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Dismodernism, Global Bodies, Social Construction in the Studies of Disability

Scrutinizing historical development and changes of the various issues like race, gender, sexual orientation in his essay “The End of Identity Politics and The Beginning of Dismodernism”, Lennard Davis associates those issues with the studies of disability where he proposes a new approach to see people with disabilities. The new approach is known as dismodernism. Davis asserts dismodernism as “a new kind of universalism and cosmopolitanism that is reacting to the localization of identity. It reflects a global view of the world. To accomplish a dismodernist view of the body, we need to consider a new ethics of the body”(27). It’s a kind of a new belief that deals with the universalism transforming a lot from modernism, even from post-modernism. He is of the opinion that dismodernism ruptures the Enlightment values of modernism.

Dismodernism is a new way of thinking based on the concept of difference that is the only common in all of us. According to Davis, “dismodernism argues for commonality of bodies within which the notion of difference”(31). He claims that the ethics of dismodernism is to react to the localization of the identity. While talking about body from the dismodernist perspective Davis states that “a new ethics of the dismodernist body consists of three areas”(27). The three areas are concerned with ‘care of the body’, ‘care for the body’ and ‘care about the body’. He thus claims that care of the body is “a requirement for the existence in a consumer society”(27). These days, people do believe that they are not completed until they use ‘the means of consumption’. The contemporary human body is incomplete without deodorant, hair gel, sanitary products, lotions, perfumes, shaving creams, toothpastes and so on”(Davis 27). In this way, focusing on incompleteness of human without industrial production, he believes that all of us are disabled. Therefore, disability studies, based on his illustration, could be at vanguard of a new postidentity world. Davis furthermore writes, “Rather than ignore the unstable nature of disability, rather than try to fix it, we should amplify that qualify to distinguish it from other identity groups that have …reached the limits of their own projects…in fact it can create a dismodernist approach to disability as a neoidentity”(26). As a result, Davis calls his version of neoidentity as “dismodernism” since it offers a good news for other ‘identity group’. Thus, dismodernism saves us from the perceived failures of other progressive movements and extends to queers, people of color, feminists a new and better way. Finally, having discussed on various topic like race, gender, modernism, postmodernism, impairment and disability, he came to certain conclusion that “All human are seen as wounded”(30), “we are all disabled”(31) and “we are all nonstandard”(32).

Unlike Lennard Davis, Robert McRuer associates disability studies with global bodies. Global studies, according to McRuer, “are bodies that inhabit and move between global cities”(202-303). He has different opinions about global bodies; sometimes, he relates the global bodies to people living and moving between global cities, and sometimes not with the people, rather to League of Nations, United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other multinational corporation.  Another point that fascinates me in this article is about ‘live long’ which McRuer associates it with disability. “The  idea that everyone will be disabled if they live long enough has been, as its best an incredibly generative disability studies insight”(McRuer 200). To some extent, McRuer and Davis have similar opinions regarding ‘disability’ and ‘living long’. Both of them opine that everyone will be disabled in one way or another, provided that they live long.

Like Davis and Mcruer, Siebers also emphasizes on the point that everyone, in one way or another, will be disabled in their life provided that they have a long life. “Most people become disabled over the course of their life”(Saibers 71). Siebers’ primary purpose in this article is to focus on the social construction since it plays vital role in disability studies. Theory of social construction contributes significantly to alter the medicalization of disability. He believes that medicalization “alienates the individual with a disability as defective person, duplicating the history of discrimination and shame connected to disability in the social world”(72). Therefore, it is the social model that challenges the idea of defective constructed by the medicalization, and offers some good ideas for the representation of disabled people. Moreover, the social construction, according to Siebers, “refuses to represents people with disabilities as defective citizens”(73).

Response to the Articles of the Week Nine

Exploring the relationship of post-modernist and post-structuralist scholarship with disability studies, and providing insights about the contribution of the postmodernism and post-structuralism to the development of disability studies are the primary purposes of Mairian Corker and Tom Shakespeare. They also provide what they “hope is an accessible route through the terrain of modernism and postmodernism”(1). Providing some examples of the key postmodern texts, that can be employed to develop the landscape further to the readers, they “reflect the current state of disability studies and the benefits that postmodern theoretical insights might bring for the understanding of disability and the empowerment of disabled people”(1).

In fact, it is the modernism, which functions based on certain beliefs and value system that created binary opposition between the able-bodied and disabled. According to Corker and Shakespeare modernism refers to “the unity of the humanity, the individual as the creative force of society and history, the superiority of the West the idea of science as Truth and the belief in social progress”(2). Based on these social assumptions, the society functions various activities. Consequently, a large number of people are oppressed within modernism. Therefore, modernism is the source of the social inquiries and discrimination.

Depending on certain ideals, values and beliefs, modernism controls the society and it is with the introduction of post-modernism, the postmodernists started to put their views as a kind of disagreement to the modern autonomous. They deconstructed, contested and troubled the modernistic views of certainty. They in this way crossed the boundaries of modernism. This disagreement approach of the post-modernists created the postmodern landscape. They attack on “the grand stories of social progress which have been central to the legitimation of modern knowledge culture and social institutions”(5). As a result, postmodernism is a kind of shift from universal knowledge to the specific; it is a kind of decentering, rather than being centered on particular mind sets and standards.

With the introduction of postmodernism and post structuralism, the theories of disability have also been greatly affected. The scholars of disability have initiated to consider the disability from various perspectives. It also became easier to end up the universalized definition of disability; to destroy “meta-historical narratives that exclude important dimensions of disabled people’s lives and of their knowledge”(15). Therefore, disability study is viewed from various perspectives which can be argued as a kind of postmodern concept of disability. It also encourages the academia of disability studies to look outwards from the unitary model or set of ideas.

The way Susan Bardo associates eating disorder with anorexia and bulimia in her essay, “Whose Body Is This?”,  is one of the significant points for me. Besides, I like the way she shows a connection between women’s body, their psychology and eating disorder. There are many reasons that affect women’s body; among them is anorexia due to the ideal of slenderness/slimness constructed by the society and culture. “According to Orbach anorexia represents one extreme on a continuum on which all women today find themselves, insofar as they are vulnerable, to one degree or another, to the requirements of the cultural construction of femininity”(Bardo 47). Therefore, eating disorder is a kind of social, cultural and historical phenomenon since there is constant cultural pressure on women/girls to be slim which plays vital role to develop anorexia and bulimia.

Stepping on Foucault’s theoretical foundation in her essay “On the Subject of Impairment” Shelley Tremain elucidates that “the social model has two terms of references, which are taken to be mutually exclusive. They are impairment and disability”(33). She furthermore borrows the definitions from the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation where “the social model defines impairment as “the lack of a limb or part thereof or a defect of a limb, organ or mechanism of the body”(33). Besides, “disability is defined as “a form of disadvantages which is imposed on top of one’s impairment”(33).Based on Oliver’s theoretical approach, she moreover claims that “impairment is nothing less than a description of the physical body”(33). Employing Foucault’s historical approach, she believes that impairment is an “allegedly real entity” which can’t be separated from the body. The way she contends about the impairment and its materiality is quite interesting where she claims that “impairment and its materiality are naturalized effect of disciplinary knowledge /power”(34).

 

Improtance of Social and Cultural Change to Disabled People

There is a need of social and cultural change to perceive people with the disabilities like the normal people since disability is not an inability rather it is a natural part of life. Nobody is perfect: mentally and physically. Therefore,  “people with disabilities were just like everyone else” (Mitchell and Snyder 34). In the past the portrayal of people with disabilities was largely limited to a medical model in which the presence of impairment forever caused a disability and limited the individual. There was clear discrimination between the so-called abled and people with disabilities. Development of science and technology and spread of good insight about the disabled people help to strengthen a deep rooted affiliation between a society and people with the disabilities. If the society accepts physical and mental impairment, they can find ways to enable success. If the society allows disabled people to participate in society, then society will benefits from their abilities. Therefore, social transformation is essential. Social transformation depends on cultural transformation and vice versa. Therefore, there is no concrete cure for the disability in the social model until the cultural perception of disability changes as society matures. According to Pointon and Davies in the social model, “disability is thus not a fixed condition but a social construct and open to action and modification. One may have impairment but in the right setting and with the right aids and attitudes, one may not be disabled by it”. In this way, the social and cultural changes towards people with disabilities contribute a lot for the development of both: society and people with the disabilities. Therefore, a tremendous change in the cultural and social scenario will play salient role for meaning-making in terms of disability.

Disability as a Source of Creativity

Prior to taking Bodily Rhetoric course,  I used to regard that disability had a concrete and clear definition; and I thought that there had been obvious demarcation between ‘able-bodiedness’ and ‘disabled’. I had a narrow point of view regarding people with disability and non-disability since I used to discriminate them based on mere physical ableness; thus, I had conservative feeling towards the people with disability.  However, having gone through many articles related to rhetoric and disability, my mind set has tremendously been transformed. ‘Can disability represent anything other than deformed bodies?’ became a serious concern to me.  I had found many accomplishments-in the field of literature, social welfare, and sport, music, and so on done by people with disability. While I was reading one of the articles of Bodily Rhetoric course, I knew that many famous authors such as John Milton, Alexander Pope, George Byron, Samuel Johnson, John Keats, and Virginia Woolf were either disabled or chronically ill. There are many renowned writers, who commenced to implement their brain for the creation of something great; as a result, they became famous after being differently-able. All the above-mentioned reasons made me think that disability can be a source of creativity. Last but not lists, therefore, in my opinion disability, rhetoric and creativity are intrinsically attached with each other like a nail and flesh.

Eugenics and Its Purpose

 

Snyder and Mitchell, in “Subnormal Nation: The Marketing of U.S. Disability Minority”, analyze eugenics as the hegemonic formation of exclusionary practices based on scientific formulas of deviancy. Besides, in this chapter, they attempt to “explore how a tragic turn at the end of the nineteenth century led to the ascendancy of eugenics” (Snyder and Mitchell 70). They argue that “eugenics functioned as a predictive discourse because it works on the basis of anticipatory identification of aberrancies” (Snyder and Mitchell 70). They also provide a brief review about the implementation of asylums. The primary purpose of America behind sponsoring to asylum was to create rehabilitative institutions for the insane. However, it didn’t fulfill the intended purpose.  They were failure to perform based on curative operation, “Asylums soon became custodial rather than curative operations” (71).

The way the modern eugenics used IQ testing method/ tool to distinguish the normal and subnormal human actors is quite fascinating to me. To test their intelligence, eugenics developed the system of IQ test to immigrants in order to determine the level of literacy.  Unlike physical deficiency, everyone is judged based on their intelligence which plays significant part to lowering down the number of disable people. Based on dominant gene theory, theory of evolutionary gradualism and radical organismic differentiation, a group of new professional, produced a subnormal nation which later on was developed as a hegemonic formula to define defective minority. That’s why eugenics was recognized “as a quintessential example of hegemony” (73).

Nancy Ordover through “National Hygene” provides a history complicated by the suitable usage of race in relation to religion, color, class, and national origin during the late nineteenth and late twentieth centuries. This chapter gives a brief illustration about the trial of the legislation, beginning with eugenicists’ effort to solidarity the fusion of race and nationality in the years before the passage of the 1917 Immigration Act and ending with recent anti-immigrant harangues”(Ordover 4).  As an essential to purifying the nation, Eugenics has played a significant role in the exclusive racism.  “In constructing entire racialized categories of demonized others eugenicists put forth an ideological purified America-purged of past sins and guarded against future menace. The eugenics project revolved around imagining the nation: what it was and what it might be (with/ without government and medical intervention”(Ordorver 4).  Moreover, she says, it is the eugenics that contributed a lot for racism and nationalism. Ordover, in Calculating Hysteria”, asserts that eugenics rhetoric played a vital role to merge national ethnic and racial identities in public and political discourse to justify and initiate “anti-immigrant attacks in the name of ‘bettering and protecting’ the white race” (9). According to her, eugenics also believed in the “civilized world, natural selection had all but ceased and could no longer move forward without hands-on human intervention”(10). Therefore, eugenics became a tool to distinguish between white and non-white.

 

Defination of Disability and the Consequences

Susan Wendell, in an article “Who is disabled? Defining disability”, explores the various definitions of disability and the reasons for altering definitions, and further scrutinizes the pros and cons caused by the very definitions to people with disability. Definition of disability differs based on place, culture, and time. Therefore, none of the definition of disability is complete and final. “Socially accepted definitions of disability determine the recognition of disability by friends, family members, and co-workers”(Wendell 12). Definitions of disability play a crucial part in identifying themselves as a group, not as a unique; “[r]ecognizing yourself as disabled and identifying with other people who are disabled and learning about their experience can all contribute to understanding and interpreting your own experience, and to knowing that you are not alone with problem that you may have believed were unique to you” (12). In this way, people with disability can feel better when they learn more about the achievement of people with disability. It helps them a lot not to feel strange in the society. However, on the other hand, it may contribute a lot for the negative outcome. Regarding this point, Susan Wendell opines, “being identified as disabled also carries a significant stigma in most societies and usually forces the person so identified to deal with stereotypes and unrealistic attitude and expectations that are projected on to her/him as a member of this stigmatized group” (12). Susan’s criticism of the UN definitions about impairment, handicap and disability is quite fascinating. Defining disability based on the standards of structure, function, and ability of a specific social environment and linking them with the aging people will give positive result in the society.  It plays a salient role for narrowing down the distinction between ‘able-bodied’ and ‘disabled’ since “realizing that aging is disabling helps non-disabled people to see that people with disability are not ‘Other’, that they are really themselves at a later time” (18).

Robert Mcruer, in an introduction of his book “Compulsory Able-Bodiednesss and Queer/Disabled Existence”, is attempting to theorize “the construction of able-bodiedness and heterosexuality, as well as the connection between them”(2). Explaining the “compulsory able-bodiedness” and arguing the system of compulsory able-bodiedness, he claims, in a sense, produces disability. Besides, he also asserts that it is closely connected with the system of compulsory heterosexuality; as a result, queerness is produced.  Therefore, “Compulsory heterosexuality is contingent on compulsory able-bodiedness, and vice versa” (McRuer 2). The way he makes comparison between able-bodied and heterosexuality is quite fascinating. While analyzing the definition of the able-bodiedness based on Oxford English Dictionary, he defines about able-bodiesness as “soundness of health; ability to work; robustness”. He furthermore opines, “to be able-bodiedness is to be free from physical disability just as to be heterosexuality is to be opposite of homosexuality”(Mcruer 8). Subsequently, based on Judith Butler’s “repetitive performance”, McRuer states that the ideal able-bodied identity can never, once and for all, be achieved.  I strongly agree with his view about the incompleteness. Therefore, he comes to the conclusion that both able-bodied identity and heterosexual identity are deeply attached because both of them have impossibility of completeness.

Robert McRuer’s in his another article “Crip Eye for the Normative Guy” centers on media and financial institutions that circulate “marketable images of queerness and disability”(McRuer 5).  Robert in this chapter vehemently discusses the argument of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson about the representation of disability in photography and the categories.  Thomson has categorized the representation of disability photography into four: the wondrous, the sentimental, the exotic and the realistic. In order to critique contemporary visual rhetoric of queerness and disability, Robert uses the crip artistic practices of Bob Flanagan and “analyses the ways in which Flanagan’s crip notions of futurity explored a range of disability mythologies, including the spectacular mythologies that would target us all for a compromised and predictable development”(5).

 

Response to Week-3 Readings

Simi Linton, in an article “Reassigning Meaning” provides an overview of the various terminologies used for the disability studies. This article basically focuses on the shift in “terminology used to describe disability and disabled people” (Linton 1). Various types of signifiers have been used to signify the disability. Besides, new terms have been constantly constructed to signify disability within few decades. “Terms such as physically challenged,  the able disabled, handicapable, and special people/children surface at different times and places” (4). In this way, there has been a tremendous change in the uses of terminologies and their meanings that are ascribed for the disability.

To exhibit whether disability ever represents anything other than a negative image, the writers, David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder, in their article “The Uneasy Home of Disability in Literature and Film” deal with various points related to literature and electronic media. They vehemently discuss the way the disabled people are depicted as the negative imagery in literary art and electronic media. “Paul Longmore helped to diagnose film and television as influential reinforcers of cultural prejudice towards disabled people”(Mitchell and Snyder 19). According to Longmore, there are three common conceptions continued by “electronic media representation: Disability is a punishment for evil; disable people embittered by their; disabled people resent the nondisabled and would, if they could, destroy them”(19-20). In this way, disabled people are portrayed as if they are separated from the social context.

These writers give more emphasis on social realism to make correction on the negative imagery representation of the disability since “A new social realism was needed to counter misguided attitude about people with disabilities”(21). Literary images significantly influence the way disable people are seen and judged in real life. Therefore, the social realists are attempting “to decrease the kinds of alienation that pervade social views of disabled people” (21). In spite of the fact that social realists tried their best for decreasing a kind of alienation, “the call for more realistic depictions of disability provided another side of the negative imagery coin because to critique inadequate, dehumanizing or false representations is to simultaneously call for more acceptable representation”(22)  Besides, the social realists finally argues that if the able-bodied continued to construct the images of disability from their perspectives, “the disability would continue to be misconstrued” (23), therefore, they are insisting on letting the disabled people to take, “ “responsibility for the production of their own image, then, the social realists reasoned, the image would effectively “evolve into more acceptable forms”” (23).

David Pfeiffer, in his article “The Philosophical Foundation of Disability Studies” subtly scrutinizes the disability and disability studies, and provides the differences between them based on the deficit model. According to him, “there are three variations of the deficit model: the medical model, the rehabilitation model related to employment, and the special educational models” (2), and he strongly claims that each model must be corrected for making the person with a disability “normal”. Normal and abnormal are the social construct. Moreover, disability refers to “value judgements concerning functioning or normality, and health” (2).  The nine models of disability studies provide a good insight on different contextual issues about disability based on various parameters. Another interesting thing of this article is the discussion about ontology and epistemology. The explanation of ontology and epistemology based on the Greek, the Christian and the modern philosophy is quite fascinating.

Moreover, David Pfeiffer is focusing on the attitudinal change in the society and community to avoid the ongoing discrimination between abled and disabled people.  Disability is not an unnatural, therefore, “social change must occur and it is society and not people with disability who must change” (Pfeiffer 5).  David seems to be a great advocate for the differently able people since he claims that “…people with disabilities can be sexual, sensual and very good parents. They are not poor unless they are employed. They are not ignorant unless they were excluded from mainstream education…”(5).  They should not be treated different from other in their achievement, “To speak of grief, guilt, and bitterness in relation to people with disabilities is not appropriate. Nor should people with disabilities be described as courageous, noble, and brave because of what they have accomplished any more than anyone else” (5).

Query:

  1. David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder write, “the problem of disability representation is the result of two predominating modes of historical address: overheated symbolic imagery and disability as a pervasive tool of artistic characterization”. I am wondering to know the implied meaning of the very statement.