The great divide : ableism and technologies of disability production

Campbell, Fiona Anne Kumari (2003) The great divide : ableism and technologies of disability production. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Subjects designated by the neologism 'disability' typically experience various forms of marginality, discrimination and inequality. The response by social scientists and professionals engaged in social policy and service delivery has been to combat the 'disability problem' by way of implementing anti-discrimination protections and various other compensatory initiatives. More recently, with the development of biological and techno-sciences such as 'new genetics', nanotechnologies and cyborgs the solution to 'disability' management has been in the form of utilizing technologies of early detection, eradication or at best, technologies of mitigation. Contemporary discourses of disablement displace and disconnect discussion away from the 'heart of the problem', namely, matters ontological. Disability - based marginality is assumed to emerge from a set of pre-existing conditions (i.e. in the case of biomedicalisation, deficiency inheres in the individual, whilst in the Social Model disablement is created by a capitalist superstructure). The Great Divide takes an alternative approach to studying 'the problem of disability' by proposing that the neologism 'disability' is in fact created by and used to generate notions and epistemologies of 'ableism'. Whilst epistemologies of disablement are well researched, there is a paucity of research related to the workings of ableism.

The focal concerns of The Great Divide relate to matters of ordering, disorder and constitutional compartmentalization between the normal and pathological and the ways that discourses about wholeness, health, enhancement and perfection produce notions of impairment. A central argument of this dissertation figures the production of disability as part of the tussle over ordering, emerging from a desire to create order from an assumed disorder; resulting in a flimsy but often unconvincing attempt to shore up so-called optimal ontologies and disperse outlaw ontologies. The Great Divide examines ways 'disability' rubs up against, mingles with and provokes other seemingly unrelated concepts such as wellness, ableness, perfection, competency, causation, productivity and use value. The scaffolding of the dissertation directs the reader to selected sites that produce epistemologies of disability and ableism, namely the writing of 'history' and Judeo-Christian renderings of Disability. It explores the nuances of ableism (including a case study of wrongful life torts in law) and the phenomenon of internalized ableism as experienced by many disabled people. The study of liberalism and the government of government are explored in terms of enumeration, the science of 'counting cripples' and the battles over defining 'disability' in law and social policy. Additionally another axis of ableism is explored through the study of a number of perfecting technologies and the way in which these technologies mediate what it means to be 'human' (normalcy), morphs/simulates 'normalcy' and the leakiness of 'disability'. This analysis charts the invention of forearms transplantation (a la Clint Hallam), the Cochlear implant and transhumanism. The Great Divide concludes with an inversion of the ableist gaze(s) by proposing an ethic of affirmation, a desiring ontology of impairment.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 15889
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Kendall, Gavin, Clapton, Jayne, & Jordan, Trevor
Keywords: Ableism, Cyborgs, Disability Theory, Ethics, Embodiment, Legal Disability, New Technologies, Normalcy, Ontological Formations, Personhood, Science Studies, Theology, Wrongful Life
Department: QUT Carseldine
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Fiona Anne Kumari Campbell
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:52
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:40

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