Inciting Legal Fictions: 'Disability's' date with Ontology and the Ableist Body of Law

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Abstract

Activists with 'disabilities' have placed great trust in the legal body to deliver freedoms in the form of equality rights and protections against discrimination. This article argues that, while such equalisation initiatives have provided remedies in the lives of some individuals with 'disabilities', the sub-text of 'disability' as negative ontology has remained substantially unchallenged. Understanding disability requires more sustained attention to the ontological nature of disability, in particular the ways in which a 'disabled person' is produced. The article opens with a discussion of the difficult and complex(ing) area of ontology - in particular the performativity of 'disability' as a history of unthought and then moves on to a discussion of the ways 'disabled bodies' negotiate the symbol trade in 'disability' within the confines of the ableist regime of law.
The increasing disability ontology wars are foregrounded by discussing the ways in which 'negative ontologies' are written into the practices and effects of law. As such, the article's focal concerns extend to law's understanding of the autonomous individual and technologies of freedom, strategies of 'social injuries', and attempts to introduce new formations of disability related to matters of 'election' and 'mitigation'. These battles over the (re)writing of disability are important because they affect the access of people with disabilities to welfare provision, protection under anti-discrimination legislation and formations of the perfectible, abled human self.
Finally, the article concludes by suggesting that the law's continual reiteration of defective corporeality through the signification of 'disability' as legal proclamation (prescription) not only disallows the 'disabled' subject any escape from the normalising practices of compensation and mitigation but continues to negate possibilities of imagining the desiring 'disabled subject' in any voluptuous way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-62
Number of pages21
JournalGriffith Law Review
Volume10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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