualizing
1) Individual identity
-something wrong with the individual, not the society; society tries to
fix the individual
2) Individual-focused definition: “any restriction or lack (resulting from
any impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or
within the range considered normal for a human being” (World Health
Organization, 1976)
3) Social model
Social model proposal
-Distinguishing impairment...
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