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Othering intellectual disability

Othering intellectual disability: Two models of classification from the 19th century

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-555
Number of pages15
JournalTheory and Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012


This paper considers two models of idiocy: one based around quantitative deviation from the norm and the other on qualitative variation. In doing so, the paper shows three things. First, it shows that apparently contradictory strategies coexist within the same discourses. Second, both cases produce the idiot as Other. Third, that the production and reproduction of Otherness creates difficulties in policing the conceptual boundary between the normal and the abnormal. The maintenance of boundaries does not adhere to either the essential nature of intellectual disability or logical coherence. Instead it is something that has to be perpetually accomplished. This has important consequences for the linkage between psychological models of intellectual disability and social inclusion. The paper concludes that no discourse on intellectual disability can eliminate Otherness. © The Author(s) 2011.

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