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October 2021

The Constitution of Impairment: modernity and the aesthetic of oppression

Journal/Book: Disabil Soc. 1999; 14: PO Box 25, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England Ox14 3Ue. Carfax Publ Co. 155-172.

Abstract: Impairment has been set aside in debates about disability dominated by the social model. This paper seeks to go beyond the Cartesianism which produces this neglect. It suggests that radical disability studies can prosper from a critique of modernity which entails a shift from its singular epistemological origins in the critique of capitalism. The argument challenges the contention that the oppression of disabled people is reducible to social restrictions which are the outcome of a sec of structural determinations. It suggests that the oppression of disabled people is also umbilically linked to the visual constitution of impairment in the scopic regime of modernity. The vision of modernity is impaired by the assumption that to see is to know, that is, by its ocularcentrism. In deconstructing the visual culture of modernity, it is possible to demonstrate that the non-disabled gaze is a product of this specific way of seeing which actually constructs the world that it claims to discover. Using the work of Sartre and, to a lesser extent, Foucault, this paper argues that impairment is constructed-not discovered-in the non-disabled gaze. The invalidation and disfigurement of impaired bodies is, therefore, not simply an economic and cultural response to them, but also arises in the mode of perception which visualises and articulates them as strangers.

Note: Article Hughes B, Glasgow Caledonian Univ, Dept Social Sci, City Campus, Cowcaddens Rd, Glasgow G4 0BA, Lanark, SCOTLAND


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